Dharmic Sabha opens state of the art shelter for abuse survivors

President Donald Ramotar on Monday commissioned Bal Nivas, a state-of-the-art housing facility in Berbice for victims of abuse and domestic violence.

Bal Nivas, a project undertaken by the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha (GHDS), commissioned at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, GHDS president Dr Vindhya Persaud, International Bollywood singer Sonu Nigam and dignitaries.

The multimillion-dollar structure boasts a spacious kitchen and dining room, a library, computer centre, health care unit, counselling and skills training centre along with a recreational space. It can accommodate 60 women and children

Unveiling: Bollywood singer Sonu Nigam and President Donald Romotar unveil the commemorative plaque at the opening of Bal Nivas, a state-of-the-art housing facility in Berbice for abuse victims. (David Papannah Photo)
Unveiling: Bollywood singer Sonu Nigam and President Donald Romotar unveil the commemorative plaque at the opening of Bal Nivas, a state-of-the-art housing facility in Berbice for abuse victims. (David Papannah Photo)

In his address at the opening, Ramotar said government is committed to enforcing laws that were created to protect persons who are verbally, physically and sexually abused. He also said that Guyana’s sexual offences and domestic violence legislation is on par with those in first world countries like the United States and the UK. The president then lauded the GHDS for investing in the facility which benefits the entire nation.

The GHDS president said the Sabha embarked on the project in response to a need.

“It is a sad day when we need this type of facility, but the reality is not one we are blind to,” Dr Persaud said, adding that Bal Nivas was built to serve the public. She said that children have a right to be safe and secure and the GHDS believes that “every child [must have] a safe place to be….Today, this shelter is born.”

Dr Persaud then called on Berbicians to ensure that the facility is well kept so that it can serve the public effectively. She said the project was a part of her late father’s (pandit and GHDS head Reepu Daman Persaud) vision which was financed from the many mega concerts the Sabha has hosted over the years, members of the business community, the Minnesota Vishnu Mandir, families, Digicel and other sponsors.

In May 2012, an artist’s impression of the building was unveiled by President Ramotar and Nigam. Dr Persaud then thanked guest of honour, Nigam, for attending the opening, noting that he has supported the project from its inception.

In response, the Bollywood star said that “Guyana has touched me in a different way; there is so much of innocence in this country, purity in the souls. I am really humbled by the love shown to me by Guyanese.” Nigam also said that he was “impressed with the simplicity of the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha and allowing me to be part of Bal Nivas from the beginning to now… I wish this shelter prosperity.”

Bal Nivas will become operational in July after some additional furnishings and equipment have been installed.

After the official opening ceremony, Dr Persaud performed the traditional coconut breaking exercise, according to Hindu custom, at the entrance of the pathway following the cutting of the ribbon and unveiling of the plague by the president and Nigam. The dignitaries, including PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee, Attorney General Anil Nandlall and his wife, Health Minister Dr Bheri Ramsaran, Region Six Chairman David Armogan, Vice-Chairman Bhupaul Jhagroo, GHDS executive members and members of the media were given an exclusive tour of the facility.

Bal Nivas was constructed by Kascom Engineering, which was praised for a job well done and timely completion. The administration of the facility would be overlooked by the GHDS. Persons desirous of assisting the organisation in adding the finishing touches to the building can contact the Sabha.

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