Belize’s Young on the front line of taking care of our only home
The theme for international youth day 2021 is Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health. In Belize, there is much talk about being a self sustaining nation and localizing a way of life that is in line with the concept of ‘One Health.’ It is a concept that recognizes the interconnectivity of people, plants, animals and the environment. This concept is more of an ideology for our indigenous people’s, the Garinagu and Maya, whose lives have always been intimately connected to land and sea.
There are some young people in Belize who have been leading the charge of planting what we eat and connecting that with entrepreneurship and environmental protection. This IYD, I want to give these stellar young people their flowers!
Meet 21 year old sisters Noammi and Nommi! On their instagram @gardeningwiththetwins they share nifty tips on starting up your own garden using their family farm as the classroom.
This dynamic duo manage to show us the gentle sides of farming when they share their beautiful blossoms with us often adorned by bees. They also let us know that they know farming is hard work, sporting boots and putting the pick axe to ground. They grow all the things to make the perfect Belizean meal!
Meet Jaleel Lino, chairperson of YADLIT pronounced Yawd Light ! The Youth Association Developing Livelihood in Toledo is a community based organization committed to the development of sustainable livelihood in our southern most district.
Of course, like most well oiled community ventures this is not a one man show. Jaleel is flanked by board members who all contribute to the mission and vision of the organization be it on the farm or one of their three internet series Cooking 101, Unfinished Business and my personal favorite Farmville Fridays. They also run a digital literacy course and offer high school scholarships to community members powered by revenue generated from the farm and other community members. This electric team have truly fostered a space where development and inspiration meet. To learn more about the work they do check out their instagram @_yadlit_!
Finally, meet Julio Chub who works as a Community Liaison Officer with one of my favorite conservation agencies, Ya’axché Conservation Trust. Julio practices what he teaches on his own farm Chub’s Farm. You can follow that journey here: Chub’s Farm!
Julio is one of the most gentle, patient and committed persons I’ve ever met! We crossed paths while I served as the youth focal point for Belize’s national steering committee for the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Program. His presentations were always stellar but he stood out because of the passion for his work within the communities he knows best. Read more about Julio’s work here.
Help the Caribbean Youth Environment Network reach our initial target of 2,970 signatures, which represents the number of days separating COP26 from 2030; the year beyond which climate scientists have warned will be too late to reverse the negative impacts of climate change.
Here’s a running list of people and organizations that have endorsed my candidacy for the Commonwealth Youth Council!
She is someone who is a great team player, a passionate and hard-working advocate of youth empowerment and someone who has always gone above and beyond in any task she is assigned.She will undoubtedly prove to be an asset to the CYC and will be instrumental in advancing the work, goals and mission of CYC in the Caribbean and the Americas region.
National Student Union of Belize
What makes Ms. Noralez so acknowledgeable is that she never fell short of her duties. Whether it was serving on the Board of Directors at BFLA as the youth representative, interning at the Department of Youth Services in the Governance unit policy and programs, serving on the National Youth Council of Belize or being appointed Commonwealth Youth Parliamentarian she was always active and serving in good faith in her various capacities.
Jared Cain, Board Member of the Belize Family Life Association
The Caribbean Women in Leadership (CIWiL) Belize National Chapter congratulates and endorses its fellow member, Ms. Dominique Noralez, on her bid to become the Regional Representative of the Caribbean and the Americas on the Commonwealth Youth Council for a two-year term from 2021-2023.
Caribbean Women in Leadership Nation Chapter Belize
A part from being an amazing leader, she is a true advocate and believer in progress and development and she has the skills and experience needed to progress our region. The Caribbean and the Americas needs a representative who can advocate on behalf of it, who has worked at every level of Youth Development in the region and understands what it takes for progress to made, it needs Dominique Noralez!
Tarun Butcher, Former National Youth Delegate and CARICOM Youth Ambassador
The Profile of the Ideal CARICOM Youth speaks to individuals who are knowledgeable of county, Caribbean history and world affairs; patriotic, actively involved in the development of country and Region; confident, endowed with strong Caribbean identity capable of living anywhere in the world; well rounded, well informed and strong believer in culture and creative. If I didn’t know better, I would say this profile was taken from the pages of Dominque Noralez. Dominque embodies our region entirely as an afro-indigenous woman from a Central American and Caribbean country.
Kylah Ciego, One Young World Ambassador and Former CARICOM Youth Ambassador
Dominique Noralez is the true definition of a leader – and here’s why. Not having ever met me before, she got a hold of my CV and thought I had the skills to do the job of representing Belize as the Vice Chair of Members and Partnerships of the Caribbean Regional Youth Council. She mentored me, introduced me to her networks, and most importantly, believed in me when I felt extremely ill-prepared and entirely green to the youth development space. She selflessly changed the trajectory of my life by opening up a new world of learning and relationships
Kristin Marin, Former Vice Chair of Memberships and Partnerships of Caribbean Regional Youth Council
As a former regional representative for the Caribbean and Americas Region, I want to register my belief Dominique Noralez’s ability to lead the region. She was quite instrumental in providing support to my committee so she has the relevant CYC based experiences to provide sound leadership.
Sujae Boswell, Former Caribbean and Americas Regional Representative Commonwealth Youth Council
She has as well, over the past three years, established a vibrant social and traditional media presence. Dominique joined the Caribbean Youth Environment in 2017 and has represented the organisation with distinction at a number of regional and international events. These include, the Caribbean Youth Climate Change Conference in Jamaica (2017), World Youth Conference (2017) and the United Nations Youth Climate Summit in New York (2019); to mention a few. Beyond this she was CYEN’s representative in the Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) first Youth Policy and Operational Strategy and is a Commissioner on its Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Commission.
Reginald I. Burke Executive Coordinator on behalf of the Regional Steering Committee
Dominique’s introduction to DYS commenced in 2015 as candidate for the Belize National Youth Council. Her victory earned her Vice-President of the Belize district youth council and first Vice-President of the national body. She later interned at our department with a focus on policy and planning. During her time, Dominique supported and or lead through her capacity as a policy and planning officer for the following projects; the annual National Youth Awards, The Caribbean Young Leaders Youth Summit 2016, The World Youth Conference 2017 and Youth Mainstreaming in 2018. She was also a key player in the revision of the National Youth Policy 2018-2019.
Department of Youth Services, Ministry of Youth, Government of Belize
Ms. Noralez is one of our top supporters, always rocking ID SEVEN (as evidenced in this blog image) and gifting our merch to friends and family. Supporters like her are a dream; these are the people who make our work with youth a success. Ms. Noralez is no stranger among the Belize and regional communities. She is a valued member of many organizations, always working to advance youth. What we love most about Ms. Noralez is her passion for others. Ms. Noralez is well educated and experienced in many arenas. But instead of always tooting her own horn, she is always always promoting others rather than her own amazing skills set.
ID Seven owned by Deidra Gentry, Queen’s Young Leader
The Commonwealth space is home. I have participated in it, I know it and thus I am equipped and ready to build forward with, for and alongside you!
My first memory of the Commonwealth Youth Council(CYC) was in 2016 as a regional representative to the European Youth Forum’s Meeting of Regional Youth Bodies. There I witnessed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Caribbean Regional Youth Council (CRYC) and the CYC. In 2018, I was appointed Commonwealth Youth Parliamentarian for my country Belize. The first Belizean to have represented at this level meeting young people like me and you from across the Commonwealth of Nations and learning intimately the concerns and aspirations that sounded a lot like mine. In that same year I was also appointed national delegate for the Commonwealth Youth Forum London alongside current CARICOM Youth Ambassador for Belize, Kris Miller. I also had the pleasure of having CRYC Executive Member, Kristin Marin and Erasmus Scholar Ruth Gutierrez as Belizean Youth Leaders serving alongside us.
2019 was a rather busy year having collaborated with the Commonwealth Student Association to host a training for student leaders at the University of the West Indies Open Campus, planned and participated in the launched of the Commonwealth’s Youth Mainstreaming in Development Planning Caribbean Pilot in my Country Belize and representing the country once more at the CYC + CRYC joint Meeting of Members Conference held in Anguilla. This to discuss how we could build and maintain stronger and more resilient National Youth Councils in the region.
So you see that the Commonwealth is not a strange space nor place for me. I have the experience and direction with #ProgresswithNoralez to continue to make our Commonwealth stronger! Follow the journey https://linktr.ee/domnorbze_x.
…this is where the strength of our Commonwealth is found!
I am a learner and leader at heart. One’s whose journey formally began with being chosen to become a Youth Ambassador under the collaboration between the Partners of the Americas and US State Department’s Exchange program and later blossomed into community work with Group Hug focusing on community service, the Youth Advocacy Movement with a focus on sexual and reproductive health, Save to Seas with a focus on marine conservation. True leadership is cultivated through grassroots community involvement and have made sure that I water those roots and keep the values learned at the centre of everything I am involved in and will continue to be involved in.
For a leader that understands intimately the importance of bottom up power and community work vote #Progresswith Noralez. Join the journey at https://linktr.ee/domnorbze_x!
My work blossomed into being a board member of the country’s leading sexual and reproductive health rights organization, the Belize Family Life Association, the leading of the National Youth Council of Belize, Alternate CARICOM Youth Ambassador, Youth Focal point for the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Program, Youth Delegate at the Commonwealth Youth Forum, and Commonwealth Youth Parliamentarian.
I have also worked with UN Agencies in Belize such as the United Nations Development program via the Global Environment Facility Small Grants program where I served as Youth Focal Point on the National Steering Committee and UNCAC Implementation Board, The United Nations Population Fund as a facilitator for its sessions with youth and fellow at its YouthNow Camp held in Lima,Peru. I have worked with the United Nations Children’s Fund via my chairpersonship of the National Children’s Parliament and most recently with United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean having moderated the Caribbean Session of the ECOSOC Youth Forum.
This commitment to youth policy has taken me over a dozen countries representing my country and this region as a consummate citizen of the Commonwealth. Join me on the #ProgresswithNoralez journey and together we will chart the places the CYC will go!
It’s been a rough forty-eight hours, a woman Marisela Gonzalez was found badly beaten and shot to the head, left dead in a bushy area of San Pedro Town. A young man, Shakeem Dennison was shot and killed in Belize City in the Yarborough area and died sometime later. Those two stories were buried by the uprisings at the Kolbe Prison system where 28 prisoners escaped from the Administration Segregation building, the largest escape recorded in the prison’s 18-year history. Today, October 13th 2020, one of the escapees were killed while being pursued by authorities and another prisoner was killed at the prison during a day of uprisings on prison grounds. Police and prison officers were also injured during the perceived chaos within Belize’s correctional facility. These situations, all three, have me contemplating much about the construct of justice, the delivery of justice within the Belize and law enforcement. The latter of which I’ve written about before. Curiosity has me thinking: How did we get here? How we can use this boiling point as an opportunity to redefine what justice means to us?
To answer the first question, I go back to the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) conference held under the theme, ‘COVID 19: Securing Our Caribbean Community Within The Era Of Covid-19 and Beyond.’ On July 31st 2020, Executive Director of the Kolbe Foundation Belize Central Prison, Virgilio Murillo, gave a presentation highlighting the challenges the prison was facing during the pandemic. He shared some statistics stating that the concurrent SOEs from the COVID 19 pandemic and the gang SOEs increased the prison population by 362 with 55% of that number attributed to the trawling of suspected gang affiliates from the streets of Belize City. He also shared that at the time of his presentation the prison had a total population of 1272 inmates with 36% on remand and the remaining 64% being convicted. The challenges that were direct to the pandemic included increased psychological pressures on the inmates because of the uncertainty brought about by the disease, discrimination against any new admissions in the prison for fear that they may be infected, and decreased recreational time including the ceasing of visitation and sporting activities. He noted that for the prison itself, the mandatory isolation limited the ability to properly classify inmates and required more cell blocks. He also noted not having enough PPEs and staff to care for and supervise isolated inmates, and a huge drop in sales from the industrial and commissary zones of the prison. The most interesting revelation coming from that presentation was that the prison received no donation of Personal Protective Equipment from the domestic public and private sector until the CARICOM IMPACS made a donation. Even more jarring was that the staff members of the prison were experiencing burn out because of the increase in health security requirements and finally, that there was a clear imbalance in the inmate and prison officer ration at the facility. (CARICOM IMPACS, 2020) Could all these sweltering pressures have contributed to the “weak fence” which saw almost 30 abscond from Kolbe with a high powered weapon and ammo to match? Are we seeing the classic unveiling of the rotting social institutions that crisis bares naked for us to see? This is an institution that in the 2017/2018 fiscal budget got $6,979,048BZD to “to protect society by ensuring the safe custody and supporting the rehabilitation of prisoners.” (Government of Belize, 2019)
“You feel me! Yeh! Cheer up man, you look sad more than me. Never worry too much for me, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel-either it is sunlight that marks the end of your suffering, or the last light you see on this earth, and that too marks the end of your suffering.”
I want us to go back to those primary questions about justice and if that is a bit too abstract, think about the lyrics of Lucky Dube’s timeless track Prisoner in which he proclaims, “they won’t build no schools anymore, all they built were the prison, prison.” For our sake, think beyond physical buildings. I think about the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners which are 122 comprehensive rules that guides us on how prisoner-both pre-trial and convicted- are to be treated. First adopted in 1957 and revised in 2015 to be called the Nelson Mandela Rules, I reflect on rule 43 part 1 that states, “In no circumstances may restrictions or disciplinary sanctions amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The following practices, in particular, shall be prohibited: (a) Indefinite solitary confinement; (b) Prolonged solitary confinement; (c) Placement of a prisoner in a dark or constantly lit cell; (d) Corporal punishment or the reduction of a prisoner’s diet or drinking water; (e) Collective punishment.” (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2015) I also think about the Global Prison Trends 2020 report which points to options to put an ease on the prison system by avoiding pre-trial detentions using bail (cash bail or bail guarantor), travel bans (including seizure of documents) and other geographic and residence limitations (including house arrest), judicial or police supervision, restrictions on communication with specific persons, or a ban on specific activities such as driving or carrying alcoholic beverages. The report highlights that alternatives to prison sentences can also be employed such as supervision by a probation officer, electronic monitoring, house arrest, verbal sanctions, participation in rehabilitation programmes and community service orders even reaching into restorative justice and victim-offender mediation programmes. (Penal Reform International, 2020) All these along with an entire refocusing and recalibrating of how we view our collective “do the crime, do the time” narrative and an unmasking of the biases that cover the eyes of Lady Liberty should help us veer away from another incident such as today.
Of course, this is not exhaustive and there is always much to ponder and unpack after history has been made, good or bad. I believe that this one is worth much pondering so we in Belize don’t continue to lose lives and misallocate investments without the return of a safe and just Belizean society. I don’t know that we are ready to have a conversation about abolishing prisons just yet. Stay Curious.
“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” –Ruth Bader Ginsberg, The Notorious RBG.
A look into the militarization of police in Belize.
The world was recently shaken by the live and online murder of George Floyd by a white man, a police officer with the Minneapolis Police Department. It was yet another piece upon the mounting evidence of the extraction of Black bodies by systematic killing. I still haven’t watched the video, I can’t. The photo still of that 8 minutes 46 seconds was enough for me.
I always remind myself to stay grounded even with my historical knowledge of what white supremacy and colonialism has done to us in this region and country and so I asked myself, as you should, what Mr. Floyd’s killing and all African-American police killings mean to us here in Belize?
Let’s explore the militarization and or Americanization of the Belize Police Department to start to answer that question.
We first do that by going back a decade or so to documentation from the US State Department:
“During the year the Belize Police Department’s (BPD) Professional Standards Branch received 238 formal complaints of alleged police misconduct. During the same period, the BPD held 14 officers on interdiction (suspension with half salary) and one suspension (with salary.) The 14 officers on interdiction were alleged to have committed a combination of criminal and disciplinary charges. The ombudsman reported receiving 99 complaints against the police department and its personnel, of which 39 percent were characterized as complaints of brutality, 18 percent of complaints of harassment and 17 percent as complaints of abuse of power.”(US Deparment of State, 2011)
This was reported some 9 years ago, fast forward to 2019.
“In 2018, 43 percent of the complaints received by the PSB were for police brutality. The human rights ombudsman also received complaints against the Belize Central Prison for allegations of inhuman treatment of inmates.” (US Department of State, 2019)
These two reports are different in terms of how they are reported on empirically but you can see here that the number of police brutality are pretty high. They help us understand the systematic and cultural nature of violence in the security forces. I encourage everyone to look into these reports for your own information. We can, of course, cite the more relatable stories ranging from any of the state of emergencies placed on Belize City or a regular day of profiling stop and search methods. We can also cite the more gruesome stories of the killings of Fareed Ahmad and Alyson Major both cases that are still being investigated, we are told. We can also look at the online mockery of Ulysease Roca while in police custody, a young black man later found dead at his residence a little after that detention. My point here is that we can all cite an instance of police brutality whether direct or indirect.
Now we look at the training of our officers. Last year, around this time a group of creatives hosted a protest in front of the Police Training Academy in Belmopan. It was against a security force training being offered by the Israeli government. A government that has been vile and aggressive against the self-determination of Palestinian people, a government that has stood on the side of Guatemala in refusing to acknowledge Belize’s sovereignty, a government that has historically trained police officers of the Amerikkka. Outside of that, the US government has consistently funded our security response in this country one of the largest being through its Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) which just last year disburse $750,000USD to social programs in Belize. (Breaking Belize News, 2019)The US Department of Justice has also trained 29 members of our Criminal Investigative Branch through its International Criminal and Investigative Criminal Assistance Program done in coordination with the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). (US Department of Justice, 2020) Twenty officers of the Belize Police Department was also trained at the request of GOB in 2010 by the Naval Criminal Investigative Criminal Service in the Tradewinds Program. (U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South, 2010) This and other US government interventions corroborated by Chief Executive Officer George Lovell in a 2019 interview that he covered the ‘Reorganization of the Belize Police Department’ (Ministry of National Security, 2019) While I am not against good old diplomacy, I do understand that the US foreign policy is not one that has historically had the best human rights records and moral leadership. These are all pieces of evidence that prove that the face of our police department operations is being fashioned Uncle Sam style.
Finally, we look at some colonial remnants being perpetuated through our present system of neo-colonialization. A piece of legislation that Ms. Coye, one of our most prolific and intellectual callers on WUB coins as legalizing a “conditional right to life.”
Chapter 4 section Part 2 article 4(2) states:
A person shall not be regarded as having been deprived of his life in contravention of this section if he dies as the result of the use, to such extent and in such circumstances as are permitted by law, of such force as is reasonably justifiable-
for the defence of any person from violence or for the defence of property;
in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained;
for the purpose of suppressing a riot, insurrection or mutiny; or
in order to prevent the commission by that person of a criminal offence,
or if he dies as the result of a lawful act of war.
A justified death penalty if I ever saw one and done at the discretion of a police officer that has at some point in his career come in contact with the Great American way of policing. My first lesson on interacting with police from mommy has been, “nevah mek police man run”, and well you don’t need to do much to have them run to you. Simply make a Facebook post erring on the side of dissent and watch police officers in combat camouflage show up to you house with weapons arsenal fit to fight a border conflict. An uneven war of words if you ever asked me. I’ll let you decide on whether or not Americanization and Militarization of Police are synonyms.
“…sweet and docile, meek, humble, and kind: Beware the day they change their mind.-Warning by Langston Hughes
First published in the June 30th 2020, Tuesday edition of the Amandala Newspaper, Issue No.3379 pg 6.
The Belize Defence Force is the military of Belize and it’s purpose is to protect the sovereignty of Belize. They are here to serve and protect, however who protects those within the force when they are sexually assaulted and raped? It is no secret that time after time rape allegations, and sexual misconduct cases are often swept under the rug. We hear about it in the news, there is an interview or press conference and a few questions are answered and they say they are “investigating” and then there is silence. This week another allegation of rape was made by a female soldier. The accused, Margarito Pop has since been charged.These allegations come on the heels of the recently concluded sexual misconduct investigation done within the organization.
We don’t believe that the BDF has been forthcoming with enough information in this case or any others. We are demanding transparency with these investigations, and that perpetrators of rape and sexual assault are dismissed from the force. We would also like for a plan of action to be devised for the safety of all soldiers on the force. Sexual harassment and abuse should not be taboo for any of us to address, and we would like a change in policy and enforcement.
Below is one instance of the cover up rape culture which is a terrible reflection of the BDF and by extension our Belizean society and even in the broader scope of things, the worldwide acceptance of rape and sexual assault.
Of course, having the blessing to be alive now during a pandemic has us all looking at the world through the lense of that reality. So on this cool Friday morning with a hint of smoke in the air, this is what I attempt to do. Life is segmented now into BC Before Corona and AC After Corona.
Labor day is the day we use to commemorate and celebrate the contributions of our workers and validate the value of all work, big and small. I’m drawing on the juxtaposition of the pandemic and work simply because our focus on what is important work has been dramatically shifted. Societal norms raised to think that the office job is better than that of the janitor. We then think that the cashier or shelf stackers were people who just did not take school as seriously as they should have. That our bus drivers, doormen, and bag boys deserve a low income because those things aren’t important jobs in the grand scheme of things.
Then the novel coronavirus came to town for an unscheduled and prolonged visit.
We rush stores to bulk buy. We jump on the buses and vans at rush hour to get home. We begin to obsessively clean everywhere. We then realize that the shelf goes empty faster, the shopping lines get longer, the buses become more packed and everything that we touch can inevitably lead to us contracting the virus. Hopefully, we have recognized how incredibly important the labor of those who we have looked down upon are.
We also must have recognized the importance of solidarity during this time as my brothers and sisters of Cuba always have. That country and its people have so valiantly offered themselves to so many countries in the world in this biological war against the human race. A country that we have also treated just as we treat our janitors and cashiers. Cuba a country that has been lambasted with an embargo from a country that is now the global epicenter of this pandemic. The beautiful island nation, the most developed country in this hemisphere, has sent frontline workers, soldiers out charging forth to help us survive even as its embassy is being attacked on US soil. That’s as close to the perfect labor of love that we can get.
I never miss a chance to tell people that this pandemic is a humanization reset. It has reminded us of what is most important, of the most valuable things. It has forced of the reconfigure the mathematics of how we measure value on a whole. As we reimagine as a globe and march toward creating a world where decent work is a priority and is a indispensable tool to achieve true and meaningful sustainable development, we must take the lessons with us. Those lessons that has pounded “pan de mic” and in the ears of the status quo.
So we know Ms. Rona has cracked the sash cord and has us in our homes for most of the day. If you’re like me you’re probably struggling with this new normal. We’re trying to adapt and adjust to the new requirements to stay safe and alive while balancing mental stability with remaining productive. I have a brain that has to intentionally keep learning ALL THE TIME even when not in a formal educational setting. There are millions of resources out there on Mr. Google but I wanted to share some of the resources, both new and old, that keep me occupied but also growing that big brain that we humans have been blessed with. We’re flipping the script on quarantine culture!
Before we go on though, I encourage everyone to read this essay by Charles Leslie Jr. entitled ‘Let us Prepare for the Rise of the Phoenix.’ It was such a comforting and insightful read in times of uncertainty especially if you live in Belize or if Belize lives in you.
The Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative is my first plug. I’ve always wanted to be a YLAI fellow but I’m still too young to apply. In the meantime, I joined the network to access online training and access great resource tools from YLAI alumni. These include servant leadership, grant writing, community organizing for action, transparency and good governance and much more! You can sign up for the newsletter and join a course here: https://ylai.state.gov/online-courses/
Next, Harvard University, one of the world’s leading universities, is offering FREE courses to keep those noggins in tip-top shape. These range from Pyramids of Giza: Ancient Egyptian Art and Archaeology, Strengthening Community Health Worker Programs and Justice among many other quirky but interesting topics. Some have already started so jump on it here: Free Harvard Learning
We’re scurrying along! Next up are the online resources made available by the Department of Youth Services. These programming objectives are specially curated for youth development purposes that are in line with its objectives of governance, health and well-being, enterprise and community strengthening. You can find the sign up information here: https://www.dysbelize.org/online-trainings
This one is for my fellow tree huggers who want to strengthen their understanding of the interlinkages of climate action at communal to international level. The United Nations Climate Change Learning Partnership is a partnership by over 30 organizations that love and work to preserve our only home! The awesome courses on this platform include children and climate change, cities and climate change, sustainable diet and of course much more. You can sign up and find out more at https://unccelearn.org/course/index.php. You will definitely be able to think, talk and act climate after these interactive sessions!
Finally, this one’s for my fellow book worms! Maestro Yasser Musa is one of my muses. He is an art activist, poet, publisher, and promoter. A bona fide creative with a WICKED brain. On his website, https://www.yassermusa.com/, he shares with us downloadable versions of his favorite reads from authors such as Toni Morrison, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, George Orwell, Arundhati Roy among others. No doubt a collection of books shared with him by those who inspire him, these books speak to politics, love, art and just the things we stay alive for. A concept memorialized in a quote from my favorite movies of all time, Dead Poet Society. “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” While you’re on the website by sure to explore it a bit. I am sure you’ll find it awe-inspiring!
Of course, we know that everyone doesn’t have access to the internet in these times so if you are able to share those wifi passwords with your neighbors. Though small it’s an incredible act of solidarity!
That’s it! These are the spaces on the world wide web that are keeping me sane and safe while the in-person meetings with colleagues have ceased, while the quiet library with that comforting book smell is closed, while I can’t go visit my favorite coffee shop on the mouth of the Belize River to read my Amandala. I hope you can find learning and inspiration in them too!
It’s been twenty-three years since my first breath. It has been a beautiful life when I think about it. Yesterday also ended my 12-day reflective practice which rings in my official new year. As one of my final activities in that practice, I took some time and went through a lot of photos and outside my obvious obsession for my eyes, lips, flowers, and sunsets, I noticed that I have grown. Grown not only physically but up and out mentally and emotionally. I watched a shy girl grow into a confident woman (still very much introverted). I saw photos that I knew I was faking a smile in because my brown eyes were sad. I saw photos of persons who I’ve loved and lost, of those I’ve lost and still love. I reeled through the years and saw so many triumphs and even more failures. I reminisced on the rooms that I spent what felt like endless hours in with people that molded my worldview. I saw my steel pan, the wad of notes, the rhythm, the music that saved my life in dark DARK times. I looked back at the straight hair I once had, of the day I chopped that all off without fear.
I think of all the places I’ve been and the faces I’ve seen and damn how blessed I’ve been. I gave thanks to the family and friends that have loved me when it has been very difficult to. I am grateful for the colleagues that have shared their space and knowledge with me without fear of my fiery being without fear of my taking their place. I give thanks to those who have shown me how cruel the world can be, your lessons were invaluable. I stand on the shoulders of ancestors and elders that have built institutions that today allow me to be and do what I love the most. I pay homage to that by my stalwart journey through paths less traveled through my maintenance of integrity, service, and humanity.
I don’t have it all figured out, still learning to love myself, still practicing this confidence thing. All I know is that I want to live a passionately curious life and leave everything I touch in this realm a little better than how I first found it.
Aren’t you in love with both the fragility and complexity of life? One minute you are here reveling and relishing in it and the next minute you can become a gift to death. I happen to believe that’s beautiful too because while your family mourns your death your life and contributions are also celebrated. Yet, with all that truth staring us in the face all the time we still waste our lives. We don’t watch enough sunsets, we don’t smile when we see happy children, we don’t feel the breeze on our skin, we don’t listen to the night, we don’t acknowledge the universal creator, we don’t write, we don’t travel, we don’t appreciate music and we don’t forgive. Why is that? Why blatantly disrespect life and love when we, completely unworthy beings, we’re given a free pass? I really don’t know that’s what makes life so complex. What I can tell you though is that whatever doesn’t make me happy is immediately removed from my life and replaced with what adds value and teaches lessons. I allow myself to feel and I am present. I appreciate and I love. I wholly respect the labyrinth of life and enjoy the odysseys knowing full well that around the corner could hold grave danger. I walk with faith.
We all had quite a different summer than we would’ve all imagined given the pandemic. Even if we had our trips to the cayes, or the river or even dinner with friends it had to be a bit more spaced out and masked up than we would’ve liked. Staying productive while still taking care of our mental health is super important for me that usually means ‘finding sumting fu do befo’ sumting do me’. What did you spend your summer doing?
I spent my summer interning at the Programs Department of the Belize City Council (BCC)! A good fit right? I was tasked with working in the area of foreign affairs to strengthen the platform sister city relationships, assessment of the first cohort of the BCC’s Youth Shadow Council coupled with supporting the restructuring of the program to welcome the 2nd Cohort who are on the last leg of the selection process. Super grateful to have met the young people from the first cohort as they exited the program; we are most certainly in good hands. Finally, I was tasked with coordinating a summer program. Traditionally sports centered the program, through a great partnership, enabled us to ADD skills-building ranging from life skills, the arts, history and health education. The last of which was super exciting for me since the Local and Central government had the great opportunity to partner on the Rising Stars Summer Blast. The Hub Resource Center under the Ministry of Human Developme et al. was the perfect place for the Council to seek partnership with to plan a safe, enjoyable and impactful 3 weeks. Together the dynamic team of the Hub and Belize City Council including the Belize Family Life Association financed, planned and executed a truly impactful summer program for 60 youth across our city.
There was so much that I learnt during this process including better insight on how local government operates, which sharpened my negotiation skills and improved diplomacy even though hey, I think the last thing is overrated! I’m happy to have had a department lead that allowed me to be myself and challenge him and a coworker that challenged and supported me to produce good work even on tough days at the office. Special shout out to tamales, tea and Otis Spunkmeyer chocolate chip cookies!
Of course, we’re not fans of unpaid internships BUT the caveat to that is taking time out to sit and consider what you want to gain from the internship. There’s more to it than the money attached. You get to interact with policymakers, hear their ideas and show what you’re made of to improve your community! We move through this world by the relationships we build, so you must understand HOW INVALUABLE it is to create a silk strong network. You never know, a good recommendation can land you an opportunity that pays you the big bucks down the road. All that said though I STRONGLY advise agencies offering internships to pay the young for their time and talent! We are coming to you with an amazing set of skills that we’ve worked hard to build and just want a place to put it to work. Han’ Wash Han’! Kudos to the BCC for granting a stipend for their short term internship.
My advice to my fellow young people: Apply for that internship you think you’re not qualified for, write that letter of interest and if you’re lucky enough to get an in, put your best foot forward with servant leadership at the center of the work you do!
“l am a simple African man doing my duty in my own country in the context of our time”
– Amilcar Cabral
Research– You don’t want to end up being a Lego block that doesn’t fit so unless you’re taking an intentional leap of faith to do something new, find somewhere that you think suits the skills you have and at the same time enables you to build the skills you want. It’s helpful to run your ideas by a mentor or friend
Apply– You think you don’t qualify but trust me, apply!
Ask Questions and Take time to Feel out Organizational Culture– When being in a new environment you can feel like a fish out of water but take some time to observe the workings of the space and it’ll make navigating your work 1000x easier. Hint: find out the escape route in case of an emergency.
Speak Up– You won’t agree with everything that you’re tasked with but ensure that you don’t compromise on your integrity. If you’re not comfortable with something, ask your supervisor to be given something else to do. If it’s something that you don’t entirely have an issue with tactfully suggest ways to improve it.
Document. EVERYTHING– This ensures that you’re on top of your game when hauled into emergency meetings and makes reporting such a breeze!
Build Relationships– If you’re introverted take small steps. Contribute during meetings, talk to someone at the water cooler or the printer, ask for help and before you know it you’ll be right at home. If you leave the internship without making new friends and or dependable colleagues, you haven’t used the opportunity well.
Have Fun– If you’re not having fun, leave. What’s work without a little downtime!
All Photos Courtesy the Public Relations Department of the Belize City Council Photographer Carlos Perez
It has been my pleasure to be a part of the history of the Commonwealth Youth Council Elections, a shinning example of youth participation and a pumping example of democracy. Here’s the story I hope to coauthor with you over the next two years!
This is a manifesto built with you in mind, from grassroots to policy, from community work to conference rooms, let’s continue to work together for a more connected Commonwealth.
Prepared. Proven. Passionate leadership with #ProgresswithNoralez!
I have been privileged to have met our foremost soldiers in the forward struggle toward meaningful youth participation. In my time as executive member of the National Youth Council of Belize, I travelled to Belgium with then Chairperson of the Caribbean Regional Youth Council, Tijani Christian, to the meeting of regional youth organizations. There we trained and shared with our counterparts from across the globe about the challenges and triumphs of youth development work in our region.
I have trained and bonded with you at the Caribbean Regional Youth Council’s hallmark event the Caribbean Youth Leaders’ Summit where my participation has always elevated. First in 2016 as summit administrator of the 4th CYLS held in Belize, then in 2017 as national delegate at the 5th CYLS held in Jamaica and in 2020 as facilitator of Youth Mainstreaming in Development Planning at the 6th CYLS held in twin island nation, Trinidad and Tobago. I had an opportunity to work with you as we reflected on global youth development at the World Youth Conference in Belize!
As a Caribbean Youth Environment Network member since 2018, I also contributed as a member of the core team of those to draft the Caribbean Development Bank’s Youth Policy and Operational Strategy (YPOS). A strategy that seeks to make youth development an intrinsic part of the bank’s operations. It was a pleasure being on the team with banks officials, senior youth development practitioners and executive members of both the CRYC and CYC.
At UN Agencies in Belize and regionally, I have met you at the United Nations Development program via the Global Environment Facility Small Grants program where I served as Youth Focal Point on the National Steering Committee having represented Belize at the Climate Change Conference in Jamaica 2017 and the UN Climate Change Summit in New York 2019. With the United Nations Population Fund I have worked as a facilitator for its sessions with youth and fellow at its YouthNow Camp held in Lima,Peru. I have worked with the United Nations Children’s Fund via my chairpersonship of the National Children’s Parliament Committee and most recently with United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean having moderated the Caribbean Session of the ECOSOC Youth Forum.