Aims: Established in 2011, RESTORE Belize’s Peace in the Parks Programme aims to promote a culture of peace by increasing the social participation of urban youth and providing community-based opportunities for creative cultural expression and child-friendly recreational activities.
Funding: RESTORE Belize was granted funding under UNESCO’s Participation Programme in 2014 and 2015 on the national level. These funded family days to promote peace, literacy initiatives through read in the parks and reading competitions, and street theatre as a medium for social transformation. At the regional level, the UNESCO Kingston Cluster expanded on the idea of social transformation through culture by funding theatre workshops which resulted in the creation and production of plays reflecting issues experienced by socially vulnerable Belizean youth. In 2018, The Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) sponsored park activities, held in response to an escalation in Belize City crime. The aim was to encourage community healing and community building in vulnerable neighborhoods to create a lasting culture of peace.
Objectives: The objectives of the programme are to reduce gang activity during peak crime times, creating safe spaces for children, reclaiming public spaces for communities, promoting Belizean culture, and increasing families’ access to services. Below is a breakdown of activities and events under the programme.
Reclaiming Public Spaces: RESTORE Belize has supported renovation of small neighborhood parks to provide safe child-friendly areas for children to play. Specifically, the Wilton Cumberbatch Family Recreation Park has been renovated to provide a recreational space for residents of the Yabra community to hang out, play, and have neighborhood activities and games.
Theatre: The programme partnered with Youth Transformation through the Arts (YATA) in 2014 and 2015 in the development and performance of street theatre. It allowed youth to explore critical themes in the definition of gender roles, relationships, and sex partners to help them understand and navigate their environment. Two plays were produced and performed country-wide: “Sleepless Girls”, which addresses social issues faced by high-school aged girls, and “Nowhere to Fly” which provides an insight into the gang culture and social pressures which disproportionately affect boys. A documentary featuring these activities can be accessed here.
Literacy: RESTORE Belize partnered with the Ministry of Education and the National Library Service to host “Read in the Parks” events which engage primary school aged children to promote literacy and cultivate a love of reading. One event which has become a staple in Belize City primary schools is the “Read-A-Thon” which has since evolved into annual inter-school competitions through which primary schools are provided with well-stocked libraries which students must use to participate. In 2018, the competition started to incorporate an essay component for older children. See coverage of our latest event on our blog here.
Park events also included Read-Alouds which featured special guest readers who can serve as role-models to the children, and dramatizations of popular children’s literature, performed by the National Library Service.
Family Days: In 2018 RESTORE Belize supported three family day events with funding from the Embassy of the Republic of China Taiwan. The first was in partnership with YATA in their “Walls Down” event. It was a Fun Day for the children of the Faber’s Road area. A portion of the street located in a Belize City “hotspot” was blocked off and transformed into a safe space for children to play. Children were also interviewed with consent from their parents. They expressed their feelings and experiences with violent crime in their neighborhoods, and the footage was broadcasted in an awareness campaign (accessible here).
A second event was held in July under the theme “A Belize That is Safe for Children”. RESTORE Belize partnered with a mix of public and private entities including the Special Envoy for Women and Children, Youth Advocacy Through the Arts, Ignite Ltd., BTL, BEL, and the Belize Family Life Association to bring play, sports, services, performances, and consultations to children and their families in the Yabra area.
At the start of September, a “Back to School Fun Day” was held in collaboration with local community leader G. Michael Reid at the Charlie Burton Park, the renovation of which he sponsored. Children were provided with haircuts and hair braiding, back to school giveaways, food, music, and play.
Take a look at our blog for a full breakdown of this year’s Peace in the Parks events.