Youth work plays a key role in reaching out to other young people. It can help others to become aware of social realities and problems and also finding solutions to them.
Oftentimes, youth go unnoticed for their tremendous work. Over the next two weeks, Kaieteur News will feature 10 young people who have been recognized for their unwavering contributions to society.
These young individuals were featured by ASPIRE Youth Network Guyana.
The acronym ASPIRE stands for Advocates for Safe Parenthood; Improving Reproductive Equity.
ASPIRE Youth Network Guyana is a non-governmental organization which focuses on sexual reproductive health and rights advocacy, women rights, human rights, gender-based violence, mental health, youth leadership, empowerment and development, and any other issue affecting youths.
ASPIRE urges, “ASPIRE to INSPRE before your time here has expired.”
Ja’asriel Bishop, 21
This young professional is an aspiring Psychologist who currently serves in several organizations within New York City. Working with, and for youth and young adults across communities with over five years of experience, this spirited-leader is not only dedicated to ending homelessness, but committed to the fight against all other social injustices.
Bishop who migrated from Guyana to the United States of America, worked as Peer Educator and Youth Leader at the Ministry of Social Cohesion (formerly known as the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, and then the Ministry of Education) in the Department of Youth.
In his time there, he coordinated national youth events, supported the development and execution of voluntary school club projects, and trained youth clubs and youth-oriented organizations in volunteer management and structural development.
Last year brought increased opportunities for Bishop, enabling him to foster rapport with new communities and networks of leaders. Recently, Bishop completed a Mental Health First Aid Training and Recovery Coach Training certified by New York City.
Elsie Harry, 25
This firm believer in God was born in Nurney Village, Corentyne, Berbice. Harry is a youth and development activist, spoken word artist, lover, leader and aspiring president. Her aims in life are to seek knowledge; to learn from others and to effect positive change in every aspect of life: “one small act of kindness, one bold move and if necessary, one protest at a time.”
This 2017 University of Guyana Valedictorian was once a member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Small Island Voice, which focused on addressing the effects of climate change and environmental degradation on small island states.
In 2010, Harry joined the St. Kitts National Youth Parliament Association and served as the Vice President of the Association from 2012-2013, where she participated in several mock Parliament sittings, aided in the creation of position papers on issues affecting youth, and participated in various community service activities such as the annual Desmond Eli Ward Debate Competition and COMCENTA Play.
In Guyana, she participated in National Youth Parliament in 2013 where she served as leader of the Opposition.
Upon beginning her studies at the University of Guyana, she played an active role on campus, inclusive of Student Representative on the University’s Council, President of the University of Guyana International Affairs Association and founding member of the University of Guyana Drama Club. She performed poetry, gave the most memorable votes of thanks and emceed several on-campus events. She even led a protest at the University of Guyana against the hurriedly implemented tuition fee increase for the school year 2016-2017 along with the University of Guyana Student Society (UGSS) and the general student population.
Off campus, Harry is a member of the Cuffy250 Committee – an organization dedicated to the empowerment of the African Guyanese Community. She hosted the committee’s television programme African Drums for three years.
She has volunteered for the Guyana National Youth Council’s ‘Vote Like a Boss Campaign’ for National and Local Government Elections. Being a founding member of the Guyana Environment Initiative, she was a Commonwealth Youth Worker of the year finalist 2016—where she was recognised for the work she does with both the Cuffy250 Committee and the Guyana Environment Initiative. She was also the Young World Ambassador for Guyana in 2017. When questioned about what 2017 has done for her and her advocacy and volunteerism, Harry replied, “2017 has simply been another opportunity to impact positive change. Each year I seek new ways to do positive things for Guyana, especially for her youth, 2017 was no different.”
Vishani Ragobeer, 18
Vishani Ragobeer is pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Humanities (Sociology). She is also a Freelance Journalist at the Guyana Chronicle. Her formal studies in Sociology reflect her deep-seated interest in service, especially to those affected by inequalities and her involvement in journalism fosters this by providing an enabling and wide-reaching platform.
Experiencing temporarily what it is like to be affected by a disability, she is inclined to persons with disabilities.
She is also a firm believer that youths are the ‘third force’ needed to transform Guyana.
Ragobeer revealed, “I am also very, very passionate about DC superheroes and I love volleyball and soca.”
She continued, “As a young Stella Maris Primary school student, I’ve always seemed to align myself with service clubs within my school and this was no different in Queen’s College (QC). At QC however, my involvement in service activities would have grown with my participation in many of the school’s clubs. Working with my school’s Interact Club has been the major way through which I’ve been involved in community service and civic engagement.”
Here, she became involved in awareness sessions on topics like breast cancer and persons with disabilities, and in outreach sessions. Another major way that she has been involved in service is through writing.
Ragobeer previously wrote a teen column in the Guyana Chronicle that sought to highlight topical issues among Guyanese youth. Her partial employment with the Chronicle allows her to continue to raise awareness on important issues.
Last year has perhaps been the peak of her journey in volunteerism and advocacy thus far.
She would have continued with her involvement in the Interact Club and in her other school clubs, but her major strides would have been her Youth Ambassador experience and in Journalism.
In mid-2017, she along with five other youth ambassadors was selected by the U.S. embassy in Guyana for their annual “Youth Ambassadors Program”. With this project, she was given the opportunity to travel to the USA to hone her civic engagement, service and leadership skills.
Currently, the six Youth Ambassadors are preparing to implement their first follow-on service project, aiming to promote holistic health among youths in Guyana.
Her advocacy was also extended in 2017 when she wrote extensively on Lymphatic Filariasis. She was awarded for her writings in this field in the 2017 PAHO/WHO Media Awards for Health Journalism.
“No matter how big or how small you think something is, as long as it is done with good intentions, it has a way of creating positive impact. So Carpe Diem!” Ragobeer urges.
Gavin Lewis, 21
This talented and ambitious young man started tennis as a hobby when he was about nine years old.
That hobby turned out to be an important part of his life. He has been a sports ambassador by representing Guyana on many occasions since 11.
In 2013, Gavin was awarded player of the year by the Guyana Lawn Tennis Association. In 2014, he was offered a tennis scholarship to Coppin State University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. There, he continued his career as a student-athlete from January 2015 to present. He was awarded Most Valuable Player in 2015, Unsung Hero in 2016 & Most Improved Player in 2017. He was elected team captain for 2016.
Lewis was re-elected as team captain for 2017, and was recognized as a scholar athlete, being a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) All-Academic Team, Dean’s List and The Honors Society Program.
Lewis will be graduating with a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice & Journalism in May 2018 – a semester earlier than expected. While the option of being a professional tennis player is still out there, his aspiration lies in becoming a Homicide Detective.
Navina Paul, 27
Navina Paul is a passionate, young medical doctor who came from very humble beginnings.
She recalled selling bananas in the market as a child, and hopes that her testimony of becoming a Medical Doctor and a vocal advocate for human and animal rights, and public health, inspires children to follow their passions, and to know that they can succeed, in spite of whatever socio-economic hardships they may face.
She is co-founder of a charitable organization called Potluck; whose goal is to combat issues affecting the homeless population of Georgetown, such as hunger, access to healthcare, and lack of jobs.
“We distribute soup to the homeless persons on the streets every Sunday. And we are attempting to provide regular medical outreaches to persons at the night shelter. We have a lot more planned for 2018. 2017 has taught me that people will always have something negative to say about what you do. If you put yourself out in the public sphere, of course you open up yourself to a lot of criticism,” said Paul.
Paul has learnt to be cognizant of her words and actions, since it’s easy to be misrepresented and misconceived when you are bold and passionate. Nevertheless, she has learnt to press on, in spite of doubters and naysayers.
According to her, “Potluck will do a lot more to be a voice for the homeless and other marginalized populations in the future. If you’d like to support Potluck in their endeavors to eliminate poverty and homelessness, feel free to like and message their Facebook page for more information.”
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