“I have a deep love for people. I want to see vibrant communities. I want to see the legacies of communities preserved. I want development that we can pass on to future generations.”
By Staff Writer
Waveney Jean Hope joined the 4H Club at the Leeds Corentyne Primary School in 1955 – in her first year
in the teaching profession – as a Pupil Teacher. The Hs of the Club, a youth development organisation founded in the United States of America in 1902, represented four personal development areas of focus – Head, Hearts, Hands and Health.
The Club’s pledge was:
As a member of the 4H Club,
I pledge my Head to clearer thinking,
My Heart to greater loyalty,
My Hands to larger service,
and my Health to better living, for my club, my community, my country.
The Motto: – “To make the best better”.
The slogan: – “To learn by doing”.
The typical focus of the 4H Clubs established in many schools in the then British Guiana was youth involvement in agriculture. The clubs were disbanded by the Government of the day, in the early 1960s.
But for Waveney and quite a few of the members of the Clubs of those days, the spirit and ideals of the 4H Clubs never died.
From 1955 to date, and counting, it can be truly said that she has continued to live her life in full accordance with the guiding 4H principles.
OVER SIXTY YEARS OF ‘REACHING OUT’
For over sixty years, she has consistently reached out to the youths and adults, particularly females – in her home village of Leeds, Corentyne, also known as #50 village, and in neighbouring villages – helping them to strive towards their full potential as individuals and members of their communities.
Waveney lived in the United States for many years and was a founding member of the Leeds Village Restoration Group based in Brooklyn, New York. She helped organise fund-raisers to rebuild the Anglican Church at Leeds, and came home every year to hold camps for youths.
She also assisted in fund-raising to upgrade the Community Complex – built through self-help by villagers – and helped establish a library for children among others.
At age 76, she was in the news last week as the premier organiser of the annual Desmond Dorsett Memorial Race (DDMR), an event established by her late husband, ex-Superintendent of Police Desmond Dorsett, in 2009.
She was ably supported by Desmond Jr., Chanel and Darryl, three of her five children, as well as other members of a reactivated community development group.
The event culminated in a grand fun day at the # 53 village complex, which she also helped to organise with her usual vigour and enthusiasm.
Shortly after the highly successful DDMR 2016, the longstanding community development activist spoke with Kaieteur News about her passion in inspiring the formation of women’s groups, youth and sports groups, and farming groups among others, spanning over six decades.
‘I LOVE MY COUNTRY’
Home permanently since 2007, Waveney said: “I love my country; I love Berbice; I hate communities in which there is nothing much happening.”
This week’s ‘Special Person’, fondly known by villagers at # 53 and others as ‘Teacher Waveney’, was the second of seven children born to William and Iris Hope of #53 village, in 1940.
Waveney joined the teaching profession at the tender age of fifteen, in 1955, as a pupil teacher at the # 53 village Anglican school, and had her first encounter with the 4H club at that school.
She also had her first contact with some of the legendary figures in the field of public education in those days; people who inspired her and nurtured her feelings of caring about the development of others.
“My first Headmaster who got me into teaching was Edgar Wilson. I was struck by his discipline as well as his love of art. He was a Queen’s College graduate and he was the youngest HM who came there to Leeds.
“Edgar Wilson was responsible for putting the children in the school in uniforms. He was special.”
4 H CLUBS
She also fondly recalled the days of the 4H clubs.
“4H was part of an agricultural extension programme for youths. Youngsters were given pigs, chickens, goats and cows. Some young farmers at #48 Village, Corentyne, were given a tractor to operate.”
“We had inspirational leaders like Vesta Lowe and Charlotte Churaman. Charlotte was a white woman who was married to Ivan Churaman from Port Mourant. “
“Once, in the late 1950s, we took members of our school’s 4H Club to a one-week visit to Mara, an agricultural community on the Berbice River. Myself and a teacher named Rodwell King. We travelled in one of those little buses with the tray at the top. The road was bad.
We camped at Schepmoed School. The plan was to observe farming activities and work in that community for seven days, but we ended staying there for eleven days. At the end of the visit we all came back home after an enlivening experience. We each had a bunch of green plantains. The price then was one cent per pound.”
“I think that it was while being involved in the 4Hs that an innate desire to help others in my community; to improve the quality of their lives, grew stronger and bloomed.”
The 4H Club, she said, made a lasting impression on her life.
In 1960 and 1961, she attended Teachers’ Training College at Kingston, Georgetown, and was a member of the second batch of school teachers to be trained locally.
“Francis Vaughn-Cooke was the Principal and the residential tutor was A.A. Charles. It was a live-in course,” Waveney recalled.
On graduation she returned to Leeds Anglican as a trained teacher.
MARRIAGE, MIGRATION AND ‘SUMMER CAMPS’
She met and married Desmond Dorsett, a young Police Officer stationed on the Corentyne, in 1964. The union bore five children – three boys, Desmond Jr., Darell and Dallas and two girls, Darlene and Chinelle.
She migrated to the United States of America in 1974 and attended Jersey State University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree. She returned to Guyana in 1979 and worked as a Craft Production Officer.
She re-migrated that same year, taking her children with her, but came home to host ‘summer camps’ with the youths at Leeds and neighbouring villages, assisted by parents and teachers.
She recalled that at the last camp held at the # 53 village complex, there were 174 participants.
“We took them on tours. We did academic work as well as craft and drama.”
In the US, she founded the Leeds-Union Restoration Group in the 1990s.
The Diaspora Committee for Leeds and Union (#50 and #53 village respectively) currently operates from Brooklyn. Their main fund-raiser is a Reunion Dance every May.
“Every year people who are ex-residents of Leeds and neighbouring villages on the Corentyne, come from Florida, from Canada… wherever they are, to support the fund-raising event for the restoration of the villages of their birth.”
Mrs. Dorsett is a staunch Anglican and it was the money from the US-based Restoration Group which helped in the rebuilding of the St Mary’s Anglican Church in the village.
The Leeds school and the Church had fallen into disrepair and the Vestry tried to rebuild, but didn’t have the money to do so.
She said that the main purpose for the first fund-raisers in Brooklyn was the restoration of the Church.
“We spent thousands of dollars from the Restoration Committee and the the Church was rebuilt. We built pews. We also assisted re-building the Parish Hall.”
The Restoration Committee was also responsible for funding the recent painting of the exterior of the #53 Cultural Complex.
“We sent books to establish a library at the complex. This was named the Negla Ross Library. There were lots of community development activities; so many I can’t remember them all.”
After years of living overseas, she and her husband returned home for good in 2007.
In 2008, Waveney and her other half, a former athlete in the Police Force, helped establish the Union Renaissance Sports Club. It was this Club which led her husband to develop the idea of an annual fitness road run for members.
The first event held in 2009 was scheduled for the twenty-eighth of March of that year. Unfortunately Mr. Dorsett never lived to see his dream come true since he died on March 23rd 2009, five days before.
Despite being in a state of mourning, his wife and children vowed that “the Run must go on”. They held a very successful event on the 28th March and then laid him to rest the following day.
PURSUING HER PASSION TO THE FULLEST
Returning home in full to #50 village, Mrs. Dorsett has been able to pursue her life passion to the fullest.
The former 4H clubber has been instrumental in forming a group in #53 village called Women of Action (WOA). The initiative is aimed at developing skills among women in the villages.
“I hate to hear women moaning about them being single parents. They moan and then they go and take another man and then make more children. Why moan? If this is the way things are, stop crying and start doing. We have brains in our heads; use the brains to find ways and means of becoming self-reliant and improving, rather than crying and continuing to be dependent on others.”
“Too many people want to sit down and wait for things to fall into their laps. Barrels, remittances. You have to fight to get what you want. And you have to be patient and persevere. Rome was not built in a day,” Mrs. Dorsett asserted.
The WOA currently has a Skills Centre which is being developed. There are a few sewing machines and a kitchen is being constructed where the women will be trained in culinary skills, which can help them earn an income.
In December last year, Mrs. Dorsett encouraged farmers in Leeds-Union to form an Association and to get registered. These farmers have been involved in small scale pig rearing. She is encouraging them to continue that, but to also get involved in growing cash crops, as well as rearing chickens, ducks, sheep and goats.
The group is expected to hold elections of office bearers on February 20th.
Mrs. Dorsett is also involved in the management of the #53 Cultural Complex. Her return has also seen a renaissance in cultural and recreational activities. She and her daughter Darlene helped to organise a successful pageant for young girls in the area in 2011.
Residents in the Community were pleasantly entertained by members of the Police Force Band in October last year, an event usually occurring mostly in Georgetown rather than rural communities.
With support from her close relative, Senior Superintendent of Police Errol Watts, who also hails from # 53 village, the Police Orchestra and the Choir and the Steelband provided classy entertainment for the villagers.
Again with support from Superintendent Watts, Mrs. Dorsett has managed to energize the complex.
She said: “What’s the point in boasting that you have the largest ground on the Corentyne when nothing happening there?
“There is now an Oldies Night where people can go free of charge… just pay for what they buy at the bar etc. You might be surprised; some young people don’t even know how to waltz; to dance elegantly.
A DEEP LOVE FOR PEOPLE
Mrs. Dorsett stressed that she encourages her children, who live overseas, to give back to their community whenever they come home.
“I have a deep love for people. I want to see vibrant communities. I want to see the legacies of communities preserved. I want development that we can pass on to future generations.
“I have been trying to inspire; to show people what can be done. And in a way to tell them if I can do it, they can do it too.”
The veteran community development advocate is not absolutely certain about what the extent of her contributions may be, but it is clear there’s no quitting involved.
“One thing is sure. Once I have health and strength I will be involved. I may fret about people not being active and not being self-reliant, but once things get going, I will be involved. I hate seeing people doing things the wrong way.”
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