By Jeff Trotman
Over 100 young people, drawn from four depressed areas in West Linden, are benefitting from a six-week summer training programme being conducted by the Totally Moulding Club.
The programme, which provides training in a variety of vocational skills, began in mid-July. It is being held from Monday through Thursday from 9am to 4pm at the New Silvercity Secondary School in Canvas City and the Totally Moulding club house at One Mile.
Magdalene Semple, Coordinator of Totally Moulding, said the summer programme was started about five years ago and it generally runs from when the regular school year ends until the end of August.
“A teacher will come and teach the children in the academic field. And we didn’t stop there. We went into games, playing circle tennis, football and cricket,” Semple explained.
“We also continue to teach catering, cake decoration, how to cook and things like leather craft, making soft toys, fabric designs, sewing, garment construction and floral decoration for a minimum fee, primarily to pay the electricity bill,” she added.
She said Totally Moulding was formed in 1996 in Canvas City in an effort to occupy the children in that community in more meaningful activities instead of playing in the streets every afternoon. “We decided to make a club in Canvas City, right in my yard because it was a big yard. We started by doing academic work – teaching them to read. I went and did the reading programme, which was done by LEAP through the government,” Semple said, adding that she asked teachers to give the children extracurricular classes free of cost.
She also began training the children to acquire a number of vocational skills and in the process discovered that she was much more talented than she had imagined. “I started teaching them craft … and we made soap and a lot of things that you put in your kitchen and from there, I told myself that I know how to do things,” she recalled.
Semple said the programmes became so popular that her yard became crowded, prompting a search for a more convenient place to build a club house. A plot was found at the Four Corner at One Mile and it was purchased and club house was built there.
“We decided to name the club Totally Moulding because the ongoing intention is to teach children,” Semple said. “We do a little bit of everything…. I began contacting friends in various fields to do voluntary training, like nurses Claudette London and Rosalind Wilson–-they all migrated now. They started this programme, teaching the children personal hygiene,” she said.
“We had Donette Harry, who gave her time in the sewing field. Holland Cambridge gave of his time, teaching the young men and women to sew shirts and pants. We had Holloney Hemmerding, now deceased, an old teacher who worked with the children in reading and grammar and we had other friends, who used to come and throw in their lot but I am here all the time,” Semple added.
She said the facilitators for the respective disciplines pooled their limited financial resources to fund the various programme. Additionally, funds were raised by making icicles, ice blocks and light finger foods, such as coconut biscuits and channa, which were sold to members of Totally Moulding and residents of the neighbourhood. Participants were also asked to contribute ingredients for the cake decorating programme.
Totally Moulding also seeks outside assistance from a number of public and private agencies, including the government and international funding agencies such as UNDP.
“Last year, the local government assisted us in some of the things that we needed and we had a successful programme with over 100 people graduating,” Semple proudly stated, while adding that more adults began attending the programmes because they were impressed by the new skill range their children had acquired from the Totally Moulding programmes. She also said several persons who have passed through the programmes over the years have managed to find employment in a variety of areas.
Totally Moulding has also gotten involved in other activities, such as choral singing, drama and dancing, Semple said, as she highlighted that earlier this year, one of its trainees, Niomi Allicock, captured the first prize in an impromptu speech competition that was organised by the Ministry of Sports and Culture at Bayrock, while another, Holliann Cambridge, placed second and was adjudged the best speaker.
Cambridge is also the leather craft teacher in the Totally Moulding Club. “She received training in leather craft at the Burrowes School of Arts.
They had a summer programme in Linden and this is the second year she’ll be teaching leather craft. Last year, when she taught those 32 children, she was 14 years of age. She’s a fifth form science student at Mackenzie High School. This year she will be working with a bigger class,” Semple said.
Recalling that Totally Moulding had a very impressive programme late last year, Semple said, “UNDP came to Guyana to assist depressed areas. I heard about it and I went down to represent my area, Canvas City, but I also represented Half Mile because just a litter gutter divide the two communities.”
She also made a case for One Mile and other depressed areas in Wismar. As a consequence, the UNDP made her the coordinator of the training programme, which was conducted by Totally Moulding.
Stressing that a high standard of workmanship was achieved last year, Semple said she is trying to inspire the participants to do even more impressive work this year because when the UNDP representatives looked at the soft toys last year, they wondered if the soft toys had been imported.
Semple has vowed to give back to the community with her last breath. “If I call on you and you decide not to turn up, I’ll try another person,” she said, while identifying Beverly Alexander, Gail Laynes, Dawn Williams and Holliann Cambridge as assistants that she can always count on.