The Love Foundation along with the Kolbe Foundation and US Embassy launched an initiative dubbed, “Empowering Communities to Empower Themselves”. The launch took place today on the south side of Belize and will cater to communities that are heavily impacted by gang violence. This programme will allow persons from these communities to learn new skills and earn money. U.S. Charge d’ Affairs Keith Gilges gave more details about the initiative.
U.S. Charge d’ Affairs Keith Gilges: “We welcome the opportunity to focus our initiative on these three neighborhoods, these three underserved communities. Ones that have long struggled for attention, resources and the support to confront the many challenges that they face. The project we’re launching today as I mentioned empower communities to empower themselves is fundamental because the project is exactly what the name says it is. Over the course of the next five months we’ll create three community resource hubs in these neighborhoods and these hubs will provide not only a place where former gang members can find a fresh start but also they serve as a beacon for other individuals still trapped in the gang lifestyle that may be looking for a way out. These community resources hubs including the hub being inaugurated here today in Yarborough are more than just building they are the physical manifestation of what is possible when dedicated people come together to work towards a better life for themselves and their communities. At each of these three community hubs former gang members will be able to learn the skills they need to build new lives for themselves and for others. To achieve this the community resource hubs will serve many different purposes. The hubs will serve as a training centre where participants build vocational skills to them to earn an honest living, they’ll serve as start up locations for new local businesses which are partners of the Love Foundation and Kolbe Foundation will help register to make official. And we also hope that these hubs will serve as safe spaces where people looking for a second chance will find a place where they can find a second chance well beyond the five months that this program is running. So we will need to look no farther than to the existing participants to see just how fostering human potential can be transformative.”
The Love Foundation Executive Director, Deborah Sewell spoke about the impacts that Gang Violence has had on these communities.
Deborah Sewell, Executive Director, The Love Foundation: “The violence perpetrated by gang members on one another was horrifying. Gang violence is an attack not only on individuals but also on our communities. It stops mothers from allowing their children to play outside. It prevents the elderly from taking long walks in their neighborhood. It creates an environment of fear. When most people shied away from communities like these the Love Foundation and Kolbe Foundation thought about these communities because we understood that if meaningful change was going to happen we needed to invest in the human lives. This is a new project but not a new partnership. You see the Love Foundation, with funds from the US Embassy CARCI program has been working in this community for the past six years. Our first after school program, 120 kids right down the street started in the Yabra Community Center. Our first parenting academy, our first educational scholarship recipients and still ongoing, our first HIV AIDS prevention program all started right here in this community so it is not by accident that we find ourselves here today. It is by design. In order to move a community forward one must invest in it’s people and the approach must be holistic. If the problem of concentrated poverty is to be effectively addressed we urgently need to develop approaches that are geographic, holistic and specific to the unique set of assets and deficits that exist within each neighborhood. This project was conceived by a group of guys that I have grown to admire and respect.”