Kia Herbert is the second child to be killed by gun violence in the last forty-eight hours. The children were both inside their homes which for all intents and purposes should be a safe space for them. Unfortunately, Belize has seen multiple cases of young lives being lost due to gun violence. Back in 2016, Shakera Young-Forrester lost her only child, 7-year-old Tyler Savery. Tyler was on a bike with a relative on Daly Street when a gunman approached them and opened fire. Since his death, Forrester has been working vulnerable persons especially mothers, who have had similar experiences. Out of the pain of her son’s murder, Forrester founded the Tyler Savery Foundation. Today Forrester met up with Love News and sends this message to the mothers who have been forced to endure the loss of their children.
Shakera Young, Founder, Tyler Savery Foundation: “I think for every mother out there even those who don’t have children it affects you. Knowing that a man or a person used a gun to commit a crime and murder a child is something horrendous and back in the days you know we used to have where if you a see a child, stop don’t shoot. Many times you’d know if a child is present at that moment regardless of what that gunman’s intention was he stops what he’s doing; if a child or a woman is there but we no longer have that. We no longer have that, I wouldn’t say moral standard but we just don’t have that any more in our heart. We don’t have that empathy again. The first thing I would tell anybody based from my experience is to go to God about it. I did not overcome what I overcame on my own, I must say in my own self I’ve battled but when I decided to just allow God to heal me that was when I started to actually feel a difference within myself. So to any mom out there right now who lost their son I would say a sincere condolence, I know what it feels like because I am living that reality. Three years ago that was my greatest fear to lose my child and now I’m living that testimony that I have to deal with that every day, every day I wake up knowing that I will never see my son alive again, I will never get to know what he would be as an adult, as a young man, as a teenager I would not know because somebody decided to pull that trigger.”
The Tyler Savery Foundation also has a support group called Beauty for Ashes where grieving persons can vent with others who have gone through similar experiences. While this resource exists, there are not a lot of avenues for families who have lost loved ones to seek help. Young has called on relevant authorities who possess the resources necessary to reach out and assist how they can.
Shakera Young, Founder, Tyler Savery Foundation: “Based on the conversations I’ve had with the women in Beauty for Ashes support group these are the things that they point out. One, when their son or their daughter was shot, killed, nobody came to their assistance. We are looking at women who are not able to provide a meal for their children sometimes, we’re looking at people who struggle day to day to provide and not having any assistance now for a funeral that costs $5,000 just about is quite steep for somebody who is struggling to even buy a meal and we know a plate of food right now is about maybe seven to ten dollars. So they have no assistance in that area, they mentioned that grave space is very costly, it’s somewhat about a thousand dollars or just above that, that is costly how are they able to afford that ? Some of them are not working. Undertaker expenses, I was told that an injection to embalm a body is $75 or just about, morgue fees is $75 per night if you died outside of the hospital. Although it is a touchy subject I believe that maybe something as a trauma response team should be readily available to go out, have a group that goes out because when you suffer trauma and I’m telling you from experience, when my son was shot getting counseling was the last thing that was on my mind. At that point I could not contain my emotions and having people around coming around to share and actually have you speak about it it helped and then after that when everybody left what happens ? I was left alone and that is the reality of many of our women right now in Belize. So I would just like that people who have the ability to assist, assist. Make investment in these people that you know it will bear some kind of fruit, it might not be right away but it will help because having somebody to talk to it helps. Having support helps.”
The Ministry of Human Development along with the National Committee for Families and Children (NCFC), the National Women’s commission and the Special Envoy for Women and Children have issued a joint statement in which they have joined the nation in mourning. They pointed out that in the past 48 hours, two children under the age of 6 have died, while another child was injured. They also noted that there has been an increase in the number of children and women who have become victims of gun violence and/or have witnessed it. Their press release states, quote, “The recent result of the Belize Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2015 indicates that children below the age of five experience the most severe forms of violence against them. When the lives of our children are cut short, especially by these vicious acts, it robs the nation of unknown potential. The killing of our children is one of the most serious forms of human rights violation.” End quote. They also stated that these incidents highlight the need to ensure that the investigative branch of the police department is well resourced and equipped to ensure more convictions. They call on the Government, police, church leaders, civil society and the community at large to denounce these heinous crimes.