Dharmic Sabha opens multi-million dollar home for the vulnerable
The Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha on Monday commissioned a multi-million-dollar home for abused women and children at Ankerville, Port Mourant, Corentyne. Doing the honours of cutting the ribbon to the majestic multi-wing edifice, Bal Nivas, was no other than Indian superstar and playback singer Sonu Nigam, President Donald Ramotar; Prime Minister Samuel Hinds and President of the GHDS, Dr. Vindhya Persaud.
Other government dignitaries and senior officials within the Sabha were also present.
Dr. Persaud spoke about the project and thanked President Ramotar for giving them the land a few years ago. Mention was constantly made about her father, the late Pandit Reepu Daman Persaud, who spent most of his life in Berbice—he traveled the length and breadth of Berbice –and she pledged to continue his legacy.
“This is a project that is close to my heart. In 2009, I got my first set of calls from Berbice and I was made aware that the children needed a safe haven—somewhere for shelter; somewhere they can come and be free of abuse; that our women, who are being battered, required that ray of hope in their lives; required somewhere where they can be empowered eventually and also they can gain in terms of their self- esteem.”
From that first call in 2009, “I came up with a concept of a shelter in Berbice. Then we launched this programme ‘Voices against Child Abuse’ and we started it with Mr. Sonu Nigam!”
She added that it is a sad day when “our children need this kind of facility because you would like to think that every child has a safe place to be. We are aware of the realities of life—and because of the fact that our children need safety and security, because we feel a sense of responsibility, today this shelter is born.”
The shelter, which will become fully operational by July, will house more than 60 children and their mothers. Additionally, it will encompass a Skills Training Centre which will be opened to the community and a Counseling Unit, “so we offer this facility to serve you, the Guyanese people.”
She thanked the donors who worked selflessly and voluntarily behind the GHDS and behind the project. There were the Government of Guyana who provided the land; Savitrie Sookhai; Treasurer of GHDS, Manooj Singh; Kris Jagdeo and the Contractor Rafeek Kassim, who she singled out.
She thanked the thousands who attended their concerts and said that the proceeds of the events stand proudly in the form of Bal Nivas.
Dr. Persaud urged Berbicians to adopt the project, “and keep it as close to your heart as you can. It should not be a sterile facility. Any child who needs this facility should be able to come here and be greeted with love, warmth and compassion.”
Superstar Sonu Nigam who was mobbed by the crowd was invited to the stage and made a few remarks.
“Guyana has touched me in so many ways. I see so much of innocence in this country; purity in the souls of the people. I am really, really humbled by the love that all of you have given to me.”
He expressed delight in being involved in Bal Nivas right from the beginning a few years ago.
President Ramotar congratulated the Dharmic Sabha on the venture and urged Berbicians to help upkeep and care the facility, “so generations from now, people will still have the uses of it…and congratulate them for completing this project in a very short period of time.”
He alluded to the upsurge in social ills in Guyana, including child abuse and domestic violence. He spoke about the various legislations introduced and passed in the National Assembly, including the law on Sexual Offences, “one of the most advanced laws in the Caribbean”.
He also talked about laws against Trafficking in Persons, “but passing these legislations is not enough…but also to create an atmosphere in our country where it becomes intolerable and everyone speak out against them and when that would have happened, we would have gone very, very far way to eradicate those anti social behaviours from our society.”