In response to our invitation to become part of the solution to social pathologies such as alcoholism, suicide, rape, drug use, child abuse, domestic violence and the like, Mr Nowrang Persaud stated, “While I unconditionally applaud all efforts to minimize the negative fallout from alcoholism, suicide, domestic and other forms of violence, I firmly believe that the chances of success in remedial or corrective actions are greater, if we work at the grass-roots level where we can more effectively ‒ as indeed I have been trying to do for the longest while ‒ help to minimize the incidence and the problems”.
The Caribbean Voice (TCV) could not agree more. In fact, TCV conducts a monthly outreach to various communities in Guyana (two have been done so far in July – St Cuthbert’s Mission and Mora Point, Mahaicony) as well as monthly self-esteem workshops for youth and students. TCV is also aware of the work done by the many NGOs on the ground, in communities, having brought over 70 of these NGOs together for the only ever National Stakeholders’ Conference on Suicide and Related Issues, last August at the Cara Lodge ‒ one of our many, many partners.
Even though TCV is manned by unpaid volunteers, who also work 9 to 5 to put food on the table and take care of families, and even though our only funding comes from our own pockets and the support of friends and well-wishers, our approach has been holistic. Thus, in addition to the community outreaches and workshop, we are engaged in regular media advocacy to disseminate information to combat myths and misinformation on the one hand and bring awareness on the other.
Additionally we (along with others) are also engaged in ongoing lobbying that has seen the launch of the suicide hotline last year and a promise made by the Minister of Education to have counsellors placed in schools. We continue to lobby for the latter as well as measures to tackle pesticide suicide (citing the Sri Lankan model as an exemplar), integration of mental health care within the existing physical care system (as advocated by the World Health Organization) relaunch of the Gatekeepers’ Programme (which would directly impact communities), giving more teeth to the Sexual Offences Act, sensitivity training for police and other government personnel, and so on. To this end we have also held meetings with many policy shapers and decision makers and are seeking to have further meetings. Also, currently we have two online petitions calling for the establishment of a registry of sex offenders and raising the age of consent to 18 years. We hope to present the signatures for both petitions to the President, some time next year.
It is within the holistic context that the Voices Against Violence Candle Light Vigil on September 10 is located. At the minimum, the vigil will bring communities together to focus on anti-violence and hopefully lay the groundwork for these communities to continue to act together in combatting all forms of violence, while agitating for resources and support from various levels of government as well as facilitating community/NGO collaboration. Additionally, in collaboration with partners and other stakeholders, TCV engages in pro-bono counselling and counselling support, with respect to the range of issues – suicide, child abuse, domestic violence, rape, alcoholism, drug use, incest.
Finally, considering that Mr Persaud claims to be engaged in social activism at the grass roots level and given that we strongly believe in and foster the collaborative approach ‒ conference last August, workshops and outreaches in collaboration with NGOs such as GIVE Foundation, Orchid Foundation, Save Abee Foundation, Monique’s Helping Hands, CADVA, NJASM Humanitarian Mission, Nirvana Humanitarian Foundation, Citizens Against Rape, and others, a dozen NGOs already partnering in the vigil with more to come on board, as well as a number of individual social activists ‒ we again extend an invitation to Mr Persaud, to become a partner in this effort as a first step to joining the collaborative and holistic approach, which is not only highly cost effective but gets more done every time and with greater and more enduring impact. Given his expertise and experiences, Mr Persaud should be very much aware of the many advantages of a collaborative, concerted, holistic approach to problem solving.