In the face of stunning failures at State level to transform our nation, we must applaud the few citizens who envision and lead private initiatives to make a defining difference for Guyanese.
We must laud such private initiatives, such citizen solutions. We must encourage our fellow Guyanese to build our nation ourselves, not sit with folded hands expecting handouts from greedy, self-serving politicians who cannot even keep the sidewalk of Parliament free of deranged mental-health patients, and who get into Government and enrich themselves mysteriously.
We cannot expect a career politician who formed the rulership of a dictatorial State for 28 years to build our capital city. Instead, we must see that such leaders would only make things fall apart, and we must prevent them from destroying our land.
We must thank those who make the sacrifices to build new dreams, enrich new vision, map a new way forward.
Eric Phillips, a distinguished citizen of the land who accomplished international feats, leads the Guyana Foundation. He serves as professor at the University of Guyana, but refuses to just sit in class teaching.
He gets up, walks out into the society, and gets his hands dirty cleaning up the muck that defaces so many of our local communities. The Guyana Foundation now reaches across the world, engaging the North American Guyanese diaspora and delivering solutions to communities here at home. His brainchild, the organization works across ethnic groups, and networks across the country.
Faith Harding also opted out of the stultifying political pond to launch community projects across the country.
Heartening it is to see Harding – and also Richard Van West Charles, who operates a charity called Partnership for Networking and Development in Guyana – play such a dynamic role. They genuinely believe in serving the society, even if they are out of Government. Van West Charles, a former Minister of Health, also moonlights as a public health consultant with the United Nations, around the world.
These, and quite a few others, could have done what so many other accomplished Guyanese do – migrate and never look back. But they maintain a keen interest in the homeland, and remain determined to make a difference.
Van West Charles made overtures to the current Government to play a role in the health care system, but he got the cold shoulder, which is incredible given the wealth of experience and knowledge he offers. One would think the Government would welcome his service. Not so. Our society insists on perpetuating mediocrity and low values, in the name of partisan politics and suspicious distrust.
Our society lacks some fundamental humane values. But we expect the State to do something about everything. For example, two sets of our most vulnerable citizens fall through the wide cracks of our social safety net. Mental health patients, including those addicted to drugs and alcohol, and our children, lack the kind of care and protection we would expect from a humane, developed society.
In fact, this week we saw the news item of the Court granting a man close to 40 years old the right to marry a young girl, just 15, who is pregnant. This child started living with the man at his house when she was 13, got pregnant at 14, and now must marry and become a wife.
The records show that she applied to the Court for the right to marry, but how could a young child apply to court for anything? She obviously was counselled, coached and advised to take that step, by no less than a lawyer, or someone familiar with the legal system.
Such is our society, when we care not anymore even for our girl children.
The social environment of our nation would be hopeless were it not for the bright lights of those few citizens who refuse to bow under the weight of our national ethical and moral collapse. We see hope in the few souls who reach out to cultivate a social space where our citizens can feel, beating in their breasts, the lifeblood of human dignity.
We must get this one fact, each and every Guyanese citizen: we build this society ourselves, each of us. We cannot expect any one group, whether politicians, business owners or the diaspora, to deliver magic to us.
In fact, if every village in this country would form an association, and network with its former residents who now live overseas, we could see a dynamic engagement between local communities and the Diaspora.
Such initiatives by-pass the State, and galvanize citizen power to make the leap forward that our society so desperately needs.
The Guyanese nation could only be transformed to the extent that citizens work to develop their communities, instead of complaining that it should be done for them.
In this, we should applaud Mark Benschop, who gave up his advocacy role, which sometimes bordered on the juvenile, to actually work in communities and now to make a run for the Mayor’s chair at City Hall. Such sensible citizen leadership we must encourage and imitate.
Yet, we need men and women of moral standing, of upright character, to initiate such movements. We do not want to see charlatans. We want our leaders to be people of character, who can be our mentors and role models.
This nation houses a youth population, those below 18 years of age, of more than 60 percent of our nation, numbering 300,000 souls. Who guides these into the future?
People like Phillips, Harding, Van West Charles and the countless souls who sacrifice and dedicate their service to community hold the key to see us advance into a developed, humane, ethical, moral and cultivated society – one where dignity of the human person is of paramount importance.
Do we despair at the failures of the State? While we may, our attitude should be one of turning to citizen power to make the Guyanese nation a great and united people upon the stage of the 21st century global village.
We the Guyanese people must take on the responsibility for our own destiny.