Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Belize and Leader of the Opposition


 

OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER OF BELIZE

AND LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

 

June 16, 2017

 

The Rt. Honorable, Dean Barrow, Prime Minister

The Honorable, Johnny Briceno, Leader of the Opposition

Belmopan, Belize

 

Dear Sirs,

 

Belizean Citizens Abroad (BCA) is an organization committed to bringing together Belizeans living abroad in a non-partisan manner. Our goal is to empower and strengthen the democracy of Belize by working with ALL Belizeans at home as well as the Government of Belize on solutions and issues of concern to the community of Belizeans living overseas. As such, we are currently advocating for the equal rights of born Belizeans with dual citizenship.

We are asking for bi-partisan support for an amendment bill to remove the discriminatory provisions in our Constitution limiting the citizenship rights of born Belizeans who gain dual nationality and to reintroduce the same amendments as section 4 and 5 of the BELIZE CONSTITUTION (SEVENTH AMENDMENT) ACT, 2009 that purported to amend Sec 58(1) and 63(1) of the Belize Constitution. These discriminatory provisions in our Constitution limit the POLITICAL rights of born Belizeans and hamper our ability to solve many of the problems that Belize face in an ever-changing globalized world.

The Constitution of Belize contradicts the idealism of equal rights and equal protection under the law by establishing underclasses of citizenship.  Furthermore, the Constitution is in contravention of the very idea of human rights.  According to the United Nations Human Rights International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 25 – every citizen shall have a right to take part in the conduct of public affairs and to vote and be elected in periodic elections.

It is a travesty that foreign-born individuals who become Belizean dual citizens have more rights than born Belizeans who gain an additional citizenship.  This literally means that born Belizeans are second-class citizens in our own country.  Currently, there are thousands of born Guatemalans who have acquired Belizean citizenship enjoying more rights than born Belizeans who have acquired dual nationality.  This is so even though our Constitution bars Belizean citizenship to members of any country that claims Belize.  How can it be that despite a clear constitutional prohibition, a born Guatemalan with dual Belizean citizenship status can become Prime Minister, set policies, hold national decision-making positions determining Belize’s future, but a born Belizean with “dual citizenship” cannot?

BCA is ready and willing to work with both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to table a historic, bi-partisan legislation to remove sections of the Constitution that limit rights for born Belizeans. We further ask that individuals originating from any country that claims any part of Belize be prohibited from attaining Belizean citizenship with only few, if any, exceptions. BCA strongly believes that the ministerial discretion granting citizenship to members of countries that claim Belize should be restricted with much clearer and narrower guidelines.

Finally, we urge Belizeans at home and in the diaspora to contact their respective Area Representatives and encourage them to support a national bi-partisan effort to amend the Constitution of Belize protecting the equal rights of ALL born Belizeans.

Respectfully,

Belizean Citizens Abroad
Email: belizeansabroad@gmail.com

 

President: Mario Lara

Vice President: Joseph Guerrero

Treasurer: Al Smith

Communication Director: Debbie Curling

Secretary: Aria Lightfoot

Dear Teenage Girls….by: Kiah Pastor


 

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Kiah Pastor

Dear Teenage Girls of Belize,

There are a couple tragedies currently in the media that has hit close to home therefore I’d like to speak on one. There was a situation that occurred where a 13 year old female sent nude photos to a man and he then threatened to expose them if she did not have sex with him. Well she ended up having sex with him twice.

We live in a Society where men glorify women and their bodies but there is a very fine line between being human and appreciating a woman’s natural physique and then just being out right disrespectful. In Belize, most cases it’s being disrespectful. But as a child having your body go through changes, you’re left some what confused. Why should I as a teenager not show off my newly developed breasts if they’re so many older and more developed women on social media also showing off their bodies and getting glorified by not only men but other females as well. Do you see my point? Nudity has become a part of pop culture. Nudity has become art. Nudity has been accepted in every case EXCEPT when it has been shared against your will. The amount of guys I’ve seen preaching about “having self respect” and telling girls to stop sending nudes to young boys are the same guys I recall have asked me to send them a nude when I was between the ages of 12-16.

Almost every male will vow they’ll never associate themselves with younger girls but they’re so many of them who love it! It’s the idea of being with a female who doesn’t have a set of boundaries mostly because they don’t know what the boundaries should be. The idea of not being with a female you need to break all sorts of walls to get through to because she hasn’t been scarred by other men in order to build those walls up in the first place. And lastly it’s the idea of having a body that hasn’t been touched. The inferior feeling of taking it all away. Men love dominance.

Now let me redirect my energy. It’s not solely the men of our society’s fault but also the women. We should work hard as women to be advocates of true self confidence and self love. We should be more willing to reach out to the younger girls around us and be a big sister figure to them and be there to advise them so they don’t need to figure it all out on their own. This is very hard because there’s a lot of adult women themselves who don’t have self respect nor show true value of themselves as women but that’s okay! You don’t need to be in that space forever! You don’t need to be vulnerable to these men. You don’t need to use sex to feel powerful and you don’t need to showcase your body to get attention. You do what you’re confident with not what you feel is pleasing to others. Where do you think promiscuous women are stemmed from? Sexual acts that occur in early stages of life. Let’s make an effort to be the best examples to younger girls and to show them how they should react when put in compromising positions! You’re not alone!

From a young woman building herself back up,
Kiah Lisani Pastor 💓

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TWO Missing Belizean Children have been found safe !


Update #2 : 

8 year old Nehemiah and 9 year old Fanny Romero who were reported missing more than ten days ago have been found. The children are now in the protection of their father, Felix Romero who had to travel to Copan, Honduras to look for them. It was initially reported, Juan Jovel, the grandfather, had abducted the siblings, but now Felix Romero has stated the children followed their grandfather who had no choice but to take them with him to Honduras. It’s a huge misunderstanding surrounded by miscommunications says Romero. Whatever the case may be, the children are in the safe hands of their father and they are scheduled to return to the country tomorrow. (source Capital Newspost Facebook Update 7/31/2013, Belize) https://www.facebook.com/capital.newspost?fref=ts

 

UPDATE: Children are suspected to have been abducted by their grandfather Juan Jovel with the assistance of an unknown and unidentified woman (source Capital Newspost, Belize) 

Juan Jovel - believed to have abducted his grandchildren

Juan Jovel – believed to have abducted his grandchildren

Missing: Fanny Romero – girl

Missing: Jairo Romero – boy

Name of Parent: Felix Romero

Missing From Cowpen Area, Stann Creek District, Belize Central America

Last Seen: Wednesday July 17, 2013

Reports: Reports of two children of similar Description with older man in Western Belize however Belize is small so they could  be in any area of Belize.

Please look at these children faces carefully. Many times the kidnapper may attempt to change appearances by cutting hair or changing clothes. Please be on the look out and if you see anything suspicious:

call the nearest police station by dialing 911

or call ( 011-501)-624-4051.

Jairo and Fanny Romero

Jairo and Fanny Romero

TWO Missing Belizean Children- please share with everyone.


Missing: Fanny Romero – girl

Missing: Jairo Romero – boy

Name of Parent: Felix Romero

Missing From Cowpen Area, Stann Creek District, Belize Central America

Last Seen: Wednesday July 17, 2013

Reports: Reports of two children of similar Description with older man in Western Belize however Belize is small so they could  be in any area of Belize.

Please look at these children faces carefully. Many times the kidnapper may attempt to change appearances by cutting hair or changing clothes. Please be on the look out and if you see anything suspicious:

call the nearest police station by dialing 911

or call ( 011-501)-624-4051.

Jairo and Fanny Romero

Jairo and Fanny Romero

Sheree’s Dream – Lets Adopt a Classroom or School!


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Early this year Sheree Arnold approached me with a novel idea- Lets Adopt a Classroom.  I really loved this idea.  Many Schools in the US are getting rid of the Valedictorian System and implementing a Cum Laude System instead. It is a system that rewards many children instead of just one child.  This Adopt a Classroom or School is something like that, it benefits many kids instead of just one.

I have personally sponsored a child in Belize thru Restore Belize and while it is fulfilling to be able to help a child see a child progress, I actually like Sheree’s proposal better.  Instead of benefitting one child, let’s enhance all their learning experiences.

 

             Here is a bit of the history behind the idea.

 

Two years ago Sheree ‘s sister passed away in Belize leaving behind her children, two of which are young children still in primary school and in the care of an older sibling.  Sheree is now financially supporting her niece and nephew.  It was the first time she was confronted with the struggles children in Belize are encountering in the educational system.

Sheree’s nephew is struggling with reading. One day her older niece decided to visit the classroom and sit in with her younger brother’s class to see what a day of school was like for him.  She reported to Sheree that many other children in the class were facing the same predicament. Poor reading skills, lack of supplies and an overwhelmed and under equipped school to handle the special needs and supplies for  children. Some kids are kicked out of class for not being able to purchase supplies. This is outrageous!

Sheree decided to shop at the discount stores in the U.S and ship books to alleviate her nephew’s  struggles with reading. She decided to shop at the dollar store in the United States for books to help with his reading and math skills , she realized that helping her nephew was not sufficient, due to the minimal cost associated with learning materials here in the US, she decided to adopt her nephew’s entire class and also asked a few friends to do the same.  She thought the idea could take root among the Belizean American community and Belizeans at home who may have the means to help out.

I personally reached out to several people in Belize who wanted to help and were more than willing to  help but organizing such an event would require full time participation. A luxury I don’t have.  I felt disappointed.

So I discussed with Sheree and we thought everyone who shares in a dream for a better, restored Belize could begin organizing their own Adopt a Classroom School drives.  Lets face it, education is very expensive in Belize. Families complain about spending 300 BZD  per child on school supplies that does not include uniform, shoes or lunch money.  Walmart and discount stores sell school items for a fraction of the cost in Belize.  Belizeans can make a positive difference.

The Belizean Association of Central Florida (BACF) embraced Sheree’s Dream and will be hosting a fundraiser/Picnic on July 6, 2013. I have also shared the idea with several people who are interested in doing something similar. Sheree is hoping this message resonates with our Belizeans home and abroad.  While researching online, I found that many schools in the U.S. already have a similar program and depend on the generosity of parents to help out kids who are less advantaged.

The following are some suggestions :

 

How to Adopt  A School or Class Room

 

Step 1: Identify the School or Classroom you are thinking about  adopting, preferable a school whose students are financially challenged.

 

Step 2: Reach out to the Teacher or Principal for the supply list that  each students would normally need

 

Step 2: Organize your fundraisers and own your adoption.

 

 

 

Ideas for Fundraisers

 

Idea #1:

Ask your organization such as your workplace or church to allow you a drop box where members can contribute school supplies.

Ask if they would be willing to match a dollar amount for contribute a stated amount.

 

Idea #2

Have a pool party/BBQ or get-together and ask your friends to provide school supplies when they come over

 

Idea#3

Start Collecting School Supplies today at any discount store

 

Idea #4

Organize with neighbors and friends to box items and mail to one of the following Belize Schools via one of the Belizean operated Shipping agents:

 

Idea #5

Have a bake sale and use all proceeds to buy classroom or school supplies.

 

Come on my fellow Belizeans and friends of Belizeans we have all summer to work on this idea- It will be fun, it will be productive and we can make a difference in lives of our future leaders in Belize.  Let’s organize and educate Belize. Please become part of the movement of positive changes and share with your friends and family.

Should the Belizean Diaspora participate in elections and elected office?


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The Belizean Diaspora contributes an estimated 200 million USD to families and organizations in Belize. Amendment 7 is a legislation which clarifies the rights of Belizeans who hold dual citizenship. This is a very important legislation for the future of Belize’s survival. Nuri Akbar delves deeper into this legislation and its implications for Belize. Please read, share and discuss. 
The resurrection of the 7th amendment and Belize survivability in the 21st

28 May 2013 — by Nuri Akbar

 

On June 19th 2009, the Prime Minister of Belize,  the Hon. Dean Barrow, while addressing the proposed 7th amendment to the Belize  constitution in the National Assembly uttered the following words:

“Because our laws recognize dual citizenship how  then will you turn around, recognizing dual citizenship, providing for dual  citizenship but impose a limitation on a dual citizen. It makes no sense at all  and if a little bit of history and background are necessary, we didn’t always  recognize dual citizenship. The recognition of dual citizenship came about as a  consequence of the advance in legislation that was promoted by national hero  Phillip Goldson. But we turn around and we leave intact in the constitution for  all these years this impairment on the rights of the Belizean who have acquired  a second nationality. I say therefore, Mr. Speaker, that it is utterly and  completely contradictory. I also say it is inconsistent, and let me tell you why  it is inconsistent, if you are a Belizean who has acquired second nationality  you are disqualified from sitting in the National Assembly, but the Governor  General, whose office is from a protocol point of view the highest office in the  land, there is no such disqualification. The Governor General can be a Belizean  who has acquired a second nationality. He is not barred from being Governor  General and that is the highest office in the land. “

Recently a prominent Diaspora Belizean, Mrs.  Muriel Laing-Arthurs, asked me to comment on the 7th amendment to the  constitution proposed in 2009 that would have given full citizenship rights to  Belizean-born natives who happen to possess dual nationality. Since I am not a  card carrying member of any political party, my trajectory on this issue is not  skewed by the inordinate local partisan rhetoric that has taken on a life of its  own in Belize, but rather influenced by the realities we are facing as a people  and nation and the fact that we have thus far failed to strategically maximize  our human capital among our Belizean brothers and sisters in the Diaspora.

 

Therefore, on this particular issue I am in  agreement with the Prime Minister and endorse the concept and spirit of the 7th  amendment. However the contradictions and hypocrisy in our actual  behavior/thinking surrounding the re-embracement of the Belizean Diaspora must  fundamentally change if this initiative is to be successful.

Belize national  hero, the Honorable Phillip Goldson, lost his physical eyesight in the later  years of his life, but arguably he possessed one of the most clairvoyant visions  we have ever produced in an indigenous leader. From the inception he saw the  critical role Belizeans in the Diaspora can and should play in the overall  national development of Belize, and understood that national allegiance and  patriotism were not limited by one’s geographical location. Hence, his efforts  over the many decades to engage, reconnect, claim and maximize the Belizean  human capital of the Diaspora toward Belize national development have been one  of the most remarkable progressive legacies of Phillip Goldson.

The issue of migration has been with the earliest  human creatures as they began the trek out of Africa and eventually crossed the  Bering Strait millennia ago into the Americas. These migrations were often times  prompted by the need of share survival and in search of water, food and shelter.  Other times by war, oppression, natural disasters and protection against the  unrepentant natural elements.

As empires rose and fell over the millennia,  human beings were captured and used as slaves to build these empires. In modern  times much of Europe as we have known it was obliterated by two world wars that  killed millions and displaced entire populations. During the revolutions that  engulfed the Central American isthmus in the 70’s and 80’s, hundreds of  thousands of people were displaced, forced to flee, and many became  refugees.

In Belize’s case large migration can be traced  back to the building of the Panama Canal and World War II. After the 1931 and  1961 hurricanes that devastated the country and killed many people, Belizeans,  via a designed policy, were granted refugee status and were allowed to migrate  into the United States. Over the ensuing decades this migration pattern  continued officially and unofficially, eventually creating a brain drain that  has had an adverse impact on the nation’s long term development. Today thousands  of these same Belizeans and their offspring have acquired various life-affirming  skills and experience that have benefitted the host countries.

This perennial movement /exodus of masses of  people has been a part of human nature as a result of curiosity, mobility,  circumstance, oppression and conflict. To this end, the life and times we are  now living in 2013 have therefore imposed upon us the necessity to reclaim this  reservoir of natural resource.

A brilliant Diaspora Belizean sociologist who is  an expert on migration, Dr. Jerome Straughan, raised the issue of the  transforming definition of the modern nation state and its increasing mobility  of people and how governments will have to implement policies that take these  new dynamics into account. Accepting the reality that half of Belize’s  population reside abroad, creating the bridge/mechanism to harness this human  capital toward the development of the mother nation is not only logical, but is  in keeping with the transforming definition of modern nation states and  globalization. Given Belize’s geographic location, population size and history,  isolationism has no place in the 21st century. There is no question that the  nation’s future direction, national development and very survivability hinge on  its ability to reclaim its Belizean Diaspora and incorporate the human capital  into a long term strategy for maximum benefit.

The vulnerability of small, developing and  peripheral economies like Belize’s is the burden of external debt. When a small  country becomes totally consumed by debt, her natural resources then become  collateral and held hostage to the creditor nations and institutions. Local  governments are pressured into compromising the national patrimony, which  includes putting the country’s vital industries, raw materials, and even the  scandalous selling of passports, on the chopping block in a desperate bid to  raise revenue. This global trend will not change anytime soon, but given the  continued contraction of the metropolitan economies, Belize’s natural resources  will remain a premium for exploitation.

In Belize there have been many noble causes taken  up by various local and foreign finance advocacy groups and organizations  relating to the physical environment, wildlife, social and cultural issues, but  not a single organization dedicated to reconnecting and reclaiming the Belizean  human capital from abroad. Over the years, Belize’s leading newspaper, the  Amandala, has editorially supported the Hon. Phillip Goldson’a vision of  proactively engaging the Belizean Diaspora and encouraging the cross-pollination  of Belizeans at home and abroad, but this vision is yet to reverberate across  all sectors of the society.

The most valuable natural resource our nation  will ever produce is our people. Hence, any attempt at reclaiming this natural  resource should be paramount on any platform for national reconstruction and  development. It is now estimated that the number of Belizeans (first and second  generation) residing abroad in North America, Europe and elsewhere is equal to  half the three hundred thousand plus residents in the entire nation of  Belize.

The arguments presented in 2009 for abolishing  the discriminatory and apartheid era law dividing our people, and for providing  the legal instrument allowing Belizeans who hold dual nationality access to full  citizenship rights, participation and inclusion in elected public office, were  and are a visionary, progressive policy option.

There is no excuse for not initiating and  quantifying the various experiences in creating a skill bank of Belizean  citizens abroad toward national inclusion. This should be relatively easy since  globally the platforms already exist using tools such as Linkedln, Facebook,  etc., where thousands of Belizeans are actively interacting and networking with  each other. TheFortune 500 corporations and many countries  already use these various platforms for global recruitment of talents, skills  and experience. Since the rapid growth of the Internet, the competition for  human creativity, talent and experience has indeed gone global.

The continued dragging of the feet and denial of  thousands of Diaspora Belizean-born citizens from total participation in the  development of their homeland is now viewed as conspiratorial, and even racist,  by many. If a Belizean-born citizen is disqualified from full “citizenship  rights” and his or her allegiance is questioned on the basis that they hold dual  nationality, this is not only myopic but hypocritical, primitive thinking. The  intense passion and interest which many Diaspora Belizeans have demonstrated  regarding the ongoing Guatemalan claim and the proposed ICJ option is a clear  reflection of the love and fraternal relationship they hold toward Belize. If  the nation of Belize were to be militarily invaded/attacked, there is no  question a vast segment of the able-bodied Belizeans with military and actual  combat experience living abroad would volunteer to fight for their homeland.

 

What greater betrayal and damage has been done to  the nation state of Belize over the past quarter century than by those who swear  to defend and uphold the national patrimony and sovereignty of the state but  hold more allegiance to a political entity effectively subordinating the state?  Indeed, the actions, behavior and policies that have seen most of the nation’s  arable land sold to foreign interests, vital industries usurped, selling of  Belizean citizenship (passports), oil drilling concessions with ties to cronies  and family members, and outright pillaging of the national treasury for personal  gain – who is the real enemy of the Belizean state?

As I sat with one of Belize’s sages and  historians recently, Imam Ismael Shabazz, and asked for his insight on the 7th  amendment, Shabazz in his wisdom reminded me that the real substance of the 7th  amendment should not only include the right to hold public office, but indeed “voting rights” of Belizean citizens in the Diaspora. This idea is not new.  However, it has been resisted by the political elite, including many of the  so-called progressive thinkers among us. The arguments made were that Belizeans  living abroad would not be familiar with the issues on the ground and therefore  they were uninformed and out of touch. This argument was made in the early  1970’s and perhaps had some validity forty years ago. However, the world has  drastically changed over the past quarter century and the speed, access and  advancement of technology and cyberspace have essentially obliterated this  argument. Belizeans regularly interact with each other via social media,  participate in call-in radio/TV talk shows, and have access to the various media  outlets online.

Over 100 nations, large and small, allow their  Diaspora the right to vote in local elections. These include Mexico, El  Salvador, Venezuela, Britain, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland,  United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and France.  Given the share size of the Belizean population living abroad and the  decades-old impact of remittances to families back home, the vast majority of  Diaspora Belizeans have maintained a solid relationship with their homeland.  According to the World Bank remittance report, the remittances to Central  America, which included Belize, in 2007 had reach a colossal US$ 12.1 billion.  The report also stated that in some of these countries the remittances are equal  to some 10% of the entire GDP. In the case of Belize, the report shows, for  example, that Belizeans in the Diaspora in 2004/05 had made remittances  estimated to be over US$ 160 million.

Whether the current administration (or future  ones) will move swiftly and strategically to reclaim its citizens living abroad  as an integral component of its national developmental platform, remains to be  seen. But whether the political elite act or not, the Belizean people, along  with progressive grassroots movements should take the lead. Belizeans abroad  have been actively engaged in supporting grassroots organizations like the  Belize Territorial Volunteers and BGYEA, among many other charitable efforts on  the ground. This kind of fraternal collaboration and operational unity must be  supported and encouraged between Belizeans at home and aboard for the sake of  our self-preservation and survival.

It is my opinion that much of the resistance to  the 7th amendment was essentially the result of the way in which it was crafted  and presented. The original (amendment) was presented to the Belizean public in  2009, and tragically, in keeping with the typical ad hoc/ top down fashion in  which policies are formulated in Belize, provided the ideal climate for  speculation and misinformation. No real engagement with the community, from the  inception of the idea stage to formulation and proper public education so the  people could understand the purpose and benefit of the proposed change, was  carried out.

Secondly, at no stage of this proposed 7th  amendment fiasco was the constituency most affected, the (Diaspora Belizeans)  themselves, invited to participate in the process. They were essentially left  out of the actual discussion. Not only would it have made perfect sense to have  included the Belizean Diaspora in the formulation of the policy proposal, but  most importantly in the public and educational dialogue with their brothers and  sisters in Belize.

As a consequence of the flawed approach,  propaganda and partisan rhetoric took over and subsequently the merits and  demerits of the actual amendment became completely lost in the process. The  vitriol that ensued was reflective of the deep-seated residual effect of  colonialism that still permeates our worldview. Talking points filtered via  partisan bickering became the norm, instead of dialogue and constructive debate.  So yet again, because of the choke hold of petty party politics on our  perceptual apparatus, a shameful law that discriminates against thousands of  Belizeans and relegates them to second class citizenship status in the place of  their birth, remains intact and activated to this day.

Kim Simplis Barrow’s Reflections, Inspiration and Outlook for the New Year!


The New Year is a time to reflect on a year gone by and make plans and preparations for the upcoming year. One of the greatest blessings of humanity is the ability to recreate our lives,  overcome and learn from adversity.  Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow took the nation of Belize through a tsunami of emotions as she battled one of the toughest fight of her life. She brought cancer awareness to the forefront  while excelling at her duties as Special Envoy for women and children. Please read her message below as she shares her fight, struggles, fears and  successes. 

Kim Simplis Barrow and daughter Salima Barrow

Kim Simplis Barrow and daughter Salima Barrow

A YEAR I WILL NEVER FORGETby: Kim Simplis Barrow
2012 is coming to an end and for many reasons it is a year I truly don’t mind putting behind me. As I sit here reflecting on the year that was, there is no denying that 2012 was a challenging one for me as I spent a great deal of it fighting for my life. I battled cancer the best way I could and just when it seemed that the victory could well be in sight, there was another major struggle to overcome. When I suffered heart failure at the end of May, I couldn’t help but ask, “what the hell is going on?” I really needed answers. Answers I really didn’t get, but I continued to fight and I also continued to hope and pray and believe. It was a tough year as I completed chemotherapy treatments, radiation, and restored my heart to an acceptable beating pulse after a very grim prognosis.

Despite the many adversities I had to face, many days I smiled! I smiled at the everyday miracles I experienced. My faith in the human spirit, the goodness and beauty in everything was ever so present. I am forever grateful for all the support and constant prayers that came and continue to come my way.

Yes, during 2012 I struggled with my health but nonetheless, I can gratefully say – it was a successful year. Oh yes it was! My daily inspiration: our beautiful Belizean children! They are the ones who gave me the strength and courage to keep working on my Special Envoy projects. This year I saw the budding fruits of my labours as after many years of planning and advocacy a number of things came together. The Inspiration Telethon was a complete success and construction of the Centre has started. The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Prohibition Bill and the Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Bill were approved by the Cabinet and passed through both the House of Representatives and the Senate with unanimous support. They are now just a signature away from becoming law. The drafting of amendments to the Criminal Code to increase penalties for perpetrators of sexual assault has started and we’re expecting that it will be passed into law in 2013. A few weeks ago we received the good news that the Challenge Gobie Foundation reached its million dollar mark for us to start construction on the first phase of the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit.

And those are just the big highlights. There were many other victories: the annual launch of our Inspiration calendar and agendas, a very successful Annual Spirit of Christmas Concert that entertained over 300 children, the launch of several PSAs on sexual exploitation and child safety, increased public awareness on disabilities and cancer… just to name a few.

Overall, what I have learnt this year–indeed what I have lived this year–is that you don’t have to quit in the face of adversity, no matter how great a challenge! You should never give up no matter how horrible you feel, even if you are lying in the ICU! Life is many times ‘unfair’ and rough, we face unexpected events (cancer, job loss, death) but life doesn’t have to break us. WE MAKE LIFE!!!

That is my mantra: MY LIFE IS WHAT I MAKE IT! And in 2013 I intend to make it as rich and fulfilling as it can be; no matter the adversities, no matter the naysayers. I will continue to count my blessings, continue to cherish and support my loved ones, continue to appreciate my friends, continue my work on behalf of the children of this nation. And I will continue to look for the lessons as I face, head on, whatever challenge the new year may bring. I hope you will do the same!

Happy New Year to all! In the words of Afrobella I urge you to:

Slow down. Calm down. Look back at your year. Appreciate the journey you’ve made – the peaks and the valleys, the growth and the realizations. Be thankful for who you are, what you have, and the people who love you. Look forward to the upcoming year. Make plans that make sense for you, considering what you know you are capable of. Don’t limit yourself. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

I wish you peace, happiness, prosperity and love in 2013 no matter, or perhaps, despite what challenges may come your way!