Guyana: NGO contributes to keeping Corriverton children in school

Stabroek News – September 8, 2019

Surendra Kumar Bhagarathi spent most of his working life at the Skeldon Sugar Estate and he witnessed firsthand the contribution the estate made to the community of Corriverton. So, when the estate was closed, Bhagarathi felt the need to assist the community.

Even though he was one of the many workers who were laid off, at the time he held the position of Superintendent, the father of one felt that he needed to do something to assist the children of his former workers, some of whom were not attending school.

As a result, he and his wife, Shanta Youngkam, together with like-minded persons, formed the organisation Service to Humanity, Today’s Children Our Future in January of last year.
Photo: Shanta Youngkam and Surendra Kumar Bhagarathi               

Shanta Youngkam oversees the boxes of food 

As Co-ordinator of the registered non-governmental organisation, Youngkam’s days are not easy but the joy she sees on the faces of children when they receive a meal, or a new backpack is all she needs to keep going.

The organisation also reaches out to people who are sick and in need of assistance and the elderly in the community.

“Our home is always visited by people who want help, but I don’t get tired because I know people are in need and once the sponsorship is available, we assist where we can,” she told Stabroek Weekend recently.

In the over one year since the organisation started, Youngkam said, they have helped hundreds of people, mostly children and more people have come on board to support.

Importantly they have provided travel allowances for some 35 children, the youngest being four years old, to ensure they attend school.

“The children are from nursery to secondary. We want to help the children to go to school so we give them the sponsorship,” the woman said.

It was the fact that many children had stopped going to school that really prompted the couple to get into action. According to Youngkam, following the closure of the estate some parents said they could no longer afford to send their children to school, and they wanted to help.

Asked if the meals they provide, which is done about three times a week and at midday only, result in more children attending school, she responded in the affirmative.

Some meals prepared for school children
“If parents know that their children will get one hot meal a day, they would send them. It is not a lot, but it is something and we have been told that more children go to school,” the woman said.

As to the comment by some that such organisations exist already, Youngkam believes that there is space for everyone. She pointed out that the fact that the food is eaten, their back-to-school items are received with enthusiasm and there are children who depend on the travel sponsorship mean that there is need for the organisation.

“We are helping the children of the laid off sugar workers and the underprivileged kids to have a meal,” the organisation says on its Facebook page as it urges persons to show they care by supporting the initiative.

‘Very bleak’

According to Youngkam, since the estate closed it has been “very bleak” in the community “as things are not working as well as before”. She said her husband worked with the cane harvesters and he knew them personally, so their plight was hard to ignore.

“You see children started to fall out of school and it is not everyone who worked at the estate but a lot of people depend on the monies of the workers, the shops and so on and when the money stop flowing everyone was affected,” she said.

Several children equipped with back-to-school materials by the organization.

Confident that there was need for them to do something, Youngkam said, they shared their initial work on Facebook and the response was tremendous. Many former Corriverton residents who now reside overseas have been sponsoring various aspects of the organisation’s work.

She disclosed that they feed about 250 children on the days of the feeding programme which is kept going by the sponsorship received. As to the records of the organisation, she said her son, who is a University of Guyana student, has been doing all the bookkeeping and they also have a few volunteers who assist with the boxing off the meals.

And as to how the children are selected, Youngkam said she visits the schools and asks the teachers to select the children who are in need of the food and the organisation always tries to provide nutritional meals.

“We all do the cooking together, me, my husband, my son and sometimes the volunteers,” she said about the preparation of the meals.

Youngkam said as long as the organisation continues to receive support, it would keep going as she knows the hampers, school material, wheelchairs, meals and all the other assistance they provide is well needed. I wouldn’t stop as long as I get the sponsorship, she said.

“And so far, the sponsorship has been an encouragement as many persons see the need and help,” she said.

Youngkam said she has been a housewife since she married at the age of 20, but she sometimes works with the Guyana Elections Commission and over the years she has always been involved in community work.

While coordinating the activities of the organisation is hard work, she said, she knows the importance of an education and revealed that her parents died while she was a child and she lived with various people who ensured that she completed secondary school.

“So, I want to give other children that opportunity because I know how important it was to me,” she said.

She advises parents to be a refuge for their children and give them the best effort, “because education is what we can only offer them to make them better human beings and they are our future.

“As a mother I made that vow to myself that as long as I can run the programme with the help of the public and the community I would always be on the lookout for other people’s children, to ensure that they are comfortable and go to school,” she said.

She stressed that the organisation does not look at a person’s creed, colour, religion or their political background. It is also not affiliated with any political party and the only requirement for a person to receive assistance is to have a need. “Anyone who approaches, once we have, we help and give of our best,” she added.

Persons desirous of supporting the organisation can make contact via telephone numbers (592) 622-4528 or (592) 339-2208.

………..   SOURCE
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  • Trevor  On 09/10/2019 at 5:19 pm

    The man and his wife are doing a good thing, but when will the oil monies turn us into “Arabian millionaires”?

    It only shows that those sensationalist pieces from WSJ, Washington Posts, Bloomberg and other elite editorials are only referring to the top 1% in Guyana, the Fernandes, Correias, Brasses, the unknown Hong Kong and India-Asia nationals who own the 8 storey buildings across GT, and the politically connected.

    The WSJ and Bloomberg paint a rosy picture of how we will become the richest country in the world, but private citizens, a man and his wife have to feed these children.

    More must be done to fund the school feeding program.

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