Context: The 2013 Global Study on Homicide reports that in 2012 Belize’s homicide rate reached a record-high 44.7 per 100,000 inhabitants. A majority of homicides take place in Belize City, particularly involving young males in the Southside. The 2010 study entitled “Male Social Participation and Violence in Urban Belize” provides significant insight into the real issues affecting these male youth.
Single mothers raise almost one-half of these children, yet the employment rate for women is only 43% compared to men at 62%. Children hustle to survive the violent crisis human ecology in which they are recruited into gang activity as early as 9 years of age. Additionally, the children of Southside Belize City are at highest risk of low school performance and low academic achievement. They drop out of primary and secondary school and begin having children by the age of 16 years thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty that now threatens citizen security in Belize.
Objectives: The objectives of Metamorphosis Programme are to strengthen communities in Southside Belize City by fostering resiliency in young people and to provide adults with the knowledge and skills they need to be effective parents.
Resilience encompasses the manner in which an individual is able to cope or return to a state of normalcy after an adverse event or exposure to trauma and is a skill of particular necessity in a country that consistently ranks highly on the annual murder rate per-capita list.
In an effort to foster citizenship security in Belize City, the Metamorphosis Programme, funded by UNICEF, was piloted for two years July 2012 to July 2014 with young males between ages 11-14. RESTORE Belize consulted with schools and partner agencies in the Yabra Safe Zone area to identify children who had been placed at risk of dropping out of school or engaging in anti-social behavior due to their high exposure to violence. The programme is now at its third cohort with 36 boys from Queen Street Baptist Primary School.
Once children are selected for the Metamorphosis Programme, they engage in counseling, social worker visits, weekend life skills retreats, literacy programmes, conflict mediation, family dialogues, parenting sessions, and tutoring. Some students are recommended to RESTORE Belize’s I AM BELIZE Scholarship programme which in turn has its own range of wrap-around services.