Child Friendly Ceremony honors San Pedro Town’s youngsters
Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016
On Friday, March 18th, the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) held their official “Child Friendly Acknowledgment Ceremony” at the town’s central park. The ceremony formally recognized San Pedro for its efforts at being a Sustainable and Child Friendly Municipality (SCFM), while sharing on their progress thus far.
Being a SCFM guarantees the right of every child in San Pedro to: 1) influence decisions, 2) express opinions about needed improvements, 3) participate in family, community and social life 4) have access to necessities like health care, education and shelter, 5) receive safe water to drink and proper sanitation, 6) be protected from violence, abuse and exploitation, 7) walk safely on streets, 8) have a meeting place to play, 9) have agricultural space for planting and raising animals, 10) live in an unpolluted environment, 11) be able to participate in cultural and social events, and 12) be an equal citizen of their city with access to every service, regardless of ethnicity, origin, religion, income, gender or disability.
Students from local schools: Holy Cross Anglican School, New Horizon Seventh Day Adventist School, San Pedro High School and Ambergris Caye Elementary School filled the park to celebrate the certification. They were joined by teachers, principals, dancers from the San Pedro Dance Academy, DJ Patron and many key stakeholders. Children were the main stars at the ceremony, as there was full participation of the student body. The San Pedro Dance Academy performed a cultural dance, three students from Holy Cross Anglican School recited a poem, “Forever Our Belize” and the vote of thanks was presented by Nancy Alegria, 1st Vice President of San Pedro’s Children Advisory Board.
Rapporteur of the Child Friendly Committee in San Pedro, Jorge Aldana, served as the Master of Ceremonies. Aldana mentioned several components the Town Council focuses on: budgetary allocation, infrastructure development, education, and health. He also discussed the requirements the SPTC has to meet in order to be certified as a ‘child friendly municipality’.
Mayor Daniel Guerrerro was welcomed on stage by San Pedro High School’s performance of Belize’s National Anthem. He gave a warm welcome address, recognizing the positive impact children have in the community, and reaffirming his promise to make San Pedro a better town. “We remain fully committed and hardworking to ensure we reach full status of certification. In our municipality, we all play an active role to guarantee that we break these barriers that infringe the livelihood of one of society’s most vulnerable group, and that is our lovely children,” said Mayor Guerrero.
After adhering to the concerns of students and the community, the San Pedro Town Council was proud to give back the central park to its rightful owners, the children. SPTC has made visible progress by removing artisans and relocating them. The construction of Ambergris Stadium will accommodate children with disabilities by building ramps and providing bathrooms suitable for children. Mindful of child safety, SPTC will also be placing a schedule for delivery trucks that only allows them to deliver between 2-7am. The SPTC has already created a new parking lot area, and is now working with a consultant to study traffic issues to come with a strategic traffic plan for San Pedro. Sports coordinator Kent Gabourel has been hired, and he will be arranging events catering to the children all year round. “We are taking small, but significant steps in doing our share,” said Mayor Guerreo.
UNICEF Belize Representative, Ivan Yerovi, delivered his remarks regarding the progress of San Pedro’s Municipality, breaking down the description of a child friendly municipality. “The SCFMI is about working together, having kids share their concerns, allowing them to speak up and having authorities listen to them when taking action,” said Yerovi.
Keynote speaker, Minister of Labour, Local Government & Rural Development, Honorable Hugo Patt was honored to participate in the noteworthy ceremony. His speech was geared towards the children present, sharing some useful advice. “For this project to be successful for our children, the future leaders of San Pedro must play a role. Children, you must not feel fearful to talk, or dream. You must be bold and be creative, said Patt. He also encouraged parental involvement in children’s lives.
In 2014, the SPTC made the initial step by signing an agreement with eight other municipalities to become a Child Friendly Municipality. A year later, SPTC activated a committee’s development action plan and now in 2016, Mayor Daniel Guerrero received an award recognizing the Town Council’s tremendous efforts towards making San Pedro’s municipality ‘child friendly’. At the way improvements are being made by the SPTC, community leaders, teachers, students and volunteers, the community hopes that a monumental celebration will take place shortly. San Pedro expects to achieve all 54 articles under the Child Rights Convention (CRC) signed in 1994, and anticipate their first certification, by 2018. With full support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and local government, the possibilities are endless in helping our youth with basic necessities.
In closing, the attendants were asked to meditate on a rhetorical question, “What would the world be without children and what would San Pedro be without our children?
The SPTC would like to recognize all of the following individuals for playing a major role in making San Pedro a Child Friendly Municipality: CEO in the Ministry of Labour, Local Government and Rural Development Kerry Belisle, Director of Local Government in Belize Eugene Palacio, UNICEF Country representative in Belize His Excellency Ivan Yerovi, UNDP representatives in Belize, the Deputy Mayor, Councilors of the San Pedro Town Council, The Child Friendly Country Coordinator Kayde Vaughn, Members of the Children Advisory Body of San Pedro, Members of the San Pedro Child Friendly Municipal steering committee, Heads of various governmental departments on the island, Members of various NGOs, principals, teachers, and students.
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