Apr 23, 2018 News
By Shevon Nedd
For 28 years, the Ex-Firefighters’ Association has been quietly doing humanitarian work in Guyana.
Publicity was not a priority since firefighting in itself can be considered humanitarian work; those who take up the ‘calling’ put themselves at risk almost every day to save lives and earthly possession.
With the aim to keep the brotherhood alive and to continue to give of their time to Guyana, on May 27, 1990 the then Chief Fire Officers, Mr. Ridley Morris and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs at the time, Fabian Liverpool formed the Ex-Firefighters’ Association.
The Association was officially launched three months after.
Back then, few women were a part of the Fire Service, and the association was named the Ex-Firemen Association.
That was later changed to the Ex-Firefighters’ Association, to accommodate all genders. The Association’s current President and Vice President are both women.
Peggy Welcome, President of the Association and Yonnette Newton, Secretary at the Association are on a mission to share with the public, the good work the Association has been doing for over two decades.
In an interview, the two reflected on the challenges they face as women in the service; and equated it to that of the challenges women face in a patriarchal society.
“Your male counterparts always see you as the weaker one, inferior. It’s like those days when your husband would say ‘you are the wife, your place is at home.”
Even though they were women in the service, the women said they would still perform the same duties as the men and “sometimes we would do it better.”
The need to help others is something that was inherited during their time in the service so the group would find many avenues to garner funds to donate to those in need.
However, without the necessary help, the association cannot function the way it would wish to. So, with the aim to continue rendering humanitarian services to the people of Guyana, the association has been hosting several fundraising activities around Georgetown and donating the monies raised to those in need.
One place that benefitted is the Joshua House Children’s Home.
“At that time, the Joshua House Children’s Home had a lot of children and they were not getting as much help as they should, so the members of the association at that time recognised the need to render assistance to that organisation,” Welcome said.
The group recently raised funds through a snack sale and a take-away lunch. With the money, they recently donated sneakers and kites to the Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Centre.
The group also donated money to a fireman who will be competing in the World Cup Cycle competition this month.
In addition to that, the association plans to visit the Gentlewomen’s Home later this month to “treat and pamper” the women there.
“We want to give them a nice facelift…comb their hair and take night gowns and other personal items for them,” Newton said.
The Association would also donate monies to students writing the CSEC Examination and the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA).
In addition to this charitable work, the group has also been visiting schools to speak to the “little fire bugs” to teach fire safety and fire prevention.
“The little fire bugs as we would call them—the ones that like to play with matches—we would go into the schools and teach them about fire prevention,” Welcome said as she admits to having fun on those trips.
During their visits, Newton said that a fire prevention officer would always accompany the group. She said that before they go out to schools, they would refresh their memories on fire prevention.
“That is something we have the blessings of the Fire Chief, Welcome added.
Like many organisations, the Ex-Firefighters’ Association has its challenges.
One of the challenges that they are currently faced with is having a fixed place to meet monthly.
“We are allowed to meet at the Central Fire Station, Water Street, Georgetown but sometimes we are downstairs, and then we are upstairs in a room. So it is frustrating at times,” Newton said.
“A filing cabinet to store documents and chairs for members to sit are just some of the things we need to make our work easier,” she explained.
In addition to that, the president and secretary said that it is challenging to find a way to have members show up to meetings.
Once all members are actively involved, the women said they would be better able to “double up” on the work they have been doing for people of Guyana.
In addition to that, the group is also hoping for government’s help. “I am really hoping that the government can see the work that we are doing and grant us subvention so we can do more,” the president said.
Currently, the group has 42 members both locally and overseas. They also meet quarterly where they sit and reflect on life as a firefighter.
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