By Iva Wharton
Rugged terrain, lack of proper representation, inadequate finance and poor communication continue to work against the development of Amerindian sportsmen and women, says Mark Rodrigues of the Hinterland Youth and Development Association.
Rodrigues cited the particular case of Doretta Wilson, one of the better distance runners, whose career is said to be on the brink of collapse.
Wilson, a young woman with tremendous potential, is back in her native village of Achiwuibo in the Rupununi involved in traditional work, Rodrigues said.
“She is planting cassava … that is the information I received and I feel real disappointed.”
Rodrigues said that although it is Amerindian Heritage Month, Wilson has nothing to celebrate. “We got to make an effort and try and salvage her career.”
He said representation has to be made on Wilson’s behalf if she is to rise about her challenges and make something of herself in the line of athletics.
The Rupununi, Rodrigues said, has no facilities to aid in Wilson’s advancement in athletics. There are no gyms, training grounds or even access to a coach.
Rodrigues said that representation was made on behalf of Wilson at several agencies, but they are only met with unfulfilled promises.
“The Ministry of Culture Youth and Sport in particular, I am tired going there, I have been there, I wrote two letters.”
To date he has not received any response from the ministry, he noted. His organization, he said, had received commitments from mining companies with operations in the Rupununi to sponsor the event, but they were just waiting on a response from the ministry.
The programme he said would have taken athletics meets to the Rupununi so athletes like Wilson would get a chance to compete while staying in shape. It would have also given athletes in the city a chance to witness firsthand what were some of the challenges faced by athletes in the Rupununi.
Rodrigues admitted that in some respect Wilson’s career was stifled because she was under age.
“Sacrifices got to be made, you must trust somebody, responsibility must be shouldered by someone or organization to ensure that nothing goes wrong with Doretta when she is away.”
Another disadvantage working against Wilson is that she is not fluent in English, but in her native Wapishana.
Should Wilson be given a chance, Rodrigues said, she has the opportunity not only to develop in athletics but academics as well.
Rodrigues could not say if Wilson is still attending school, but recalled her attending an all-age school in her community.
Meanwhile, he maintained that Amerindian athletes should not be used by politicians to advance their cause. He said that Valarie Lowe, controversial presidential candidate of The United Force (TUF) met with his organization and pledged her support to assist Wilson.
He said Lowe created a Facebook page for Wilson to solicit financial assistance but they have not heard from her since February.
According to him, he is not making any accusations, but the association (Hinterland Youth and Development Association) wants some answers.
“What I want to know is there any money coming in, we have not heard from her.” That Facebook page, he noted, was created in February of this year.
Now at age eighteen, Rodrigues said he is hopeful that Wilson will make decisions that will change the course of her career for the better.