A young Paramakatoi, Region Eight resident has been given an opportunity to pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer with the help of the Hughes, Fields and Stoby law firm, which has awarded her a scholarship to pursue a law degree at the University of Guyana (UG).
Paula Gomes, 20, a former student of President’s College, is the first recipient of the Clarence A. F. Hughes Scholar-ship for Indigenous students pursuing the LLB programme.
Gomes had made an appeal to the Amerindian Peoples’ Association (APA) for financial assistance after securing a place in the law programme for the current academic year at UG. The APA, however, not being financially equipped to offer the support, reached out to the law firm, which decided to award Gomes a full scholarship. The late Hughes was known for championing philanthropy.
In brief remarks at the handing over of the scholarship at the firm’s George-town offices on Friday, Gomes noted that while she is grateful to the law firm for its generosity, more opportunities should be available for other indigenous people interested in pursuing tertiary education.
“…I know of many indigenous persons who are unable to realise and release their full potential, simply because of financial constraints, and I say this being an Indigenous person coming from an Indigenous community and being someone who truly knows the struggle of Indigenous peoples. With that being said, I would like them to know that the opportunities are endless if only you reach out far enough and wide enough,” she said.
Gomes also thanked the APA and its representatives Laura George and Michael McGarrell, who made recommendations on her behalf.
Meanwhile, Nigel Hughes, partner in the firm and son of the late Clarence A. F. Hughes SC, spoke of the long history of collaboration between the law firm and the APA, before reiterating the importance of supporting Indigenous youth desirous of pursing courses in law.
Hughes noted that after years of collaboration and working in the indigenous communities, encouragement was given to village leaders to have those students who are bright, energetic and ambitious study law. This, he said, would have allowed them to dedicate their time in the future to helping their peoples’ efforts towards the protection of their rights, both historic and current, as well as to also aid in their legal representation.
He added that Gomes has “some outstanding credentials” and that the firm was both honoured and privileged to be able to provide the scholarship to her.
Meanwhile, Laura George, of the APA, said that for many years encouragement was given to communities to support students who were doing exceedingly well at high school, so that they would go on to pursue tertiary education, especially in the areas of law and medicine.
She explained that this is due to the competiveness of the already limited support given by the government towards hinterland students. “The reason we have been doing this is because government support has been limited, and quite competitive, as well as, being quite out of reach for many of our indigenous peoples,” she stated.
She said encouragement was given to district councils to nominate their students but the response was slow until Gomes made an appeal to the APA for support in pursuing her tertiary education.
“But as much as we would have liked to offer help, our funding does not cater unfortunately to give this kind of support for academics, and so we decided to extend even more into the generosity of Hughes, Fields and Stoby, and to Mr. Hughes who generously and quite quickly said yes,” George stated.
“Because Miss Gomes is from the Indigenous peoples of the Patamona, she understands the challenges when it comes to access to justice. I know she will be there to lend her services when she becomes an attorney,” she added.