On Wednesday we featured the first part of our series on the Princess Royal Youth Hostel, where we gave you an insight of how the institution works. Today, we will show you the second installation in the series, which discusses the different rehabilitation programs offered at the Hostel. Love News Reporter, Courtney Menzies, compiled this report.
Courtney Menzies, Love News: “There is currently an estimated 88,000 persons between the ages of 12 and 19 in Belize. According to the last population census report in 2010 there were 21,933 youths between the ages of 13 and 16 who were attending school. This meant that in that year only 75.9% of teenagers in that age range were in school which begs the question, what is the other 24.1.% doing? Children and adolescents who are not attending school run the risk of falling through the cracks of society and ultimately into a life of crime. This is where the Princess Royal Youth Hostel comes in. The institution was established to rehabilitate teenagers that exhibit uncontrollable behavior or that have committed criminal offenses. The goal is to drastically improve the direction in which their lives are going. In a conversation with the director of the community rehabilitation center, the umbrella organization for the youth hostel, we learned how the plans for each child is tailored leading to a successful reintegration into society.
Starla Bradley, Director of Community Rehabilitation Department: “Once children enter the institution every child is given a medical examination to identify any health issues that need to be addressed and we take them for blood tests, sexual and reproductive health checks for the females and everybody goes through this so when they come in we know what we’re dealing with and if they require any treatment we ensure that that continues. They’re also assessed educationally to see where they are. Some have maybe learning issues then we would partner with NaRCIE under the Ministry of Education to have them further assessed.”
Courtney Menzies, Love News: The children also undergo mental health assessment and if they need more in depth psychiatric evaluation the hostel collaborates with the Mental Health Unit at the Ministry of Health. This will allow the children to speak to a counselor and receive medication if needed. There are also educational programs in place for children that are not allowed to leave the compound.
Starla Bradley, Director of Community Rehabilitation Department: “We have a literacy program as well, computer aided literacy; we have a computer lab that facilitates this and the software to support literacy and numeracy skills. So even for those who are slower learners we have different programs depending on where you’re at. We have those children who like I said can go right back into high school so we try to get them back into high school. We’ve tried online high school as well for some who have the ability to participate in high school but the behavior puts them at risk and we can’t send them out so we’ve had children do online high school in the computer lab and we also have some technical and vocational programs offered. We have an agriculture program, we have a woodwork program, there is a sewing program and a hospitality program.
Courtney Menzies, Love News: Bradley says weekends and evenings are not without activities as children are positively engaged in various programs.
Starla Bradley, Director of Community Rehabilitation Department: “In the evenings there is usually sports and on the weekends we have various facilitators coming in, we have had karate in the past, we have dance, we have drama, arts and craft so it changes- we’ve had barbering, the weekend program changes so for a period of time you’ll have this then it changes. These children are very bright you know but they channel their energy into a lot of negative things and so we try our best to try to steer them on a more positive path.”
Courtney Menzies, Love News: Many of the children struggle at first to find a program that suits them but are always amazed when they find a skill they are successful at.
Starla Bradley, Director of Community Rehabilitation Department: “ At lot of them are used to doing their own thing out there, they don’t want to be told what to do on somebody else’s timing, some of them don’t even know what they can do or what they are interested in because they’ve never tried anything new and the amazing thing that we’ve seen- my favorite time is the open days when the facility showcases some of the things that the children have made, they do skits, they do artwork, they do drumming and the kids surprise themselves.”
Courtney Menzies, Love News: These are only some of the programs that allow for individualized plans that facilitate an easy transition back into society. For now this is what the hostel provides, it is the hope of the administration to build on these in the years to come.
The final part of the series will be aired on Monday and will feature the process each child goes through before they are able to leave the Youth Hostel.