We are grateful to Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan for recognising The Caribbean Voice (TCV) as a credible NGO. We are also thrilled with the Minister’s words, “I would support Caribbean Voice, they have done some work in Guyana”. However we are a bit puzzled by the Minister’s statement, “I want to see them going down on the ground doing much more work.” After all, doing work on the ground is what we’re about.
Since our launch in 2015 we have done workshops and outreaches (training delivery and sensitization is one of the pillars of our activism) in Regions Two, Three, Four and Six as well as an initial outreach in Region One. Furthermore, we have done workshops at a number of schools, mostly private, and for employees of a few businesses. While the Ministry of Education has endorsed TCV to also do workshops in public schools, we are waiting for this process to be formalized. The Childcare & Protection Agency has also pledged to collaborate on these workshops.
Currently we have a memorandum of Understanding with the Guyana Teachers Union for workshops for teachers, nationwide. Thus far, workshops have been held at the Canje Secondary School, Berbice High School and Leonora Secondary School, with 324 teachers in attendance. As well, workshops for fired sugar workers will be held on Feb. 3 at Rose Hall Estate Community Centre, on Feb 17 at Skeldon Estate Recreation Centre and on March 10 at Albion Estate. A similar workshop was held last year at Wales. And in April, TCV, in collaboration with Seva4Life, a Canada based NGO, we will be holding a series of workshops in Black Bush Polder. This would be our second intervention in Black Bush Polder, in addition to one outreach also. Outreaches and workshops are also being planned for Regions One, Five and Ten this year.
Additionally The Caribbean Voice held the first and only national Stakeholders Conference on Suicide and Related Issues in August 2015, which was attended by over 75 stakeholders. The Minister spoke at that conference. Also we have held three press conferences. The last one on January 19th, generated a tremendous amount of awareness and information dissemination. Awareness building and information dissemination, one of the pillars of our activism, is ongoing as some of our members are media personnel who put their radio and TV programmes at our disposal in all three counties, and, as well, we have been accommodated by the media via interviews, letters and articles. Awareness
building and information dissemination is also fostered through our website (www.caribvoice.org), our Facebook group and page, our youtube channel, our blog and five other social media sites. And we have also been invited to address many forums including the National Parliament, as the Minister is aware.
Then there is the Annual Anti-Violence Candlelight Vigil, a TCV initiative, organized by Voices Against Violence, a grouping of about 80 Stakeholders, on World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10. The first two vigils drew close to 100 stakeholder participants and saw about 800 vigils held across Guyana. The Minister is also aware of this vigil, as we had sought his support when it was launched in 2015.
In fact, our workshops are also done in collaboration with other stakeholders. Also we have participated in quite a number of outreaches organized by other stakeholders in various parts of Guyana. And we continually hold meetings with other stakeholders including government ministers, institutions such as UG, various media and influencers in a bid to foster collaboration and advance anti-violence. As well The Caribbean Voice has attended many related forums, organized by various entities, including the University of Guyana, the US Embassy, the Ministry of Public Health, PAHO, The Women’s Roundtable. In fact, building stakeholders’ collaboration – with local government administrations, NGOs, FBOs, CBOs, special interest groups, mass based organizations, media, government agencies and entities ‒ is another one of the pillars of our activism.
Furthermore, there is the El Dorado Awards, in its fourth year, which has sought to highlight the work of social activists and those who make a difference through volunteerism and/or philanthropy, by honouring them and in the process bringing them together for interaction with the general public. To date 48 such honorees from across Guyana have been highlighted.
Our ongoing petition calling for the establishment of a registry of sexual offenders has also seen TCV doing work on the ground to obtain signatures in walkabouts, at outreaches and at various other events and activities. Then there is our ongoing counselling service offered free by our technical team of seven highly credentialled and experienced clinical counsellors. To date over 320 counselling cases have been handled.
This year we will also launch our Concert For Hope series in Guyana, a fundraising venture that is anti-alcohol, as are all our events, and that combines great entertainment with messages focusing on suicide and abuse. This concert series was launched in the US last year at a number of different venues.
All of this and more in spite of the fact that TCV is a fully volunteer entity, offering all services for free as well as covering all costs related to all our events and activities (including snacks and lunches for workshops), with no paid staff or overheads, operating on a shoestring budget, with funds raised by our members and with no funding from any external source – here and there we have had some support from a few businesses. In fact, the Minister would probably be aware of us being told in 2015, just after our conference, that two cabinet members had been designated by President Granger, to provide all needed support to TCV, since he felt that our campaign was worthwhile. Of course we are still awaiting such support. However, we fervently hope that Minister Ramjattan would find it possible to accommodate us with a meeting, so we can fill him in on our work on the ground and be able to take up his offer of support.