Georgetown, Guyana, November 19, 2019: WITH reference to a letter in a section of the print media titled, ‘Caribbean Voice is a PPP front group masquerading as mental health advocate’, The Caribbean Voice (TCV) unequivocally states that we are a non-profit, volunteer-driven, NGO and have never been associated with any political party, nor do we plan to do so. Our membership is ethnically, culturally, socially and politically diverse. It is drawn from Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the UK, Canada and the USA; all countries in which TCV currently operates. Plans are afoot to soon get involved in St Lucia. The list of all members is available on our website at http://caribvoice.org/about-tcv.html.
TCV emphatically states that Ms Gail Teixeira has never been associated with our organisation. Our Board of Directors comprises Dr Dawn Stewart, Dr Frank Anthony, Rev Desiree Watts, Dr Sixtus Edwards, Mr Imam Baksh, Mr George Simon, Dr Rohan Somar, Dr Shamir Ally, Mr Harry Shivdat, Mr Rohan Singh, Dr Lorraine Barnaby and Ms Bibi Ahamad. The late Dr Faith Harding was also a board member.
One of our focal points is to save lives. Our professional counselling team has been effectively counselling numerous persons– free of cost– since the launch of our suicide and abuse-prevention campaign. Those who have reached out for help span all the divides in and out of Guyana. To date, no one has been rejected, nor do we ask about ethnicity, political loyalty, cultural subscription or social standing.
Our National Conference on Suicide and Abuse, held in August 2015, was attended by over 75 organisations across Guyana. The conference was addressed by Minister of Public Security,the Hon Khemraj Ramjattan and then Minister of Social Protection, the Hon. Volda Lawrence, as well as H.E. Bryan Hunt, the then Chargé d’Affaires, USA Embassy , Guyana.
The National Anti-Violence Candlelight Vigil was launched four years ago, through Voices Against Violence (VAV). VAV, an umbrella of diverse entities and individuals, has seen numerous vigils held in communities across Guyana by NGOs/CBOs/FBOs and other stakeholders. On August 17, 2018, the Hon. Sydney Allicock, Vice-president and Minister of Indigenous Affairs, was the guest speaker at a press conference to launch that year’s vigil.
Our biannual El Dorado Awards focuses on the work of these organisation and individuals who make a difference across Guyana through volunteerism and giving back. Honorees are chosen on this basis only; they come from all parts of Guyana and reflect Guyana’s diversity every which way.
TCV has conducted numerous workshops in Regions Two, Three, Four, Five, Six and Seven, reaching over 5,000 persons from all walks of life. One such workshop, held in Region Two and attended mostly by Amerindian youth, was conducted at the request of the Ministry of the Presidency on August 17, 2018. As with all other workshops, fees were not charged for this one.
We are in the process of planning two national campaigns across Guyana, starting next year: a lay counsellor training programme and a domestic violence awareness campaign that would include focus groups with males. Also, to observe 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, November 25 to December 10 annually, we will be holding panel discussions on national TV in Guyana, focusing on safety and help for suicide and abused victims. The panellists will be drawn from various entities, both governmental and non-governmental.
Currently, we are involved in Project Turnaround with the Buxton Youth Developers, an institution established especially for students who dropped out of school or never attended school. In collaboration with other donors, we are working to improve the infrastructure– both internal and external–and to boost the academic and co and extra-curricula programmes. Additionally, our team has been working in the Buxton/Friendship area empowering/counselling, primarily youths and abused women as part of this project. TCV’s advocacy is extensive and most of what is lobbied for can only be implemented by the government of the day. Naturally, its supporters may perceive our advocacy efforts as anti-government. In fact, we have been accused of being anti-government during the governance of the PPP and now the APNU, but the fact is that our efforts have contributed towards a number of measures implemented; these include the suicide helpline; the psychology programme at UG and a bill in parliament to decriminalise suicide, which was voted against by the government. Also, promises have been made for the Gatekeepers’ Programme, counsellors in schools and a registry of sex offenders, but we are still awaiting implementation.
It is in this context that our letter responding to Minister Broomes ‘anti-suicide campaign’ at Linden was crafted. Under the previous PPP administration, then Health Minister Dr Bheri Ramsarran was also taken to task by TCV for dropping the Gatekeepers’ programme that had been implemented by his predecessor, Dr Leslie Ramsammy. We also took on the National Family Commission under the PPP government for wasting valuable resources on a conference, with a foreign keynote speaker whose fee was in the millions of dollars. That conference was subsequently cancelled.
TCV has never received support of any kind from either the previous or current government, although promises were made. We raise our funds ourselves, although recently we did receive donations from a few businesses in Guyana.
Finally, Mr Annan Boodram and TCV are not one and the same. Mr Boodram is simply the president of TCV, which comprises more than 70 personnel with varied expertise and experience, who collectively plan our work, raise funds and execute the plans. Like every other TCV member, or members of any other entity for that matter, Mr Boodram has a life outside of TCV, that is wholly his own and has nothing to do with TCV.
As TCV’s board member Harry Shivdat points out, “TCV has been in existence well before 2015 and the positions officially taken are based on our assessment of the facts and have nothing to do with who forms the government. TCV works in a non-partisan, professional manner to ensure the best outcomes for those at risk