David and other youth activists who sit on the CAB are working to make their communities more child friendly
David’s life story is a testimony of willpower and conviction leading to success in tackling life's challenges. At the tender age of 16, he is faced with adult responsibilities. He pays his own bills. He has to balance the demands of his job with his personal needs. Yet, David’s flame for those things still desired by every child has not dulled.
One morning, David Cruz dashed over to the Child Protection Training for the Sustainable Child Friendly Municipalities Initiative. Late but excited, the perspiring boy joined the session just in time to catch the video on conflict resolution that facilitators were sharing with participants. The other children at the training got up that day with no other obligation than to be at the workshop for 8:30 a.m. Not David! Living on his own, work was his first priority.
David had already worked extra hours under an agreement that he would get a half-day off to accommodate the training. However, his employer asked him to work a couple extra hours that day, causing him to be late. Soon, he managed to settle down and was fully participating alongside the other children.
Children have a right to a safe, loving home with their parents. Typically, a boy David’s age should be enjoying an exciting adolescent life. He should be looking forward to graduating from high school or awaiting an acceptance letter from a tertiary-level school. Otherwise, he should be preparing for life as a young adult with the guidance and support of loving parents. David’s life at 16 contrasts sharply against that of his peers.
Nonetheless, this independent and extraordinary youth holds a unique outlook on life. David lost interest in school and dropped out in Standard V (7th grade). He hasn’t been enrolled in school since. When asked why he quit school, David responded, “I’m not interested too much in school. So, I didn’t want to make my parents spend extra money on something I didn’t want to do. I prefer to work and make my money, get what I want and stuff like that.”
David chose a path different from his more carefree peers whose only worry is getting good grades. This extraordinary youth, responsible for maintaining his home and providing for himself, is now working as a shop attendant in Benque Viejo del Carmen in the Cayo District.
David has been working at this grocery store to earn money to take care of himself
After work, David relaxes at home. He says there’s not much recreation around town. The Sustainable Child Friendly Municipalities Initiative endeavors to establish more community entertainment outlets through youth involvement.
David became involved with the Child Advisory Body (CAB), an arm of the Benque Viejo del Carmen Town Council, in early 2017. The CAB exists in each of the 9 municipalities in Belize. The Benque Viejo group was established in the early part of 2015 with an initial nucleus of 12 children, ages 7 to 17. Two representatives were drawn from each of the schools in the area. There are now 21 members in this CAB. The advisory bodies provide an avenue for youths to be more involved in their community, giving them a voice and allowing leaders to consider how their decisions affect children. They also recommend ways to make their community safer and more appealing to the youth.
Whether it be cleaning and decorating parks or sharing valuable information such as the rights of the child with their friends and neighbors, CAB members are determined to have a positive impact on their community and to make it more child friendly.
David describes the program as “a blast of positivity in life.” Since joining the CAB, he tackles challenges more confidently. He is involved in activities that rightfully allow him to be a child. He makes decisions with his group members to improve his community and plays an active role in its upkeep.