Students, staff and special invitees participated in a three-day leadership seminar at the New Opportunity Corps (NOC) for the occupants of the Onderneeming, Essequibo Coast correctional institution.
The session was hosted by the BD1 Leadership Development Initiative founded by Astell Collins and his twin brother Allister, a press release from the Government Information Agency (GINA) said. The brothers, along with Chairperson of the Guyana Faith and HIV Coalition joined students, members of the disciplined services, regional education officers, officers from technical institutes, the regional hospital, pastors and other community members in celebration with singing, dancing and worship at the session held from May 27-30.
Astell Collins who was bestowed the IKUSASA Young Person of the Year Award in June 2012 for his influential role as a non-citizen of South Africa was given the green light to conduct the sessions after discussions with Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport Dr Frank Anthony.
At the NOC, students participated in physical education, group discussions with students and facilitators, cultural theatrical presentations and spruced up the centre and its environs. The second phase of the exercise included an environmental improvement drive which will communicate to the students a sense of self-respect and pride in their surroundings. Activities were subsequently staged at the Sophia Training Centre, the President’s Youth Award Republic of Guyana (PYARG) programme and a leadership address was given at the Kuru Kuru Training Centre (KKTC) on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway. On June 14 a bonfire was held at the NOC to mark the close of the exercise.
According to GINA, two months ago the NOC benefited from a new 15-seater bus from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as part of an ongoing effort to boost its resources. The 134-year-old institution has been improving its image under the direction of the youth ministry.
Children who enter the institution as adolescent offenders and wanderers learn vocational skills in the area of electrical installation, handicraft, joinery, information technology, tailoring and garment making, welding and fabrication, carpentry and masonry. Some have achieved as many as eight subjects at the CXC level and there have been efforts to reintegrate them into the family setting.
According to GINA, judging from the feedback by the participants at the seminar, facilitators were assured that the session marked the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the NOC. At the close, they expressed appreciation to the Assistant Director for the Youth Entrepreneurial Skills Training Programme (YEST) Devanand Ramdatt, the administrative staff at the NOC and Commodore Gary Best, the Chief of Staff for the Guyana Defence Force for their support.
The Collins brothers said that one of their guiding principles is that, “People don’t care how much you know before they know how much you care.” On his return from South Africa, Astell Collins met President Donald Ramotar in February enthused about giving back to the place of his birth before considering any invitation abroad. He served for four years in South Africa, facilitating leadership development seminars, conferences and workshops throughout the nation. These included at government institutions, corporations, universities, schools, religions groups and various youth organisations.