In Belize City, new spaces to learn new skills

In the south side of Belize City, poverty persists and the crime rate is high. However, adults and children have found a safe zone at the Samuel Haynes Institute of Excellence. The facility, the only one of its kind in the Saint Martin De Porres area, offers skills training classes and after-school programmes for children. In May, the Institute added another space to benefit the community—the Leigh Richardson Knowledge Centre, which was completed with financing from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).

The Knowledge Centre is named after the late Leigh Richardson, a noted contributor to Belize’s independence and an advocate for poverty reduction.  The fully furnished two-storey facility gives the community’s 550 men, women and youth a new place to learn and improve their skills. In the new Centre, residents will have access to programmes in cosmetology, information and communication technology, and driving. These courses complement ongoing classes at the Institute, including mathematics, reading, sewing, cake decorating and landscaping.


Belize City - Samuel Haynes Institute
Officials unveil a commemorative plaque at the Leigh Richardson Knowledge Centre during the inauguration ceremony on May 14, 2016.


“The Leigh Richardson Knowledge Centre expands the reach of the Samuel Haynes Institute of Excellence in a community where having a skill could make a big difference to one’s quality of life. CDB is pleased to have played a role in this sub-project, which, for many, can be a path to building productive, sustainable livelihoods” said Darran Newman, Portfolio Manager, Basic Needs Trust Fund, CDB.

It provides 3,400 square feet of room for skills building, opening opportunities for income generation and employability in the community.

The Centre houses a salon, which will provide residents with the option to learn beauty and hair care techniques. Participants who successfully complete the course will receive a certification in cosmetology.


Belize City - Leigh Richardson Knowledge Centre
The salon at the Leigh Richardson Knowledge Centre, where residents can learn cosmetology.


In the facility’s new computer centre, youth will learn how to effectively use digital media technologies. Through creativity and play, students will be taught how to practically apply the skills they learn.

“On the computers, we have all the programmes that the young kids need to use in school–mathematics, English, social studies. So they can go on the computer themselves, login to the programmes [and] do their homework, their own research […] It’s a fascinating laboratory for the kids,” said Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Area Representative for Pickstock, the community where the facility is located.

A room at the Centre has been designated for the Samuel Haynes Institute of Excellence Marching Band, which, prior to now, rehearsed at a nearby bungalow from which a doctor’s office also operates. The popular entertainment group includes at-risk youth from the nearby Pickstock and Lake Independence neighbourhoods, where crime is especially prevalent.

CDB provided financing of USD240,400 to complete the Centre under the Social Investment Fund II (SIF II). The Government of Belize contributed USD12,000. The Government of Japan was also a partner in the construction of the building.

Under the SIF II project, CDB lends the Government of Belize resources to be made available to the Belize Social Investment Fund on a non-reimbursable basis. The Fund uses these resources to finance social and economic infrastructure, social services and organisational strengthening sub-projects in poor, rural communities.

The Leigh Richardson Knowledge Centre was inaugurated on May 14.