by Robyn Bardgett
Fed up with waiting for others to find a solution, Antonio Belvedere decided the best way to make a positive impact on young men in the community was to get involved.
His life underwent massive upheaval after his father died of cancer in 2009.
Mr Belvedere took some time out to regroup and then decided to focus on his passion – cooking.
Only months after graduating from the Bermuda College’s Culinary Arts programme in 2012, he became the island’s youngest executive chef. Although a great achievement, he didn’t feel fulfilled.
Two years later he opened his own business, Peppino’s Catering. A huge thrill was that it offered more possibilities for him to give back.
“I took the plunge and sacrificed a steady pay cheque but it’s meant that I’ve been able to do more community work in regards to going around to different schools and speaking to the students in relation to gang violence,” Mr Belvedere said.
His work with Branches is part of that. Comprised of grassroots groups such as Open Your Heart Foundation, Living Legends Community Organisation and Youthvision Promotions, its aim is to have positive males mentor young men in a non-judgmental space. We’ve come together in the hopes of putting the focus on young men in the community and getting them on the right path no matter what, because right now there is a need for that,” he said.
With Desmond Crockwell, the head of Youthvision, Mr Belvedere was able to organise peace marches for primary school students at either end of the island this year. The children carried placards on which they’d written their thoughts on gun violence.
“Nobody is telling them what to write,” said Mr Belvedere. “They are putting on there how they feel about gun violence. I had two girls come up to me and perform a rap that they had come up with and it was amazing to see and hear. These kids feel it. There isn’t a school on the island that hasn’t been affected by gun violence in some way.”
In April, he received a Leading Men of Bermuda Award from Brothers of Bermuda for his efforts.
His hope is to next bring together students from all of the island’s schools, for a march through Hamilton.
“That would be a positive sight to see,” he said.
Mr Belvedere is also hoping to use his skills to get boys in government’s residential home interested in cooking.
His real hope is to find a way of making the community understand that everyone has a part to play.
“We need more community support, and that doesn’t have to just be parents,” he said, adding that the lack of participation at PTAs has been disappointing for the activists.
“We are a very reactive society but we need to be more proactive right now.
“We have people in these groups that have been directly affected by gun violence or can’t travel to different parts of the island, but they are out there and part of a positive group. That’s what shows hope.”
This Article was originally posted in the 2019 edition of the RG Summer Magazine.