Hector Verdugo is a product of Homeboy Industries which is a youth program geared towards at-risk youth or former gang members, to help them escape that life-style and live a normal life. Verdugo was brought to Belize to share his life-story at various speaking engagements in the hopes of discouraging young people from joining gangs. The first speaking engagement was held at the Bliss Institute, today. Verdugo shared his testimony with Love News.
“I was born into the gang life, my mom was a heroin addict, a week before I was born my father had died from a heroin overdose. As I could remember just violence, domestic violence with my mom and her boyfriend’s, drug addict aunts and uncles and my grandmother trying to control the chaotic from her children to her grandchildren so that’s what I was brought up in. So eventually I became a gang member and lived that life. Went to juvenile hall at 13-14 years old and then by 18 years old I was in prison and just lived this lifestyle of drug dealing and using drugs and violence and all this kind of stuff until eventually I started seeing my kids getting bigger and I knew that they were going to end up becoming gang members if I had continued to be in this way and I just thought about my family and I thought about my grandfather being a gang member, my father being a gang member and me being a gang member and my son is eventually going to be a gang member so I said I had to change. I didn’t know how to do it but I remembered that I met father Craig in juvenile hall as a kid and one of my friends told me to go to Homeboy Industries so I just threw caution to the wind and decided to do it. I knew there were other gang members there but I knew that everybody was there to work on themselves so I just thought I would give it a chance and my life has not been the same.”
Steven Davis, International Narcotics & Law Enforcement Affairs/Central America Regional Security Initiative (INL/CARSI) Program Specialist of the U S Embassy, shared what the US Embassy hopes will be accomplished from today’s initiative.
“Well today’s event specifically I think what we are hoping to accomplish is to talk to some youths and give youth that maybe need to hear some reinforcement or some kind of idea or someone who may be has some pain and how they experienced to overcome that and what they did to help actualize that so I think that message is being shared today and I also think that we are also recognizing and talking to other people who are involved with working with youth and gangs in Belize.”