“Birth to 8 – Children Must Play” was this year’s theme for Child Stimulation Month, but among the child-centered activities and events, Belize was rocked by a spike in violence affecting women and children, signaling an appalling change in crime affecting urban Belize City. There was a call on all sectors to respond, and RESTORE Belize, among its other long-term peace-building initiatives, mobilized resources to act immediately in Belize’s communities through its Peace in the Parks Programme.

 

In May of 2018 RESTORE Belize with support from the Embassy of The Republic of China (Taiwan) supported Youth Advocacy Through Arts (YATA)’s Walls Down Fun Day for the children of the Faber’s Road area. A portion of the street was blocked off from 9 am to about 3pm and turned into a safe space for children to play.

Resized walls down bouncy house

Activities included motivational speakers, music, bouncy houses and a trampoline, a basketball tournament, and documentation of children’s experiences of violence in their neighborhoods. While the activities helped to encourage healing and bonding in the community, the video (available here) aimed to empower children to advocate for their own safety and sensitize the public to the citizen insecurity faced by vulnerable populations living amidst violence. A full video covering the event can be accessed here.

 

Then, in July of 2018, YATA, The Office of the Special Envoy for Women and Children, Ignite Ltd., and the Belize Family Life Association partnered with RESTORE Belize to host a “Belize That is Safe for Children” Family Day at the Yarborough Green in Belize City with funding from the Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in Belize.

The field was divided into areas of play, sports, services, performances, and video consultations with children. Children played on bouncy houses and trampolines in an open play area while their parents accessed services nearby.

 

They were also given free books by the National Library Service, and participated in performances by Ozzy the Clown, Airbender Yoga, local artists and drummers, and the K9 unit of the police department.

Adults were provided with free cancer and other health screenings, discounted cosmetology and massage services, telecommunication services and promotions, raffles, and low-cost food options provided by vendors from the area – all while their children played freely in the park.

 

Children and youth were also able to participate in and watch an all-day basketball tournament which had attractive cash prizes.

 

 The next event under this program is a back-to-school fun day planned for September 2nd, 2018 to kick-off the 2018/2019 academic year.