By Rabindra Rooplall
With a mission statement that promises “to release the power of people globally to assist Guyanese to transform their communities, bring fulfillment and well-being to their families, enabling them to build relations of trust and friendship among themselves irrespective of race and beliefs” The Guyana Foundation, which was established in January 2013, has been paving the way by tangibly reaching out to support families.
The entity is located at 203 Duncan Street, Lamaha Gardens, Georgetown. It is a locally registered non-profit trust. Managing Director Anthony Autar related that at its formation, The Guyana Foundation team presented objectives to President Donald Ramotar and to Opposition Leader Mr. David Granger.
“Both leaders acknowledged our goals and wished the organisation well.”
He further explained that the Foundation has identified eight broad goals for its work.
“The gift of light (a solar powered light kit usually given to remote communities without electricity), youth, and women’s empowerment training programmes, small scale community renewal projects, care of the elderly programmes, literacy programmes, a mental health awareness programme and the publication of a quarterly magazine “Mosaic” to celebrate the richness of Guyana’s multicultural heritage.”
THE Foundation’s work
Once the Foundation was established, it immediately began fundraising – reaching out to families, trust funds, individuals, and companies locally and internationally.
The Director noted that among the very first donations was one for US$10,000 (approx. G$2M), which was given to the Santa Rosa Primary School in Region One. The Foundation was approached by the parent-teacher group .The money was used to rebuild and refurbish the water and sanitation system in the school which, at the time, was in urgent need of attention.
In Wauna, also in Region One, a commercial oven was donated to the Silver Queen Women’s Bakery, which has provided those associated with it, the opportunity of a sustainable source of income.
In March 2013, the Foundation’s Founder, Mrs. Supriya Singh-Bodden organized a free event planning seminar which was held at ‘De Impeccable Hall’ in Brickdam, Georgetown. Over 300 participants received training at that forum, in “Event Planning as a Career.”
Meanwhile, approximately half of the residents of Breezy Point in Buxton, East Coast Demerara, have already benefited from a donation of solar light kits. And plans are in progress to distribute another set of these kits in March to the remaining families in the community.
At Pigeon Island, also on the East Coast of Demerara, a foot bridge was built,
and an eye clinic was held where spectacles were distributed and an agreement was reached with Guyana Water Incorporated for the community to receive potable water.
With a long list of achievements since its conception, the foundation capped off its 2013 events with a Christmas Concert at the Theatre Guild to celebrate underprivileged children and families that it had worked with during the year. The full house of attendees was treated to a rich and diverse array of performances by Guyana’s top artistes.
MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAMME
This year, the Foundation has decided to bring forward and launch phase one of its mental health programme, which seeks to raise awareness and sensitise the population about mental health issues.
As headlines appeared of more suicides and death cause by mental breakdowns, the Foundation decided that the needs in the mental health sector were so great, it could not afford to wait any longer.
With the support of trained professionals under the guidance of Mr. Autar, who has a background in mental health law, and was a Health Law & Policy Fellow at Hofstra Law School in New York, the Foundation has published mental health awareness advertisements in some of the local newspapers, begun distributing posters on mental health issues in different parts of the country, and has also launched a mental health page: www.facebook.com/mentalhealthgy. On this page, followers find helpful videos, articles and stories about people who have been through, or are currently struggling with some kind of mental health problem.
Since the launch of this programme, the Foundation has heard from many families who have reached out seeking information about where they may obtain treatment and support services locally. While the Foundation does not offer any kind of medical advice, the public is solely assisted to locate professional mental health services, and individuals who can help.
According to Autar, “there are many people in desperate need of mental health services in Guyana, who don’t know where to find help. These are people from all walks of life and all social classes, ranging from those individuals living on the streets, to the wealthy. What all of these families have in common is a deep sense of frustration, a desperation to see their loved ones get better and to stop suffering. Every single human life is valuable. That drives the sense of urgency behind this, and all our other programmes. If we can raise awareness to assist one person to get professional help then we would have accomplished much”.
While the Foundation has only been in existence for one year – celebrating its first anniversary on January 28, last – it has already touched and improved the lives of hundreds of Guyanese through the various projects carried out.
Mrs. Singh-Bodden commented that “for too long the people of Guyana have been standing as spectators in a political arena hoping that when their team wins their lives would drastically improve. The ground at their feet is sinking daily as they wait. Poverty, mental health issues, poor sanitation, inadequate infrastructure, and so many other ills plague each and every community. The time has come for us to extend a helping hand to each other. Our Foundation will continue to do exactly this. There is much work to be done. It will take a long time and it will be a difficult task for any one political party to set the country on even keel. The country needs unity at all levels. At the community level, we should live by example, If our neighbour’s bridge needs strengthening, we should help him or her to strengthen it. We need to bring our country back to where it should be, guided by compassion, fairness and respect for one another. With this, all things are possible.”
The Board of Trustees includes Mrs. Singh-Bodden, Stanley Ming and Eric Phillips. The Foundation says its doors are open to individuals everywhere, groups, foundations, and international organizations willing to assist in furthering its mission.
“We are looking forward to welcoming local individuals irrespective of party affiliation, ethnic or religious persuasion to join our board and our hope is that a local patron will eventually be found,” Singh-Bodden noted.
The Foundation depends on its volunteers to assist in fulfilling its mission to improve the lives of Guyanese. Members of the public who wish to volunteer can call 225-4414 or email [email protected]
They can also follow the entity on https://www.facebook.com/theguyanafoundation
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