Keith Gilges, Charge d Affaires, US Embassy: “What is different about this program is it is the folks in the community starting their own businesses. So it’s not whether the Empowering Communities to Empower Themselves is forever sustainable it’s whether the businesses that they start are sustainable and that’s where the Yarbrough, Saint Martin’s, and George Street communities are so important because they started businesses and those businesses will be sustainable. I would love to see a few years down the road that you see the Saint Martin’s one-stop shop One-stop Auto Care start being a contributing member and say hey we’re going to put money toward starting a new hub someplace else so that’s the kind of sustainability we want to see. Change is hard and in the community if you see somebody that starts doing a little bit better than you are sometimes that little green monster of envy creeps up a little bit and so our idea is we want this to be a positive change, we want this to impact people’s lives in a positive way we’ve got to make sure that we’re taking the safety and security of everybody involved into account..”
The hubs came at an estimated cost of sixteen thousand dollars each and are aimed at providing entrepreneurial and vocational training to create alternative means to gang activities. Elwin “Bobo” Lewis was once a member of the notorious George Street Gangsters but today he was one of the ECTET’s recipients. Lewis spoke to our newsroom about how his community garden called “Go Green, Eat Clean” will make an impact in his community.
Elwin Lewis, ECTET Recipient: “The importance of the hub, the hub is bringing a change to the community and to some of the youth that are willing to change so right now we’re working for the program and just seeing where it will reach from here. The youths appreciate what is happening and the youths look forward to seeing more and different things happen so we’re just looking forward to seeing different sort of things to bring to the youths and bring to the community.”
The three hubs and the marginalized communities they seek to empower are all located within the city, where the most gang activity is reported. Belize City Mayor Bernard Wagner spoke about the change this initiative will bring.
Bernard Wagner, Mayor of Belize City: “It will make a tremendous impact on the city as you know the city is one of the areas that a lot of crime happens and even the fact that businesses have already been suffering and she’s facing challenges due to COVID having safe communities all across the city certainly helps our city and respect to business and in respect to keeping families safe within their homes.”