EIGHTY Berbice youths recently received certificates and care packages from Grace Temple Assembly of God Church and the U.S. Embassy Guyana, after successfully participating in a four-month interactive ‘Boys 2 Men’ empowerment programme.
Participant Otis Austin, was high in his praises for the initiative, which was the first of its kind in the Ancient County. He was specifically pleased with the conflict management discussion which has benefitted him tremendously.
Coordinator of the programme, Odessa Shako, hailed it a success, and revealed that she had sought, and subsequently received US$5000 from the U.S. Embassy. This money, along with additional finance from the local church, were used to offset expenses for the programme. These expenses included, stationary, stipend for facilitators, meals, certificates and hygiene packages for each participant.
The programme which commenced with the first of four seminars in February, was held at the New Amsterdam Multilateral School under strict COVID-19 guidelines.
Facilitators included Reverend Dr. Marcel Hutson, Chief Education Officer; Dr. Darren Shako, consultant; Dr. Paulette Henry, sociologist; Dr. Kester Deane; Dr. Kester Persaud, medical practitioner; Adel Lily, Director of the Gender Affairs Bureau; Phillip Drayton, Chairman of Life Reform; Reverend Selwyn Sills, Edgar Anderson, Vanessa Jacobs and other educators drawn from the New Amsterdam Technical Institute, GuySuCo Training School, and the University of Guyana.
The embassy’s Public Affairs Officer, Violeta Talandis, had addressed the participants during the opening ceremony.
Meanwhile, the topics covered included career development and leadership, choosing tertiary education, personal hygiene, personal goal setting, crime prevention, the male reproduction system, conflict management, drug abuse, table etiquette, communication, money management/budgeting, public speaking and leadership.
The programme which comprised four one-day sessions, fulfilled its original mandate which was to assist with the educational development of the young men, provide them with psychological support and positive role models, and strengthen their social and leadership skills.
The participants who ranged from ages 13 to 25 years, were drawn from the New Amsterdam township and its environs.
The initiative was conceptualised by Shako as a means of assisting young men at her local church, whom she regarded as her “little brothers”. However, it was later extended to young men from other parts of the town and surrounding communities.
The programme was developed in response to the observed challenges of young men, many of whom are willing, but lack the social and psychological tools to overcome the intrinsic challenges of adolescence and early adulthood.
There is also an observed absence of strong positive male role-models inside and outside of the home to support these young males.
According to Shako, adolescence is often an emotionally difficult period for youths. Without the necessary financial and psychological support from strong role models in and outside their homes, many of them are unable to navigate this period skillfully to transition successfully to adulthood. For males, this is reflected in high drop-out rates, drug abuse, perpetuation of criminal activities, and teenage fatherhood.
In New Amsterdam and adjacent communities, a high number of school drop-outs and unemployment have been observed. This is believed to have contributed to increased drug trafficking and criminal activities among young males in the township.