CHRISTMAS is a magical time for both adults and children. Apart from commercial enterprises stocking up to the ‘max’ with gift and food items, the array of children’s toys and confectioneries is like ‘magicland’ to the little ones.
However, the sad reality is that job loss ensuing from the economic downturn and the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly curtailed celebratory activities.
The convivial gatherings of neighbours and friends which previously hallmarked a typical Guyanese Christmas, especially when Guyanese residing abroad assuage their homesickness by returning home for the traditional Christmas cuisine and beverages, and to enjoy the masqueraders, Mother Sally, the mad ‘bull cow’ and the ‘bush rum’ and ‘bush cook’, and the great camaraderie of Guyanese hospitality, cannot be enjoyed to the fullest this year because of severe economic constraints, and the restrictive need to observe COVID-19 protocols, especially social distancing.
But the reason for the season still predominates in the national psyche, as, countrywide, private individuals, NGOs, Government functionaries, corporate Guyana and Guyanese Diasporeans like the great humanitarian, Dr. Tara Singh and his team, headed in Guyana by Rohan Rai; as well as several NGOs in the Diaspora are ensuring that despite the socio-economic havoc in the country, households do not go in want of food, and the children experience the joys of receiving gifts provided by earth-bound Santas in ordinary clothes, travelling, not in sleighs, but in a variety of vehicles laden with goodies.
An innovative feature being rolled out by the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security is the “Wish upon a Star” initiative, which was conceptualised by subject Minister, Dr Vindhya Persaud. Many children are facing difficulties and deprivation in a variety of ways, and the minister is determined to spread joy to the little ones facing adverse living conditions by granting the wishes of disadvantaged children across the country. She enthused, “We want to reach out to children that are terminally ill; children who suffer from disabilities; children who lost their parents, children who suffer from psychological trauma, children who never had the opportunity to enjoy something they need or really wish for; that one gift that would make them incredibly happy.”
From Monday, December 14, 2020, the ministry placed ‘Wish upon a Star’ mailboxes at its three locations in Georgetown, and at its Probation Offices in Regions Two, Three, Five, Six, Nine and 10. The minister will be partnering with corporate Guyana and other entities to ensure that the children’s wishes are granted.
This initiative targets children between the ages of four and 15, who are urged to write a letter expressing their wishes for this Christmas, with their contact information and home address, and drop it in one of the many boxes. The deadline for submissions was Monday, December 21, 2020 at 12 noon.
Minister Persaud iterated, “Our wish is to make a child very happy during this festive season, by making their wishes come true. Children look forward to this time of the year.”
And then there are the visual treats, with huge Christmas trees lighting up and beautifying the night skies, delighting both adults and children.
In this regard, the Beepat family has surpassed its previous years’ efforts in its decorative features.
The Giftland Mall has been converted into a sparkling fairyland of riotous colour and magical fairytale characters. Director, Roy Beepat said he hopes to expand this creative endeavour into a grand annual feature.
Not only confined to the Giftland Mall proper, but when the business enterprise held its inaugural Christmas Tree Light Up, the trees lining both sides of the roadway leading up to the East Coast Mall were also brilliantly outlined in an explosion of luminous, evanescent colours that mesmerise visitors of all ages, and the exclamations of awe and delight are not uttered only by children, as not even adults can remain blasé’ when viewing such splendorous beauty.
With all the humanitarian acts by a multitude of persons and organisations, including Government, some individuals extend their largesse beyond the season; and the Gafoors’ beneficence is not restricted to Christmas. Mr. Sattaur and Mrs. Ameena Gafoor practise year-round zakat, but at Christmas, their bounty overflows, with the Gafsons complex hosting literally hundreds of children from various orphanages, and elderly bussed in from communities miles away. The Gafoors themselves join their staff in sharing the meals and gifts to their guests.
The scrooges are uttering their complaints, but the spirit of Christmas supersedes and prevails.
The Board-of-Directors, management and staff of GNNL and the Guyana Chronicle extends Season’s greetings to all Guyanese and readers of the Guyana Chronicle.