President’s youth award programme to include young people with disabilities

Executive Officer of the President’s Youth Award Programme Dr Allister Collins speaking to students and parents at the Open Doors Centre about the youth programme yesterday (Keno George photo)

With the aim of greater inclusivity and social cohesion, the President Youth Award Republic of Guyana (PYARG) programme is extending its reach to include young people with disabilities.

The Open Doors Centre, at ‘C’ Field, Sophia, which offers technical and vocational training to persons with disabilities, is the first institution to be brought on board.

The programme has since been established also at the Gifted Hands Learning Centre for Special Needs in Kingston.

At the official launch at the Open Doors Centre, which was held at the institution yesterday, Executive Officer of PYARG Dr Allister Collins explained that while PYARG has always had the drive to reach individuals across all sectors of society, the resources were not always available. He, however, explained that with Minister Dr George Norton’s assumption of the Social Cohesion portfolio, and his passion for inclusivity, more resources have been allocated toward fulfilling the mandate.

Collins, relating that PYARG has been in existence for 20 years, noted that it is a shame an action such as the integration of youths with disabilities into the programme has taken so long to manifest.

Nevertheless, he noted that he was proud that the step has finally been taken. “…We wanna deal with inclusivity and be responsive to all the needs of young people; we are now given the resources. So even though it’s a passion, it’s a dream of mine to be able to reach all youth…it is now mandated. We are empowered with resources to actually do so,” he related.

Collins added that they have already begun extending their reach to indigenous communities, in a bid to make the services available in areas other than the coast.

The programme, which caters to youth ages 14 to 24, allows those involved to become engaged in activities such as football, cricket, learning Spanish, martial arts, drama, ballroom dancing, community service, track and field, swimming, and first aid.

Collins noted that the activities being offered will be tailored to the needs of those with special needs.

“…This would now expose those young people to an array of activities, community service, skills training, which they’re already exposed to here and coupled with that, they will be a part of adventures journey, where they will get a chance to see the length and breadth of Guyana,” he stated.

The programme is continuous and operates at three levels—Bronze, Silver and Gold, which are six months, 12 months and 18 months, in duration, respectively.

Collins noted that PYARG tackles social, economic and psychological issues, and added that the issue of unemployment is addressed through skills and entrepreneurial training. Holistically, he said, creating social cohesion is also a mandate of the organistaion.

“…We’re trying to evolve into something that all young persons, whether or not you live in an affluent neighbourhood, or whether or not you’re Hindu or Muslim, whether or not you’re from a different political background or you support the government. The programme is for you,” he added.

Full details about the programme are available at PYARG’s website, which can be accessed at www.pyarg.com or contact with the organization can be made at 226-9078.

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