For months Penny Glen, a mother of three, struggled with emotional issues which she could not have described, all of which came to bare when she realized that she could no longer communicate with her eldest daughter who moved from being a normal child to a withdrawn teenager.
And even as she struggled to find the answers to her child’s problems she had to deal with the constant misunderstandings with her mother which sometimes escalated into raucous quarrels, many of which she wished had never taken place.
All of this changed after she became involved in a ten-week self-esteem programme held in her home village Buxton through social entrepreneur and phycologist Ingrid Goodman.
In the end, her daughter, who had flunked her Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examinations, was also helped by Goodman and was able to re-sit the examinations and today is working and is no longer withdrawn. The child had suffered from her mother’s absence (Glen had spent some years overseas) and she felt she was failure, but with counselling she became a different person. Importantly as well, Glen said, she now manages to control herself and does not get into constant confrontations with her mother as she “deals with the issues and that’s it.
“I was first afraid to go because I did not know what it was really about, but in the end, I went. I heard about it when I went PTA and Miss Goodman come and talk about it. It was wonderful, and it help me so much,” Glen told the Sunday Stabroek in an interview.
The programme, according to her, helped her to understand herself and to become aware of some of the issues that she faced in her life and had found difficulties dealing with them even though, according to her, she was not aware of them.
For Carmelita Anderson, a 40-year-old mother of five, being a part of the programme – hers was held in Melanie Damishana – was “just another boost because I know about them things.
“I wanted to express myself to other ladies and let them know how I was feeling. Women tend to be quiet, and cover a lot of things in the home,” Anderson shared with this newspaper.
The programme also helped Anderson to deal with her son’s disappearance, an issue she still struggles with today as she does not know if he is dead or alive.
Her son Carlos Anderson, along with another man, Anthony Williams, disappeared on September 10, 2015; they were seen in a car together.
The interventions by Goodman and her team are held for ten weeks free of cost and they have found that people turn up to the sessions. In 2016 alone, some nine communities on the East Coast Demerara were covered.
According to Goodman, who is not a facilitator at all of the interventions, they try to create a system where the participants can be supportive of each other as it does not only cater for women but for men also.
Following the ten-week programme, graduations are held, and the participants are issued with certificates.
The programme started in 2012 and has gone as far as Linden and while initially Goodman said she used her own resources she later received a grant from the Australian government and this covered nine communities on the East Coast and some of those communities have requested more such programmes to be convened but because of the lack of funding this could not be facilitated.
The intervention is in jeopardy at present because of the lack of funding.
The groups meet once a week for ten weeks for one hour and while sometimes the participants request more time Goodman said they do not carry the sessions for more than two hours.
“It was intervention that was culturally appropriate, over time through the investigation we came up with the intervention that it is applicable to Guyana. It is important not to bring programmes from other countries that were not designed for countries like Guyana,” Goodman said pointing out that oftentimes in countries like Guyana programmes from other countries are implemented without any real investigation done to ascertain if they are appropriate.
“… There was no evidence on group intervention in Guyana,” the mental health practitioner said. She added that based on the need of the community the intervention must vary and must be culturally responsive to the communities they serve.
Facilitators have been trained as according to Goodman they believe in empowerment from the bottom up and when persons come through the self-esteem group they look for persons who have a passion for community group.
“We would have them attend three or more self-esteem groups in other communities, and at the end they would have been exposed to four different communities and 40 weeks of training. We place them in communities for one week and monitor them before giving them the instrument to replicate,” she explained.
‘Let it be fixed’
For Glen, following her participation in the programme she no longer has futile quarrels as she did in the past but rather attempts to “let it be fixed right there and then and I just move on; I am not standing around arguing.”
That was one the biggest issues she faced with her mother.
Also, she had the issue of “feeling little” in the presence of her significant partner but she no longer “feels small in his eyesight, I know my worth.”
She recalled that before she returned to Guyana, her daughter had sent her numerous cards begging her to come home and when she eventually did the child was 16 years old “and I know right away something was going on with her.”
But it was after she was part of the programme that she realized that her child needed professional help which was provided by Goodman.
She could not have afforded to pay for the assistance, but Goodman worked with her daughter and according to Glen “she did wonderful counselling and I would advise anybody to see her.
“My daughter started to talk more, she started to open up and started eating better,” she recalled.
And even though it has been months since she was a part of the programme, Glen said she is still in contact with some of the participants as they provide support to each other.
“The counselling was really helpful, it allowed me to speak better to my family, not only children but also the adults around me, you know I start to talk to them about self-esteem and so on. Even a relative who was going through some difficulties and wanted to isolate himself I worked with him and tried to assist him, and he helped himself as well,” she said.
On the other hand, Anderson said that the programme helped the 15 participants to be confidential; they had to keep each other’s secrets.
“The programme takes us back to childhood memory and help us to upgrade ourselves and bring a better life for ourselves and partners,” she said.
Apart from opening up, the participants were also assisted in charting a new direction and they also realized the importance of managing their money and time and what it means to have love and a good relationship with their partners.
“The programme is very good and I wish that the government could enable the programme in more communities because it would help a lot of young women who are going through difficulties,” Anderson said.
“The self-esteem programme is a boost for a better tomorrow for women and men too. If men come on board it would enable them to stop being hidden. A lot of people don’t have that power to speak, the programme helps them to find their voices.”
Anderson pointed out that sometimes as mothers, women do not know how to speak to their children and the programme assists in this area also and “it could help young mothers to find their ground.”
Since her son’s disappearance, Anderson said she has been looking for clues and “fixing the puzzle but all the pieces have not fallen into place as yet. But I would know one day what happened to him.”
Meantime, Goodman has also introduced a rape survival group and completed a 12-week programme, working with 12 females, the youngest being just 14. This was done last year, and she is hoping to introduce another group
“We want to do one intervention at a time because of lack of funding,” she said.