The one-of-a-kind second annual Summer Youth Camp at Camp Basil Jones has awakened the attention of local news media, outside organizations and individuals as its main purpose is to reduce the chances of at-risk Belizean youths to go astray.
This year’s camp was held from July 6 to the 24, at the Basil Jones area in north Ambergris Caye under direction/coordination of Guillermo “Mito” Paz of the San Pedro House of Culture. One hundred Belizean children, mostly from Belize City and other parts of the country, were able to participate in this camp.
“It is imperative that we point out to this community the major role that this camp plays in the life of these young people,” commented Mito Paz. According to him, some of these children have never been snorkeling or have ever worn a mask. Some come from single parent homes with extremely limited resources. In other words this camp is a “Safe Haven” for these at-risk youth where they can be exactly what they are –children; and forget for a week the harsh living conditions that society and the world has thrown their way.
Belizean youth, especially those at risk of joining gangs or engaging in criminal activity, need access to economic opportunity, job-related skills, and alternative activities to keep youth in school. At-risk youth refers to youth that are a) likely to affiliate with gangs or engage in criminal activity; b) come from communities that have high rates of poverty, crime, unemployment, or teen parenthood; or c) live in areas with low high school graduation rates or low parental education levels
The Summer Youth Camp at Camp Basil Jones addresses some key underlying factors of crime and violence in Belize, and provides at-risk youth with educational and economic opportunities in a totally different environment where these youths can learn job-related skills and have fun at the same time.
“The focus of this summer camp is to instill in our youth an appreciation of the marine and coastal environment, provide alternative activities for at-risk youth at higher risk of gang affiliation and/or engaging in criminal activity (both in school and no longer in school), to teach our youths marketable skills through art & crafts using natural materials, to counter criminal gangs by engaging at-risk youth in anti-gang/drug-related activities and to encourage at-risk youth to graduate high school,” indicated Mito Paz.
The Summer Youth Camp at Camp Basil Jones provides at-risk youth between the ages of 11 and 17 and marginalized communities with productive alternative activities that increase education and leadership opportunities. These opportunities encourage cultural and social development, build self-confidence, and promote civic participation in order to prevent at-risk youth from joining gangs or engaging in criminal activity and create safer streets.
The members of the San Pedro House of Culture joined Mr. Mito Paz in his efforts to make a difference in the lives of these Belizean youths. Of course a camp of this magnitude takes a lot of time and funds. This could not have been possible without the help of the following organizations: PACT, Oceana Belize, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, The Ministry of Tourism & Culture, NICH, NEMO, Department of Youth Services, Marine Education Research and Rehabilitation Institute and The San Pedro Sun.