Building Bridges in Belize

Posted on 02/05/2014

By Minerva Pinelo, PADF Project Director, Youth Engagement Services (YES!) – Belize

Partnerships are invaluable to development. In fact, in Belize they are at the center of a new initiative that will help at-risk youth from marginal areas have a chance to learn new job skills and train to become small business entrepreneurs.

A few days ago, we launched the Youth Engagement Services (YES!) program, a brand new project that will give 53 local youths, ages 18-24, the essential technical training and business advice they will need to succeed in today’s increasingly competitive local labor market. To do this, the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) is bringing together key local partners—the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE), the Conscious Youth Development Program (CYDP) under RESTORE Belize, Samuel Haynes Institute of Excellence, and the Women’s Issues Network (WIN) Belize—to ensure that we provide these young people the best possible environment to succeed.

At the kick-off session, held at a Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) facility in Belize City, the young participants learned firsthand about entrepreneurship. Although many youth already operated informal micro businesses from home or with support of family members, many are interested in establishing a small business that can then grow and provide more services.

During the first phase of this program, youths will be able to complete a tailored training with BELTRAIDE. Then, depending on the track chosen, participants will learn how to start their own business, including the development of business plans, or enhance their employability within the business community through work readiness and life skills methodologies.

Then, during phase two, the program will create opportunities for participants to seek self-employment through modest seed funding in the form of matching grants for entrepreneurship initiatives. Youths will also have access to hiring events and to other services to match them with employer at local businesses primarily in business process outsourcing (BPOs) and within the tourism and hospitality industry.

I believe that building partnerships and exploring synergies in Belize—much like building bridges—will help steer Belize and its youth toward even greater opportunities. Thanks to the support and commitment of our partners, that process is already underway.