By Cyril Bryan
A graduate of Central High School and Pupil Teacher at Lusignan School from 1955-1960, Cyril Bryan migrated to Canada in 1966, where he attended York University to study Economics. He is currently a management consultant focused on computer technologies.
In last week’s “In the Diaspora” tribute to Randall Mohan Butisingh, who passed away in Florida just a week after he celebrated his 100th birthday with loved ones, I was quoted as saying: “When Randall Mohan Butisingh stopped blogging he suggested that I begin my own blog. I decided to start the Guyanese Online Blog and newsletter in March 2010. It may not be in existence today had I not first had the experience of helping Mr. Butisingh with his blog. He inspired me to do Guyanese Online without the thought of compensation for my work. He said, if it serves a purpose then it would be successful.”
The first Guyanese Online newsletter, published in March 2010, went to a database of about 500 persons. To date, we have published 32 newsletters which are sent to our database of over 30,000 Guyanese and friends worldwide. The blog posts over 100 entries every month on a wide range of subjects, and now has almost 2300 entries. It receives an average of 2000 visitor views/day and at present has a total of 925,000+ views and should pass the 1,000,000 mark by its third anniversary in March 2013. Mr. Butisingh was correct … the Guyanese Online Blog and Newsletter had a purpose that has filled a need.
As I noted in the introduction to Guyanese Online Blog: “Guyanese, like most others, try to preserve their culture and pass it on to their children and grandchildren. The problem has been that many Guyanese have not looked back, or if they did, it was only fleetingly. This means that the younger generations and those who left at an early age know very little about Guyana since many have not visited the country. Also, if they do get information about Guyana, it is usually negative and thus the cycle of non-interest is cultivated. …. The Guyanese Online Blog, along with its monthly newsletter, aims at bringing Guyanese together to support positive news, increase travel and tourism in Guyana and, in general, foster the birth of a new Guyana, which has already begun notwithstanding the negative news that grabs the headlines.”
We focus on Guyanese individuals, associations and groups worldwide who want news from Guyana but do not read the on-line newspapers. Guyanese Associations are given free advertising in the Blog and the monthly newsletters. This has helped in the success of their events and awareness of their works. The newsletter, usually around 25 pages, covers Associations’ news, Guyana’s news: general news, politics, business, tourism, medical, history, arts and cultural stories. Since Guyana is a part of the Caribbean Community – CARICOM – we also feature news from Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados and other Caribbean islands. These news items complement the daily entries on the Blog. All past Newsletters are available on the Blog.
About four blog entries are done each day, selected from a whole file of interesting material collected by me or sent to us from readers around the world. The newsletter takes at least seven days to produce each month.
Our statistics show that about 40% of our readers live in the USA and about 20% in Canada, but readers are located in over 180 countries. We, therefore, feature commentaries and interesting articles and videos that would interest a wide audience. Every week we email a list of Blog entries to the 30,000 plus email addresses from which readers access the items that interest them. The most popular entries are Guyana news; music videos, especially calypsos, Guyanese and Caribbean recipes, political/social commentaries, Guyana personalities, hinterland travels, history articles and educational videos.
The comments in the Guyanese Online introduction entry highlight some of the positive feedback from readers who have “found” the blog and appreciate its content and philosophy of working towards repairing the image of Guyana overseas and aiding in its rebirth so that Guyanese can be proud of their heritage, and regain the respect that was ours in the past.
Over the last two years, many persons have contributed articles to the Blog and it is not possible to list them all here. However, some articles I do remember well. Peter Halder’s early article on growing up in Albouystown and how it did not prevent his personal success was an instant hit. He has contributed other stories and forwarded interesting items to the Blog, but this story held the attention of many readers. We thank him for his help in expanding the readership of the Blog.
Our most prolific contributor has been Dmitri Allicock. He has written over 20 entries, many of them specifically for the Guyanese Online Blog. They range from life in the Upper Demerara River; his family history; a nostalgic Guyanese Christmas; the unique Berbice Chair; historical stories on our technological development; and stories of the interior and the plants and animals of Guyana. We thank him for his contributions as they have all been educational, and we look forward to many more in the future.
A more recent contributor has been retired Major General Joseph Singh. His most recent entry “The magnificent Essequibo River” has been well received as it highlights life in the interior of Guyana, which many of us have not experienced. We thank him for taking the time to share his experiences with us.
Over the holidays, we carried a piece by Ron Cheong, recording his memories of Christmas, leading one reader to write that “He reminded us older Guyanese folks of those items that were special and customs and rituals that were uniquely associated only with [sic] a Guyanese Christmas. A beautiful piece and well written.”
Another blog entry by Lear Matthews, a tribute to Guyanese teachers, prompted one reader to attribute the fact that he is a poet today to his Guyanese teachers instilling a love for the form in him, and identifying a number of teachers, Mr. Lochan, Tr. Riley, Tr. Joseph, Mr. Ben Chinapen, as well as headmasters like the late J W Chinapen, J Butchey, and John Ramlall. It turns out this reader was himself a teacher, who worked “for the great CV Nunes, Cumberbatch, Mr Fields and Mr James Sukhu.” Another praised the entry, writing that “We need to expand this article and number them: Part 1, Part 2, and so on. I was talking to retired Senior Education Officer – Community High Schools, Clarence Bertie London [Mister CB] and he is one that could assist with expanding the list of teachers in Guyana.”
Guyanese Online, as an information tool for the Diaspora, has been a success. However, the Diaspora is evolving and Guyanese Online will have to evolve with it. We have noticed that many Guyanese associations are now focusing on “local initiatives” rather than sending aid to Guyana as they report problems with implementing their aid projects there. Many are looking at other options in the Caribbean and elsewhere. Many Guyanese want to invest in Guyana but they worry about doing business there and of safeguarding their transactions with the rampant corruption. The economic downturn and Hurricane Sandy have also reduced remittances from the New York/New Jersey areas where many Guyanese reside. Moreover, the political/economic uncertainties in Guyana are affecting the decisions of many who would dearly love to return home if they could see long-term positive change.
There are numerous overseas Guyanese associations, but with many of the founder members now over 65 years old they are not as vibrant as they were in the past, because of a problem of succession to the younger generations. Associations also may have problems ensuring their donations reach the “end users,” with many stories of misappropriated funds and equipment and this affects future donations. And communication is key – whether e-mail, phone or other correspondence. Many opportunities are lost by a lack of interest or follow-up.
There are many organizations in Guyana that do excellent work for those less fortunate, but they do not seem to have the resources to be able to regularly project their needs to Guyanese organizations overseas. Guyanese Online could help in getting these organizations known, so contact us to help get the word out about what you do!
The Guyana government seems to recognize that the ongoing brain drain has affected development. They are reaching out, like previous governments, to attract Diaspora investment and for skilled Guyanese (who have the highest emigration rates in the world) to return home. They have recently launched the Guyana Diaspora (GUYD) project. This project, which ends in March 2013, is an online survey by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Development Fund aimed at creating databases of Guyanese who want to aid in the development of Guyana and perhaps return home. A long term strategy for attracting Guyanese overseas may be developed when the IOM contract ends. However, in addition to the problems outlined above, issues regarding tax-free and other waivers on cars and equipment will have to be clarified before persons make decisions of such magnitude.
In closing, Guyanese Online thanks all of the contributors of articles; those who forwarded articles of interest for publication; contributors from their blogs; letter writers; commentators and all our readers, blog followers, and supporters who have made it one of the most popular Guyanese sites on the Internet. You are the reason for our success!
We are always on the lookout for material – contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
We wish a Happy and Successful year 2013 to everyone.
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