A new project called "Southside Youth Success" will target young men at-risk of joining gangs.
The project is spearheaded by the Ministry Of Youth and funded by the United Nations Development Fund and the US government.
It will see the establishment of a Youth For The Future Drop-In Center at the top floor of the Commercial center where Big Daddy's Restaurant used to be.
Christine Smith - the Director Of Youth For The Future - told us how it will work:
Christine Smith - Director, Youth for the Future
"It will be a drop-in center, where young people can come in and access the facilities and services that we have there. But the program is geared at reaching out reaching out to young men between the ages of 14 - 20, who are out of school, and are at risk of being recruited to join the gangs. It becomes a choice for young people then. You can choose engage yourself positively in that program or you can choose to engage yourself negatively. At the end of the day, the choice is still there, but as a country, we have to ensure that we provide opportunities for them to be able to choose. And so this project, the South Side Youth Success Project is us providing an opportunity, but at the end of the day, what we have to believe as a country, is that the young people want more for themselves, and that they are not happy being trapped. Because if you look at the reality, if they are not able to move beyond their own community, and that narrow stretch of land, and Belize has so much land to offer with natural beauty, then we are truly limiting their success. We are not going to be due diligence if we're just looking at the young persons themselves. We'll also have to be looking at the community that they are coming out of. They will also have the ability to receive training, job preparedness, financial literacy, some basic literacy training, as well as some life skills. Because as we are looking at young people to make choices, we have to be able to look at where they are, have them also look at who they are, and where they want to go. And that's where the life skills part of it will come in. Once they have completed the training, then we're going to be placing them with businesses for an apprenticeship period. Now, it's hopeful that at the end of the apprenticeship, some of them will be able to garner either part-time jobs, full-time, or some of them might realize that they can and want to go back to school. And then it's going to be on us as government agencies to make sure that we get them the funds, scholarships, and necessary things that they need to go back."
Roberto Valent - UNDP Resident Representative
"This will not be a meta-physical project where promise objectives and goals, but it's going to be addressing directly problems and marginalization that, at times, youths experience in South Side Belize. It is going to address individuals in numbers of 10's and 100's. It's going to provide them with basic life skills."
The facility will be ready by February of next year and is funded for two years...