QHO’s Belize Initiative aims to educate and inform Belizean youth about relevant health issues, foster positive behavior change, and equip youth to become leaders in their own community. The initiative has been partnering with the Ministry of Education in Belize since 1999 and runs health programming in both primary and secondary Belizean schools.
The Belize Initiative hires and trains eight Peer Educators (PEs) from Queen’s University to teach and promote healthy lifestyle awareness in Belizean schools and communities for six week placements. The PEs are trained throughout the school year at Queen’s University, and after 7 months in Kingston, Ontario, they depart for Belize. The eight PEs are divided into two teams, with each group working in two different locations for three weeks. Most recently, the Belize Initiative has partnered with the Ministry of Education in Belize City, Belmopan, and Dangriga.
PEs analyze the Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) curriculum set out by the Ministry of Education and collaborate with teachers and principals to determine topics that need attention and reiterate important concepts. Topics include puberty, sexual health, mental health, bullying, peer pressure, healthy relationships, and combating stigma associated with HIV/AIDs and other sexually transmitted infections. PEs use interactive activities in classrooms and during lunch breaks to engage youth. Additionally, the PEs partner with local community organizations such as the Gateway Youth Center and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) to connect with youth outside the traditional classroom setting. QHO is looking to partner with new organizations moving forward to further community impact.
The QHO Belize Initiative is continually evolving and using the feedback from teachers, principals, and the Ministry of Education to improve the initiative. In the past, PE’ would spend one week in each of the six Belizan districts, but the program was adapted so PEs could spend more time in each community and develop stronger relationships. The initiative was changed in 2014 so that each PE group completed a two week placement in three different districts, and then again in 2015 to a three week placement in two different districts. The total duration of the initiative remains unchanged at a length of six weeks. The initiative locations rotate throughout the six districts of the country based on feedback from the Ministry of Education. In 2019, QHO initiatives took place in the Belize, Stann Creek, and Cayo districts.