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A Christmas Gift From Laddie

Laddie with his Family
Last Updated: December 15, 2022

With The Foundation’s Year In Review, and Plans for 2023

As we approach this second Christmas and a new year without our beloved Laddie, we miss his joyful presence as much as we did that first Christmas. This year our grief remains, but the sorrow is tempered by an unexpected gift – the presence of more positivity in our lives.

And this feels like a gift from Laddie himself, something coming from his own positivity and enthusiasm for living life.

As we described during that first Christmas without Laddie, our determination to have his little brother and young friends enjoy the holidays - as Laddie would surely have wanted - helped us get though what would have otherwise been overwhelming sadness.

Laddie's Christmas

And then that spark, that thought of “this is what laddie would have wanted” continued to be there after the new year.

We didn’t know it at the time, but Laddie’s positivity began to manifest in our lives.

That spark grew into a determination to have Laddie remembered more for his life than his murder, and a drive to help create the sort of world he would have wanted to live in. After that first agonising Christmas and new year, some six months after his killing, we wanted to celebrate his life by showing the world his extraordinary vitality and enjoyment of life.  To commemorate his love of singing, dancing, playing sports, horses, and his love for his little brother and family.

With the help and energy of family, friends, and supporters, we established The Justice for Laddie Foundation, a legal, non-profit organisation initially founded with two primary aims – to seek justice for Laddie, and to honour his legacy by helping other young people.

We also launched a website as a memorial and celebration of Laddie’s too short life. Many people said being able to visit it and see images of him doing the things he loved helped keep Laddie in their hearts, and we know how much it helped us get through that first year.

Justice For Laddie Website

Community support was also vital that first year, and together, we accomplished a great deal while raising awareness of Laddie, and what happened to him. Throughout Belize, people came together to hold peaceful protests and candlelight vigils. Stig da Artist, a popular singer and songwriter, recorded “Don’t Shoot, I’m Just a Youth,” a song that received constant airplay and he performed on television.

Don’t Shoot, I’m Just a Youth became a popular catchphrase, soon seen on hundreds of tee-shirts and chanted during protests.

Laddie’s Foundation also organised three attractive billboards that were erected in prominent positions across Belize to serve as a memorial and to keep pressing for justice. Laddie’s gravesite was extensively landscaped and consecrated so that friends and family have a peaceful place to visit and pay their respects.

Addressing the importance of education and play in Laddie’s life, The refurbished  a playground in his name at St Andrew’s Primary School – a facility that young students will enjoy well into the future.

Laddie's Playground

These and other events and endeavours were all part of the leadup to the first anniversary of Laddie’s murder in Placencia Village.

With the generous cooperation of the village council, beachfront land was set aside for a memorial garden in his name, designed, in the words of Lucy Fleming, the Laddie’s Foundation chair and his adopted grandmother, to “Shift the energy from a horrific act to become a place of community and peace.”


Laddie's Memorial

With a long, gently curving bench milled from a huge downed tree near the Macal River where Laddie played, and a memorial cairn made from the river stones, topped with a mosaic soccer ball, the park is a valued community space and welcomed hundreds of people to Laddie’s Memorial Day, the first anniversary observation of Laddie’s passing.

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His family, and those closest to Laddie, wanted a peaceful event that reflected the positive aspects of his nature, so this otherwise sombre event, after prayer, poetry and reflections by those who knew him best, included music, traditional Garifuna drumming, rock painting, and a “Finish Laddie’s Run” footrace that saw over 130 participants tracing the route from where he drew his last breath to his intended destination – the holiday rental his family had been staying at.

Laddie's Run

The day culminated with a nationwide “Shine A Light for Laddie” 8 pm initiative that saw individuals and groups in communities across Belize – and even overseas – hold candles and flashlights in a vibrant show of solidarity in calling for change.

Shine A Light For Laddie

Laddie’s Foundation’s work that first year was gratifying in having Laddie bring so many people together to honour the life of one of their own, and to demand support for Belizean youth, and better protection if and when they are taken into custody.

One year and one month after Laddie died, another young man, Derrick Uh, died while in police custody, once again showing the need for transparency and accountability when young Belizeans are detained.

derrick uh death highlights need for laddies law featured image

To meet the Foundation’s first aim, we continue to press for justice. Not for vengeance or retribution, but to prevent such tragedies from reoccurring, and to show our young people that no one, whether they wear a badge and uniform or not, is above the law. Respect for the law and authority is important for young people to grow into good citizens.

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We will continue to respectfully call for measures like those outlined in Laddie’s Law to be adopted in Police operations and training. At the same time, we will also stress our belief that the majority of Belizean police offers are decent, hard working men and women doing a difficult job.

The second aim; using The Foundation to offer support for Belizean youth, is where we plan to honour and promote Laddie’s positivity and boundless optimism.

Before he was killed, Laddie was enjoying a good life with a bright future ahead. He often expressed gratitude for the opportunities he had – a good home, a loving family, education, a chance to play sports and enjoy nature. Even at the age of fourteen, he was learning skills that would stand him in good stead later in life.

Not every young Belizean has those opportunities. But we hope that more young people will be able to benefit from assistance through Laddie’s Foundation and its supporters.

We are enlisting supporters and donors to encourage and support Belize’s young people in striving for the successful life Laddie envisioned for himself. We will do this though a range of initiatives that include youth activities, sports programs, and skills and career development with training, mentoring, educational scholarships and through other programs aimed at assisting young people to mature into happy, healthy and productive adults.

Laddie's Foundation

This new year will see Laddie’s Foundation enlisting community involvement, along with the support of businesses, organisations, church groups and youth affiliations to identify areas of need, and put in place programs to meet them.

For example, we will be asking business leaders to participate in a training and skills development program aimed at creating a job-ready workforce of young school-leavers.

We hope to sponsor forums that will foster communication between community leaders and youth groups.

We will also invite the Police Force to nominate a Youth Liaison Officer or other representatives to participate in the youth forums we have planned for later this year as a way to open dialogue and foster mutual respect.

We appreciate that these are ambitious goals, but having seen how the community came together in the wake of Laddie’s killing, we are confident that these aims, and more, can be realised.

In a very real sense, this is an investment in the future of Belize.

Now, for the new year, a revised website focussed on The Foundation is in the works. We hope that you will visit it, add your comments, and join us in supporting Belize’s most valuable resource.

Wishing you and you’re a joyous Christmas, and all the best in the New Year