A Rebranding of the Princess Royal Youth Hostel
May 16, 2022
A Rebranding of the Princess Royal Youth Hostel
It has been criticized for the restrictive and deplorable living conditions in which its inhabitants live. The institution has even dealt with allegations of sexual harassment before. Then in 2015, a horrific fire swept through one of the buildings, killing three girls who were trapped inside. So, needless to say, the public outcry for a redesign of the Princess Royal hostel has been constant over the years. Now, under a new legal framework governing the management of the former Princess Royal hostel, the establishment has been renamed on Sunday to reflect a place of hope for young people who subsequently transit there. News Five’s Marion Ali was present for the official unveiling and filed this report.
Marion Ali, Report
The renaming of the Princess Royal Youth Hostel to New Beginnings Youth Development Center allows – as its new name suggests – a better stay away from home for the eleven girls and sixteen boys who reside at the facility. The official name change ceremony was conveniently timed to coincide with Sunday’s International Day of Families. The new name comes from within the facility itself, in the person of Daveion Dougal, a resident himself, whose family has approved our use of this excerpt from his presentation.
Daveion Dougal, resident, New Beginnings Youth Development Center
“We cannot allow our negativity to hold us back, but to be the foundation on which we build to make us better and stronger. Yes, we all make mistakes, but the words ‘fresh start’ bring to light that we no longer look in a rear-view mirror but straight ahead.”
Looking ahead, the rebranding calls for education, care services and schooling for young people rather than a boot camp approach to their time in custody at the facility.
Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, Minister of Human Development
“The first time I came here, the security guard at the gate had big handcuffs hanging from his belt. And I walked up to him and said, ‘Please hide those handcuffs. It’s not a jail. It is no longer a certified institution, which means you punish children for being rude, bad, disorderly, out of control and minor offenses before the law. We have therefore repealed the Licensed Facilities Act and we now, and in accordance with the law, name this facility as a Residential Care Facility.
Along with the new charter, there has been quite a shift in the youth development aspect, according to the facility’s programs coordinator, Annie Palacio, and this relates to both professional and academic development.
Annie Palacio, Program Coordinator, New Beginnings Youth Development Center
“They told us, ‘We want to do agriculture; we want to breed. We want to learn skills; we want to be entrepreneurs,” and we gave them that. They grow their own vegetables which we use to cook in the kitchen; we have livestock that they take care of – pigs and chickens. They even have vocational training on the other side of the building under the Ministry of Youth, so they learn how to cement – different types of vocational training. And they also go to school. They want to go to school, so we send them to school. They were online when COVID was still on. Our children are either online or in class here. We have a teacher here who literally teaches them. So they’re here to get everything like they’re on the outside, as well as building character.
Part of the transition over the past 20 months also included major investments in infrastructure upgrades, Human Development Minister Dolores Balderamos-Garcia said.
“Over the past year and four months, we have carried out major renovations to the bathrooms in the living room; we have made significant changes. We brought in plumbers, electricians, we installed a new pump, we even have hot water now, and the children have flush toilets, they have hot water to wash themselves, and there have been significant improvements. We even donated a bigger TV for the kids. And the children will take care of their TV.
Balderamos-Garcia readily admits there’s still room for improvement, but she says that’s where efforts now lie to help young people reintegrate into society. At the heart of this effort is the opening of transition houses for departing young residents.
“In Orange Walk what we try to do is have a transitional situation, when you’re eighteen, they don’t just put you on the street. We try to follow the cases, and we have had very successful interventions and also results. So we’re not quite there yet, but we’re trying across the country, for people who are transitioning, to follow up and remember, we’re not necessarily keeping them here until the age of eighteen. That’s what we’re trying to get away from. This facility is only available when absolutely necessary and for the shortest period possible.
Marion Ali for News Five.