Violent crimes are daily headlines on the news in Belize. Countless times, the media is inundated with reports of gruesome murders and gun violence. Only recently has the numbers dwindled but what happens after these reports are aired? On numerous occasions gun violence does not end in death; victims survive but their stories do not remain in the spotlight. For most, if not all, making the headlines on the evening news is only the start of a lifelong struggle with the consequences of gun violence. The stories are many and fortunately for some, help knocks on their doors, as is the case of 32-year-old Shephan Domingo. Dalila Ical reports
Survivors of gun violence in Belize City and around the country may face minor difficulties in continuing a normal life but several more are faced with long term consequences.
Phillip Willoughby – Founder, One Struggle: “Every other week these young men go through their struggles and challenges and people don’t understand the repercussions of picking up a gun and shooting someone, leaving them like this. The cost and the pain that they go through every single day of their life.”
It is unclear how many survivors face such challenges, but we do know of the case of 32 year old Shaphan Domingo, a Belize City resident who was shot in the spine in 2007. The incident has altered his life completely, leaving him paraplegic. Over the course of time, he developed health complications. Doctor Marcos Rugama, a Urologist who has tended to Domingo explains.
Dr Marcos Rugama – Urologist: “He developed a chronic UTI, finally he developed multiple stones. In 2015 Dr. Simmons performed a surgery to try to remove most of the stones that they have then he left two stents. One of the stents broke and stayed in the kidney and he has the other one but also he has other stones and then he has calcification in both ureters. To remove this stent for us it is impossible, this needs a very high technology that we don’t have in the country, maybe it exists in private but this is a very expensive surgery.”
Domingo lives alone and cares for himself. He has been trying to access the surgery for three years now. His case was presented to Global Surgical Expedition this year and working in collaboration with the One Struggle group, his surgery is scheduled for august 19. They are turning to the Belizean community for financial assistance to cover part of his travel and recovery costs.
Marielli Black – Mission Coordinator, Global Surgical Expedition: “We’ve always tried to help him but until this year it has made a great progress and we are able to take him to the US. He will need about three different surgeries between two to three weeks he will be very busy with surgeries. We are trying to team up with One Struggle, we are trying to collaborate to make this possible. His surgery will be free of cost because that was donated by the hospital in Richmond along with other doctors but we have other expenses which are his tickets, the visa and the places where he will stay and recover.”
Both organizations have enlisted the assistance of a hospital in Richmond Virginia. The estimated cost of such a surgery is in the range of 20, 000 US dollars and cannot be performed in Belize as the procedure is delicate, requiring high end technology.
Dr Marcos Rugama – Urologist: “Really it will improve a lot because he is suffering from pain and a chronic UTI. Probably the UTI will be difficult to control but remember he is a patient with paraplegia, then we have different problems to control it but of course if they don’t remove this stent and they don’t remove the stones he will die soon.”
The significance of the opportunity is not easily describable for Domingo.
Shaphan Domingo: “If you decide to pick up a gun and shoot somebody think about the repercussions think about your family and you, you might end up in the same situation. Just the cost of this surgery between $20,000 and $30,000 US I could have never come up with that so if it were not for those people I don’t know what would happen.”
And even after the surgery, doctors say due to his spinal injury, Domingo will always run the risk of developing chronic UTI and stones in the urinary track. But even with such challenges, Domingo and other gun violence survivors have joined One Struggle in their work within communities affected by crime.
Phillip Willoughby – Founder, One Struggle: “These young men are also considered to be youth ambassadors for us because they go out into the schools and mentor to other young persons. They are not gainfully employed and their conditions come with an extraordinary cost and I see it only fitting that in every possible way in which One Struggle can provide support for them we take every opportunity to provide that support for them.”
Shaphan Domingo: “When you in between a rock and a hard place and have nowhere to turn to sometimes it’s only strangers you can turn to, your family won’t be there every time. So I’m just glad to the one struggle family and the one struggle group who is alway there with for me, my mother and father and my two little brothers are always there. The money is not something that is always there but the love and family will always be there so I’d just like to say thank you to anybody who decide to reach out and have already reached out or anyone who has shown love just we need the support.”
One Struggle also presented Domingo and ten other crime survivors with medical supplies that should last for about two months. These were accessed with the support of different government ministries and partners.
The team’s aim is to raise five thousand five hundred dollars to cover all other expenses. Anyone interested in assisting in this cause can call cellular numbers, 636 2924 or 615 9793 for donations. One struggle is a group of Belize City residents who have embarked on holding intervention and mediation efforts with at risk youths and families engaged in a life of crime and violence. Their work also includes providing support to survivors of crime by working with other organizations and government departments. The group has also received a donation of two walkers and three wheelchairs to donate to gun-violence survivors.