Needed; guidelines for reporting abuse
March 13, 2018: On his Facebook page of March 9, Malcolm Harripaul made the following post at 7:06PM; “WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE? on seeing a big man fondle a young lady’s breast.
One of Puran Bros trucks was turning into Bella Dam from the public road. There was a girl crossing the bridge. The driver forced her to the edge. She had to stop. He leaned out of the truck and fondled her breasts as he passed. I saw this sexual assault. The driver is also a Puran employee known as “Blackboy” and he lives in Bella Dam.
“I remonstrated with him. And off course coming from a Billionaire family he issued threats to me. I really felt like pulling him out and administering the 100 lashes that he deserves.”
Like Malcolm, many Guyanese witness such abuse and harassment but are at a loss as to what should be done. And not many would confront the abuser as Malcolm did for fear of being subjected to the similar threats or worse. So what should be done?
One suggestion is that the witness should take a photo or better yet a video of the incident and then report to the police with photo/video as evidence. But what if that person is fearful of the perpetrator and/or if the police do not take him/her seriously? After all, this does happen often enough. Perhaps such individuals can go to the media instead? But, can a witness be charged by the police for not going first to them?
So The Caribbean Voice strongly urges the relevant ministry and government agencies to publicize guidelines for the public as to what actions victims and witnesses should take in situations like this.
Meanwhile Malcolm should be commended for bringing this incident to the public notice. We hope others will follow his example. As well we hope the police can act on this info so the victim can get justice and the perpetrator reaps the consequences of the law for his abhorrent action.
That SN editorial…
March 09, 2018: The Stabroek News editorial of March 2nd repeated that inaccurate 44% suicide rate which, unlike other rates for that or any other year, had the globally unreported 25% factored in, according to the WHO, and was thus an anomaly, as indicated below.
Thus that BBC video that was referenced in the editorial contains inaccurate statistics in addition to no in depth analysis, wrong information about suicide in Guyana, and little mention about the successes in suicide prevention over the years as a result of the hard work of NGOs and activists. As well, the following were not interviewed: suicide survivors; NGOs that do substantive suicide prevention work; counselors who handle suicidal and suicide survivor cases. And no suicide hotspots were visited.
Also the BBC’s assertion that Guyanese joke about and trivialize suicide is awfully untrue. In fact, having done work in six of the ten regions in Guyana over the past four years, The Caribbean Voice (TCV) can testify that Guyanese take suicide very seriously. A survey commissioned by TCV in 2016 found that 96% of Guyanese were willing to engage in suicide prevention if provided with the requisite training.
It should also be noted that Guyana is not unique with respect to more female suicide attempts as against more male suicide deaths; this is the global reality, known as the gender paradox in suicide. Incidentally, we once again urge all media to not use the word ‘commit’ when referring to suicide because of its negative connotations. Experts and activists globally suggest ‘died/death by suicide’, ‘suicide victims’ or ‘suicide deaths’ instead.
To bring about significant reduction in suicide, the government, per the WHO recommendation for small economies, needs to fully integrate mental health care into the physical health care system with psychologists in all public hospitals, with easily accessible psychiatric wards in all public hospitals, and periodic visits by psychologists to all satellite clinics and community health centers. As well, all medical personnel throughout the current health care system should be trained, with respect to the mhGAP, WHO’s action plan to scale up services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders for countries especially with low and lower middle incomes. And a full module on mental health should be included in the nurses training program so that they can become part of the integration process from the start of their career.
Also the 30 counselors who graduated late last year from the American University of Peace Studies should be deployed throughout the school and/or health care system while teachers should be facilitated to undertake studies for the UG Diploma in Psychology. Furthermore, basic mental health training should to be included in all training programs, especially the holistic program to replace HEYS. Also needed is an adaption of the Shri Lankan Model of Hazard Reduction to tackle pesticide suicide.
According to WHO, “an important concept in primary health care is that health activities should develop horizontally to involve other sectors working within the community…intersectoral collaboration, involving governmental and non-governmental organizations is important in all areas of health.” In effect, a return of the Gatekeepers’ Program, various versions of which have been highly successful in Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Uganda and elsewhere.
There is also need for updated legislation to overhaul the ossified 1930 Mental Health Ordinance so that a range of deficits outlined by WHO are addressed and the legislation informed by the latest advances in treatment for mental health. To avoid political footballing, we suggest that this be done on a bipartisan basis. We have already seen the effects of partisan politics when the motion to decriminalize attempted suicide was voted down by the government, even though they supported it in principle. Clearly a bipartisan approach is also necessary to take this law off the books.
The bottom line is that there must be political will to tackle suicide in particular and mental health in general. Collaboration must move beyond words to concerted action and regardless of their outlook, political affiliation or ideology, all stakeholders willing and able to make a contribution must be included in a national effort to deal with suicide and other mental health issues. There are hundreds of NGOs, FBOs and CBOs willing to be involved. We know because we have interacted and collaborated with many of them through our outreach, training and lobbying efforts and the National Anti-Violence Candlelight Vigil, held on September 10 each year.
Besides, as evidenced by various TCV polls since 2014:
➢ 92% of respondents believed suicide is preventable,
➢ 75% felt that the government is not doing enough to address suicide.
➢ 69% felt that the government is not doing enough to address domestic abuse.
➢ 79% support the call for the age of consent to be raised from 16 to 18.
➢ 86% believe that sexual exploitation against young people is on the rise and that government needs to take action to deter such occurrences.
➢ 80% support the call for a sex registry for offenders.
In short Guyanese not only want more from the government with respect to mental health, but they are willing to be partners in mental health care and to support measures not yet on stream but that would help to make a difference.
Kudos to the Sexual Offences Court
March 07, 2018: The Caribbean Voice is thrilled at the work the Sexual Offences Court has been doing and we laud the expected move to have this court also set up in Berbice and Demerara, as many have been calling for. We are especially pleased that sentences handed down hover around the maximum rather than the minimum and we hope that this would be the permanent standard.
We expect that the court is, or soon will be, informed by the recently launched Model Guidelines for Sexual Offence Cases in the Caribbean Region created by the Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project in the Caribbean, an initiative of the Canadian Government, in collaboration with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). And we strongly suggest this court urgently consider adding domestic violence to its portfolio? Also, we urge the Government to set up a similar special court for child abuse. As well, a mobile court is urgently needed for the hinterland, given the problems of distance and transportation. Such a court should combine the roles of the sexual offences and child abuse courts.
Finally, we hope that these courts would consider counselling for victims as part of their mandate.
That BBC documentary on suicide…
March 02, 2018: A VIDEO clip of a BBC ‘documentary’ on suicide in Guyana has been making the social media rounds. That clip is questionable in a number of ways. For one, the statistics referenced are inaccurate and in depth analysis is non-existent. As well, information about suicide is wrong. And little mention is made about the successes in suicide prevention over the years as a result of the hard work of NGOs and activists.
The statement that Guyanese joke about and trivialize suicide is awfully untrue. In fact, having done work on the ground in six of the ten regions in Guyana, The Caribbean Voice (TCV) can testify to the opposite–Guyanese take the issue of suicide very seriously and have been craving for education and training so they can become actively involved in suicide prevention. A survey commissioned by TCV in 2016 found that 96% of Guyanese were willing to engage in suicide prevention if provided with the requisite training.
Given the content of the video clip, one must ask why the following were not interviewed: NGOs, including Guyana Foundation, the Corriverton Domestic Violence Centre, Monique’s Helping Hands, Crossroads Suicide & Mental Health Awareness Services, Mibicuri Community Developers, and others that do substantive suicide prevention work; counselors who handle suicidal and suicide survivor cases and suicide survivors. As well why were no suicide hotspots visited?
This video was time and again brought to the attention of The Caribbean Voice by Guyanese from all walks of life, in and out of Guyana, who were disturbed by its contents. They all felt that BBC has trivialized an issue that Guyanese have been seriously tackling with some degree of success and implored TCV to publicly respond to the video.
The bottom line is that suicide is far too serious an issue to be superficially analyzed. It is an issue that has seen significant headway made by suicide prevention activists to tackle myths and misinformation and any documentary that promotes myths and misinformation is quite frankly one that seeks only to sensationalism. As well, like any media worth its salt, the BBC would know that professional reportage must be characterized by triangulation and by varied sources in order to ensure fair, objective and newsworthy reporting. We therefore urge the BBC to stop propagating a documentary that presents an inaccurate, sensationalized picture and do one that focuses on the reality, if it is genuinely interested in documenting suicide in Guyana.
Placement of counsellors in schools
February 22, 2018: THE University of Guyana is set to launch its Diploma in Psychology on February 24. The Caribbean Voice (TCV) notes that tuition costs are $250,000 plus facilities fee of $50,000, application fee of $1000 and other possible fees, with fees also subject to change. TCV has been at the forefront of calls to bring back the Diploma in Psychology that was first offered in the 1970s. Even though UG had indicated to TCV that it has no record of this programme, we did confirm its existence with a number of then graduates who provided details of the programme and indicated that they still have their certificates. Now we sincerely hope that the government has provided assurances of employment to encourage students to register, as repaying that kind of student loan will be a disincentive. We also hope that the government has facilitated the enrolment of current teachers as was done previously.
However, even as we await this first batch of graduates, the public has not been informed whether that batch of 30 who graduated in December with Diplomas in Psychology from the American University of Peace Studies, has already been placed in public schools. If they are still struggling to find jobs, then anyone desirous of enrolling in the UG programme may have second and third thoughts. As well, the public would wonder about the government’s seriousness with respect to the mental well-being of the nation’s students, especially given that arguments that trained personnel are not available and that government cannot afford to train such personnel, are no longer valid. Besides, it is to be noted that some private schools already have counsellors on staff.
Meanwhile, NGOs (including The Caribbean Voice) that have been working with teachers and students, are deluged with cries for help to deal with a range of issues currently impacting the teaching/learning dynamics on a daily basis. These include depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and self-confidence, lack of coping skills, increasing use of drugs and alcohol, increasing sexual permissiveness fuelling the rising teenage pregnancy rate, bullying, including cyber bullying, self-harm, especially cutting, various learning disabilities and increasing overall violence.
The fact is that research clearly shows that better academic and behavioural outcomes result when mental health problems are identified and addressed early. On the other hand, students struggling with depression or other mental illnesses have a harder time feeling motivated, learning, concentrating, taking tests, and so on.
Also, it is to be noted that boys, especially those at the lower socio-economic levels, are likely to be both victims and perpetrators of the negative behaviour that flow from untreated mental problems. In a study on Jamaica, Dr. Herbert Gayle, University of West Indies (Mona Campus), social anthropologist, found that boys are three times more likely than girls to be beaten in homes; they account for up to 95 per cent of the child victims of violence, including murder; are more likely than girls to be neglected by fathers; and in up to a quarter of working-class and inner-city homes, are expected to hustle to help boost the family income. These findings may very well be accurate for Guyana (and other Caribbean nations) as borne out by empirical evidence.
In effect, the government cannot afford not to invest in the mental health of our young. This investment starts with the placement of counsellors in schools. As well, TCV urges the establishment of an annual Mental Heath Awareness Day in all schools as a way of bringing parents into the mental health care process and establishing partnerships between schools and other stakeholders in mental health care.
Guyanese support the establishment of sex offenders’ registry & raising the age of consent to 18
February 16, 2018: An opinion survey commissioned by The Caribbean Voice (TCV) and conducted during the last week of January revealed that 73% of those surveyed felt that social problems like depression, anxiety, alcoholism and suicide would increase because of the closure of the sugar estates.
The survey also showed that 75% felt the Government is not doing enough to address suicide, while 69% felt the Government is not doing enough to address domestic abuse.
Of the respondents interviewed, 79% support the call for the age of consent to be raised from 16 to 18, while 86% believe that sexual exploitation against young people is on the rise, and that Government needs to take action to deter such occurrences. Notably, 80% support the call for a sex registry for offenders. The survey also found that Guyanese were generally not aware of entities involved in suicide and abuse prevention, but there was more awareness of the work of The Caribbean Voice, most likely because TCV’s work is not centralized in Georgetown and environs, but extends to various regions, and is often a collaborative effort with other NGOs, special interests, and mass-based organizations.
Conducted by experienced pollster Dr. Vishnu Bisram, the survey interviewed 490 individuals, representing Guyana’s ethnic makeup (41% Indians, 30% Africans, 18% Mixed, 10% Amerindians, 1% others) of the population. The findings, analysed at a significance level of 95%, has a margin of error of 4%. This is the third survey commissioned by The Caribbean Voice since we launched our anti-violence campaign in 2014. The first survey, done in November 2014 found that 92% of respondents believed suicide is preventable and 96% were willing to help in suicide prevention if given the relevant training. That survey also found that 66% of those interviewed were willing to intervene in domestic abuse if provided with the requisite training, although 19% were not willing to get involved, pointing out that the ‘peacemaker’ usually ends up being the enemy, an age old perspective that still seems to hold currency both in Guyana and the diaspora. And this is why TCV has been continually calling for a return of the Gatekeeper’s Program and piggybacking mental health on other government training programs.
A subsequent survey done in March 2016 found that 92% felt that government was not doing enough to address mental health, while 78% believed that people with mental illnesses could live normal lives. And this is why TCV has been engaged in continual lobbying on a basket of measures, including counsellors in schools, mental health care integrated into the physical health care system, and relevant training for all Police officers. In any case, the most recent survey clearly indicates that not only is it time for a registry of sex offenders, but provides evidentiary support for reported plans to that effect by the Child Care and Prevention Agency and another Government agency. As well, the survey makes it clear that those who resist the call for raising the age of consent from 16 to 18 are in the small minority, and thus the Government should not allow the outmoded views of a vociferous few to override the desire of the vast majority of Guyanese. In fact, we urge the Government to commission its own survey, perhaps through the University of Guyana. Last year, neighbouring Trinidad & Tobago, with ethnic and cultural similarities to Guyana, raised the age of consent to 18. Haiti and the Dominican Republic also have the age of consent at 18, while there are ongoing calls for a similar measure in Jamaica, Barbados and a number of other Caribbean nations.
Mental health should be in
the Guyana Youth Service curriculum
February 13, 2018: The media recently reported on the consolidation of key youth programmes and organizations into the Guyana Youth Service (GYS) and the subsequent offering of a standardised education and training curriculum as measures to significantly improve youths’ marketability and prospects for gainful employment. The Caribbean Voice once again urges that this is a perfect opportunity for the standardized curriculum to include modules on mental health.
This is a critical imperative given that in Guyana, among other things, the 15 to 25 age group has the highest suicide rate in Guyana, and subject themselves and/or are subjected to significant abuse including increasing alcohol and drug use, involvement in gangs, a propensity for violent behaviour and physical and sexual abuse.
In effect many Guyanese in general and youth especially, struggle with self esteem and self confidence; lack enduring coping skills and a capacity to deal with challenges and stress, all of which are important traits that foster personal advancement, the ability to manoeuvre in the market place and the drive for increasing success in the workplace. Such attributes also arm individuals with the wherewithal to resist impulses that can lead to self-harm, depression, anxiety, and pathological and anti-social behaviour.
The bottom line is that without the tools to foster mental health and well-being, all the training in the world can end up being an exercise in futility. And adding relevant mental modules in the current training curriculum – self esteem, coping skills, emphatic communication, anxiety and depression, suicide and abuse – will ensure that the campaign to significantly improve youths’ marketability and prospects for gainful employment attain significant success. Besides, this kind of piggybacking is tremendously more cost effective than separate mental health training, not to mention more far reaching as well.
Attempted suicide should be decriminalised
February 9, 2018: While we await a meeting with Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, to update him on our work on the ground, The Caribbean Voice appeals to the Minister to use his position and influence to help bring about the following:
* A registry of sexual offenders
* Decriminalizing of attempted suicide
* Mandatory counselling for attempted suicide victims and suicide survivors
* Raising the age of consent to 18
* Making sexual abuse a non-bailable offence
* Elimination of the charge of wandering
* Re-establishment of the Gatekeepers’ Programme
While we understand that all of these issues do not fall within the purview of the Minister we know that he can approach his cabinet colleagues, the respective line ministers, and that they can reach out to the opposition to ensure that each piece of legislation is bipartisan to prevent a recurrence of the situation relating to previous motion for the decriminalization of attempted suicide that was voted against by the government some time ago.
We also appeal to the Minister to:
* speed up the process of training all members of the police force to handle abuse and suicide cases
* establish a policy for minors not to be placed in lockups with adults
* reach out to the phone companies to seek their support for a toll free suicide and abuse hotline
* standardize stringent legal consequences for all forms of abuse
* establish a Special Victims Unit in the police force to deal with all forms of abuse
* establish a special court at the level of the magistrate’s court to handle abuse cases
Puzzled by Minister’s comment
February 2, 2018: We are grateful to Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan for recognising The Caribbean Voice (TCV) as a credible NGO. We are also thrilled with the Minister’s words, “I would support Caribbean Voice, they have done some work in Guyana”. However we are a bit puzzled by the Minister’s statement, “I want to see them going down on the ground doing much more work.” After all, doing work on the ground is what we’re about.
Since our launch in 2015 we have done workshops and outreaches (training delivery and sensitization is one of the pillars of our activism) in Regions Two, Three, Four and Six as well as an initial outreach in Region One. Furthermore, we have done workshops at a number of schools, mostly private, and for employees of a few businesses. While the Ministry of Education has endorsed TCV to also do workshops in public schools, we are waiting for this process to be formalized. The Childcare & Protection Agency has also pledged to collaborate on these workshops.
Currently we have a memorandum of Understanding with the Guyana Teachers Union for workshops for teachers, nationwide. Thus far, workshops have been held at the Canje Secondary School, Berbice High School and Leonora Secondary School, with 324 teachers in attendance. As well, workshops for fired sugar workers will be held on Feb. 3 at Rose Hall Estate Community Centre, on Feb 17 at Skeldon Estate Recreation Centre and on March 10 at Albion Estate. A similar workshop was held last year at Wales. And in April, TCV, in collaboration with Seva4Life, a Canada based NGO, we will be holding a series of workshops in Black Bush Polder. This would be our second intervention in Black Bush Polder, in addition to one outreach also. Outreaches and workshops are also being planned for Regions One, Five and Ten this year.
Additionally The Caribbean Voice held the first and only national Stakeholders Conference on Suicide and Related Issues in August 2015, which was attended by over 75 stakeholders. The Minister spoke at that conference. Also we have held three press conferences. The last one on January 19th, generated a tremendous amount of awareness and information dissemination. Awareness building and information dissemination, one of the pillars of our activism, is ongoing as some of our members are media personnel who put their radio and TV programmes at our disposal in all three counties, and, as well, we have been accommodated by the media via interviews, letters and articles. Awareness building and information dissemination is also fostered through our website (www.caribvoice.org), our Facebook group and page, our youtube channel, our blog and five other social media sites. And we have also been invited to address many forums including the National Parliament, as the Minister is aware.
Then there is the Annual Anti-Violence Candlelight Vigil, a TCV initiative, organized by Voices Against Violence, a grouping of about 80 Stakeholders, on World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10. The first two vigils drew close to 100 stakeholder participants and saw about 800 vigils held across Guyana. The Minister is also aware of this vigil, as we had sought his support when it was launched in 2015.
In fact, our workshops are also done in collaboration with other stakeholders. Also we have participated in quite a number of outreaches organized by other stakeholders in various parts of Guyana. And we continually hold meetings with other stakeholders including government ministers, institutions such as UG, various media and influencers in a bid to foster collaboration and advance anti-violence. As well The Caribbean Voice has attended many related forums, organized by various entities, including the University of Guyana, the US Embassy, the Ministry of Public Health, PAHO, The Women’s Roundtable. In fact, building stakeholders’ collaboration – with local government administrations, NGOs, FBOs, CBOs, special interest groups, mass based organizations, media, government agencies and entities ‒ is another one of the pillars of our activism.
Furthermore, there is the El Dorado Awards, in its fourth year, which has sought to highlight the work of social activists and those who make a difference through volunteerism and/or philanthropy, by honouring them and in the process bringing them together for interaction with the general public. To date 48 such honorees from across Guyana have been highlighted.
Our ongoing petition calling for the establishment of a registry of sexual offenders has also seen TCV doing work on the ground to obtain signatures in walkabouts, at outreaches and at various other events and activities. Then there is our ongoing counselling service offered free by our technical team of seven highly credentialled and experienced clinical counsellors. To date over 320 counselling cases have been handled.
This year we will also launch our Concert For Hope series in Guyana, a fundraising venture that is anti-alcohol, as are all our events, and that combines great entertainment with messages focusing on suicide and abuse. This concert series was launched in the US last year at a number of different venues.
All of this and more in spite of the fact that TCV is a fully volunteer entity, offering all services for free as well as covering all costs related to all our events and activities (including snacks and lunches for workshops), with no paid staff or overheads, operating on a shoestring budget, with funds raised by our members and with no funding from any external source – here and there we have had some support from a few businesses. In fact, the Minister would probably be aware of us being told in 2015, just after our conference, that two cabinet members had been designated by President Granger, to provide all needed support to TCV, since he felt that our campaign was worthwhile. Of course we are still awaiting such support. However, we fervently hope that Minister Ramjattan would find it possible to accommodate us with a meeting, so we can fill him in on our work on the ground and be able to take up his offer of support.
Sugar estate communities targeted for Gatekeepers’ programme
February 1, 2018: Intended to reach those within communities who may be in dire need of counselling or guidance to deal with some of life’s circumstances, the Caribbean Voice, a non-governmental organisation [NGO], is set to introduce its Gatekeepers’ programme.
Among those that are being particularly eyed for this programme are communities that are home to sugar estates. This move is strategic since, according to Coordinator of the Caribbean Voice Guyana Chapter, Mr. Nazim Hussain, this need has arisen in light of the recent move by government to make redundant thousands of sugar workers.
According to Hussain, the Gatekeepers’ Programme is one much like the first responders programmes which targets the vulnerable in communities.
Initiating the gatekeepers’ programme, Hussain explained, entails training individuals within a community to be able to use their vantage positions to detect and help address, as far as possible, those faced with challenges.
Among those who are slated to be identified to aid the Gatekeepers’ movement, Hussain said, are estate workers, teachers, policemen, business persons and even taxi drivers.
But choosing the most suitable candidates will not be a haphazard process since, according to Hussain, an imperative approach is to reach out to Human Resource managers, representatives of other NGOs within the estate communities, religious organisations, among other leaders, to help identify those best suited for the programme.
“We are looking to have persons with the capacity to reach others…those who are deemed ‘people persons’ and are able to help them get the support they need,” said Hussain.
Preparing the selected individuals for the task will be done at planned training sessions.
One such training session, Hussain said, is slated for Saturday [February 3] in Rose Hall, Berbice.
This session, he informed, will be done in collaboration with the Guyana Sugar Corporation, which will provide the training facilities.
Through its ongoing efforts to reach persons, Hussain said that the Caribbean Voice has been able to reach and counsel in excess of 300 people. And according to him, in addition to reaching some individuals in person, others are reached by means of telephone and even Facebook. Detecting those who may be in need of counselling, Hussain said, could be as simple as recognising a change in behaviour.
Just recently the Caribbean Voice was able to reach out to more than 100 teachers from schools across Canje, Berbice. According to Hussain, reaching out to the teachers was a deliberate tactic. He revealed that because of what is occurring in the sugar industry, there have been signs of schoolchildren being affected by the spin-off effects of some workers being severed from sugar estates.
Hussain said that while the Caribbean Voice was initially aiming to train students how to cope, it was General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers’ Union [GTU], Coretta McDonald, who decided that a more strategic approach would be to reach to teachers instead, so that they can be the first responders. It is anticipated that this move will not only reach the students and pupils, but their parents as well.
According to Hussain, the efforts engaged by Caribbean Voice do not have a racial or political agenda.
“We are not going into the estates to tell people about what whoever did, and who got them severed. We are going into the sugar estates and these areas to do what is called trainer of trainers,” he asserted.
Youth are already taking the lead
January 30, 2018: While he Caribbean Voice (TCV) leaves the debate about youth leadership in politics for others, we must point out that on the social landscape young people are stepping up and making a significant difference.
For example most of the activists in TCV are young people who fully volunteer their time, efforts and resources to ensure that our suicide and abuse prevention mission is ongoing and extensive. To this end they give their afternoons, evenings and weekends to deliver workshops, do outreaches, foster advocacy, disseminate info, enhance collaboration for social empowerment and build institutional capacity. Why did these young people choose volunteerism?
“After attending a workshop at the Diamond Food Court, I remember thinking that I want to be a part of something this phenomenal. I have learnt so much in my one year of involvement and I have recognized that volunteerism isn’t as easy as it seems, but with the TEAM we have everything is possible”…Surendra Bipiah, a working student.
“ Volunteering has helped me to grow both personally and professionally. Most importantly it helps to keep me grounded. To want to do more for others and to know you are making a difference in someone’s life is worth more than material gains. At one point I was going through a rough phase and thanks to The Caribbean Voice I was able to overcome that phase.”….Kamene Seepaul, accountant.
“I attended a workshop in August last year where I learnt a lot and was introduced to the team. I said to myself that whatever I had learnt there, I cannot keep to myself; I have to share it to others to help the people in my community and country as a whole. I want a change, that’s why I’m part of this team.’….Rajkumar Khemraj, educator.
“Volunteering for TCV allows me to spread my wings, from helping people to developing leadership skills….one passion I have been working on is giving back to my country.”….Keshni Rooplall, community and social activist and Deputy National Coordinator of The Caribbean Voice
Other young people involved with The Caribbean Voice in Guyana, include, Lothoya Mckenzie (educator), Ashley Scotland (media personality), Dan Ali (medical student), Adeola Edwards-Simon (psychologist, information technologist), Sunaina Boodhoo (student), Mahendra Phagwah (social activist), Carol Ann Lovell (student), Ann-Marie Bess (trained social worker) and our newest change agents, Jenelle Evelyn and Farah Khan. The members of The Caribbean Voice are but a few of the many, many young people who are leading the charge to make a critical difference in the quality of life of Guyanese. A handful of others are:
Ø Pandit Deodat Persaud, head, Golden Om Dharmic Youth in Canje, one the most successful youth organization in Guyana. With a masters degree from UG, Pandit Deodat is a 2015 honoree of the El Dorado Awards and a recently appointed member of the Ethnic Relations Committee.
Ø Akola Thompson, UG student, journalist and women’s and social activist. In addition to volunteering with a number of NGOs Akola has initiated the establishment of a website that allows Guyanese to confidentially report abuse and indicate what level of support they are seeking. She and her team are in the process of setting up a mechanism to facilitate the requested help.
Ø Samantha Sheoprashad, UG graduate, head of the Enterprise Youth Development Group, the 2017 Queens Young Leader and a 2016 honoree of the El Dorado Awards. She’s creating a mental health app that will enable users to connect with counselors and therapists and will provide tips for mental wellness. Samantha is in need of funding to complete the app and is appealing to the public to help. She can be reached at 653-1567 or 643-3119.
Samantha is one of a number of Guyanese youth taking the lead in apps creation to connect Guyanese everywhere with access to services at their fingertips, saving time, money and headache. App creation is time consuming, challenging and expensive. Thus TCV sincerely hopes that all these young people will be assisted to bring their creations to fruition and easily accessible to citizens across Guyana.
Ø Marva Langevine, 2018 Queens Young Leader, founder of the Guyana Golden Lives Organization, which provides financial and psychosocial support services for bereaved children, job opportunities for widows, and food hampers and building materials for low-income families. She has also created for bereaved young people, Camp Golden, which provides counseling, food, shelter and educational opportunities. Marva is also a founding member of Den-Amstel Dynamic Network, a youth group focused on restoring the cultural art forms for which her home village of Den-Amstel was once famous.
In focusing on the leadership role undertaken by youth in volunteerism, we also suggest:
v All secondary schools follow the example of The School of Nations, where fourth to sixth formers have been utilizing their free time between classes and after school to become active agents for social action in their communities.
v Some time ago students in Black Bush Polder, New Amsterdam and Anna Regina came out on the streets to focus on suicide. We urge the Ministry of Education to declare one day a year as ‘Students’ Social Activism Day,’ whereby students nationally can come out in marches and rallies, to be addressed by informed personnel on suicide, domestic abuse, teenage pregnancy and related issues. Parents and the school communities can be invited to participate and collaborate with schools to plan related activities.
v Voluntary, socially active youth or youth oriented NGOs have been springing up across Guyana as young people strive to play a significant role in every arena of life in Guyana. TCV urges maximum support for these entities everywhere, given that we are privy to information that implies that fairness and equity across the board is not being dispensed.
v That peer mediation be introduced in all secondary schools. The benefits of peer mediation are many, including increased self-esteem, conflict resolution and prevention, life skills acquisition and leadership building.
v That a mechanism for training be provided for parents through PTAs, community and faith based organizations. This is essential, given that the 15-25 age group has the highest suicide rate in Guyana, Guyana has the second highest teenage pregnancy rate in the Caribbean, growing child abuse and increasing use of drugs and alcohol among the young. In fact a recent study found that, “Teenagers who feel their parents rarely express interest in their emotional well-being are far more likely to consider suicide than youths who say their parents are involved and proud of them.” And this concept underpinned by emphatic communication is significantly absent from the parenting landscape in Guyana.
Furthermore, The Caribbean Voice strongly supports:
§ Efforts by the government to make Guyana compliant with The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Inter-country Adoption. We hope this will fall in place sooner than later.
§ The call by children activists for the charge of wandering to be taken off the books. Towards this end we urge the urgent tabling in the National Assembly of the Juvenile Justice Bill, which has a provision to ensure that juveniles should no longer be charged with wandering.
§ The call made elsewhere for responsible social media use to be a regular part of the school curriculum.
§ Calls for police to stop placing minors in lockups unless they are charged with actual crimes. Cell phone addiction, for example, needs counseling rather than placement in the lockups.
§ Ms. Ann Green, head of the Childcare & Protection Agency, in her appeal to the media to make “deliberate efforts to ensure that the vulnerability of children is not amplified” in coverage of missing children”.
§ Counseling being included in the curriculum for the National Cadet Corps Program. We urge that it also be part of training for the Youth Innovation Project, Youth Entrepreneurial Skills Training, Sustainable Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development and the holistic program to replace the Hinterland Employment and Youth Scheme and that self-esteem and coping skills also be included to ensue that those trained are armed with the mental and psychological wherewithal to face challenges as they use their training for self advancement.
§ The stringent sentences handed down in two cases of child rapist convictions. We strongly urge that this level of stringency be consistently and continuously applied across the board and that rape be made a non-bailable offense.
· Our Youth and Student workshop is set to expand its delivery to all public schools through collaboration with the Guyana Teachers Union and the Child Care and Protection Agency.
· Our Teachers’ Workshop is being taken nationally again through collaboration with the Guyana Teachers Union and the Child Care and Protection Agency. This process started on January 17 at Canje Secondary School, in Region Six with 120 teachers. Another workshop, with an attendance of 101, was held at Berbice High School in New Amsterdam on January 26 and a third one will be held on the WCD on Janaury 30.
Meanwhile we reiterate our call for the placement of counselors in schools nationwide. This can start with the 30 recent psychology graduates from the American University of Peace Studies, who can be added to, especially since the University of Guyana is also set to launch a Psychology program
· Our petition for the establishment of a Registry of Sex Offenders is ongoing even as await the two planned registries – one for sexual predators of children and another one for sexual predators of adults – expected to come on stream this year.
As well there is need to raise the age of consent to 18 years to match the legal adult age. In fact, a 2017 Meeting of Caribbean Youth Leaders on sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS called for this alignment to enable young people to access sexual and reproductive health services. TCV currently has a petition calling for this. We urge readers to log on to our website (www.caribvoice.org) click on the petitions link and support both petitions by signing and sharing as widely as possible. Printed forms are also available by request.
· The Caribbean Voice once again indicates our willingness to provide a pro bono workshop to train selected teachers (who can turnkey the training to their colleagues nationwide) to tackle violence and address the needs of challenged students. Our trainers include classroom management experts, counselors/psychologists and experts on special needs students.
For information about or to become a TCV member, please call Nazim at 644-1150, Chandanie at 697-9968 or Ibi at 694-7433. Send email to email@example.com, feedback via the feedback form on our website or contact any member of TCV on Facebook.
TCV IN THE MEDIA
TCV IN THE MEDIA
ABUSE IS NOT LOVE NOR IS IT EVER JUSTIFIED. WE UNDERSTAND THAT IT
MAY BE DIFFICULT TO WALK AWAY
BUT AT LEAST SEEK HELP. THINK
ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN AND/OR
YOUR FUTURE. YOU DO HAVE OPTIONS.