Guyana Learning and Cultural Immersion Programme: understanding and preventing suicide in Guyana

The Guyana Foundation through its partnership with the William James College recently held a training workshop at the Sunrise Center in Essequibo. The William James College is a leader in educating the next generation of mental health professionals through its Counseling and Psychology graduate and undergraduate programs. The University is located in Newton Massachusetts, USA.

The Guyana Service Learning and Cultural Immersion Program of the university is headed by Guyanese, Dr. Natalie Cort, who is the Assistant Professor at William James College. A  3-days (25th -27th July 2018) empirically supported Suicide Gatekeepers Training was conducted by 6 Psychology and mental health counseling graduate students, Marie Berthonia Antonie, Cydne Branch, April Clayton, Sohenga Depestre, Ariana Slotinick and Damon Pryor.

The training workshop increased the ability of community leaders to effectively respond to, intervene and support suicidal individuals. The workshop, increased participants knowledge on suicide, major depression giving them the guidance to be able to intervene with persons at risk to suicide.

The workshop covered practical and effective problem solving and stress management methods, adapted from interpersonal psychotherapy for depression and music therapy. The workshop, which was highly interactive and fully participatory in nature, included mini-lectures, facilitated discussions, group work and expressive arts activities.

A total of 52 participants were in attendance and included representatives from the Ministry of Health, Social Protection, New Opportunity Corps, Hope For All, Child Care and Protection, members representing the three major religious organizations in Guyana, recruits from the Richard Fickal Police College, volunteers from Caribbean Voice, members of the newly formed Sunrise Support group in Wakenaam, volunteers of the Guyana Foundation and other community leaders.

Participants expressed their gratitude in songs and words of appreciation for being given the opportunity to be a part of the workshop and shared how they would take back the knowledge gained to their organizations and community and even apply to their personal lives.

 Participants at the workshop training session

Participants at the workshop training session

 A participant expressing his gratitude for the knowledge gained.

A participant expressing his gratitude for the knowledge gained.

 Ms. April Clayton, one of the Psychology students of the William James College conducting a training session.

Ms. April Clayton, one of the Psychology students of the William James College conducting a training session.

 One of the outdoor sessions of the training workshop.

One of the outdoor sessions of the training workshop.

Kids summer camp 2018

The Guyana Foundation in collaboration with the Ministry of Education Department of Culture, Youth and Sports commenced its Summer Camp at Onderneeming Sand Pit on Monday 9th July 2018.  The camp targeted children between the ages of 6 to 18 years old and engage them in activities such as life skills building, creative expression (art, craft and drama), self-esteem building, sports, among many others. The camp is coordinated by Child Care counsellor, Ms. Madonna Paul and supported by volunteers and staff of the Sunrise Center.

Our second week of the Summer Camp was conducted from 16th July at the Sunrise Center at Zorg-en-Vlygt.

Pictures below shows the summer camp at Onderneeming Sand Pit and the Sunrise Center at Zorg-en-Vlygt.

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 Sunrise Center

Sunrise Center

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Successful outreaches conducted by the Guyana Foundation Sunrise Center

On Friday 22nd June 2018,  a team from the Guyana Foundation conducted an outreach to the village of Mashabo in the Pomeroon-Supenaam, Region No. 2. The team consisted of Founder, Supriya Singh-Bodden, Sunrise Center Manager, Ms. Miriam Hinds, Project Manager, Mr. Neil Bacchus, along with volunteers from Georgetown and the Essequibo.

The village of Mashabo is set back from the coast, with ten minutes by car from the Huis t’Dieren Public Road, across the Itiribisi Lake known as the Hot and Cold Lake. It is called the Hot and Cold Lake because at one section of the beach there is a large bush and on one side the water is warm and if you walked out of the water and round to the other side of the bush the water is cold.

There is need for much development in this community. We discovered that the soil can be developed to carry on certain types of agricultural production but there is a requirement for proper infrastructure and training. There is a high level of unemployment due to the timber business being slow and difficult. The community would like to have another solar powered well at the other end of the village; electricity is necessary for the schools and the Medex Health Center where basic medical supplies are also required.

In our discussion with the Chief of the village, he said that they would like to do so much for the community such as building a guest house for tourist on their visit to the village where they can enjoy fishing, water sport, and much more. They would also like more activities to keep the interest of the youths alive instead of the problems which many of them faced due to alcohol and substance abuse, and prostitution which is prevalent among them. There is also a call for a school bus as this will encourage parents to send their children to secondary school since it is costly for parents to do so due to the use of private buses.

The Guyana Foundation has decided to reach out to help this community by providing skills training for the young people so that they can acquire work for themselves. They love sports such as cricket, football and volley ball and so we have also decided to garner some sporting equipment for them through fund raising.

The reason for the Guyana Foundation going into this village is because one day while visiting the town of Charity, we met a young man lying on the ground, drunk and passed out. We were told that he came from Mashabo. Similarly, the young women in the rum shops in Charity come from these remotely located depressed Amerindian villages.

The Guyana Foundation through its Sunrise Center would like to commence work immediately to prepare those residents affected for counseling on alcohol and substance abuse as well as mental health topics. We will also begin the skills training courses and we are appealing for assistance of donations for some of these areas mentioned above. The majority of Amerindians in this village are of Arawak origin and number under 1000 persons.

One young man who spoke up at our meeting said that he was looking forward to us coming back to do what we said we would because they really need the assistance. Before he could finish his sentence his voice broke with emotion.

The Guyana Foundation and its vibrant team also visited the island of Wakenaam in the Essequibo River on Saturday 23rd June 2018, where a meeting and workshop was held at the Arthurville Primary School with residents. The main topic discussed was mental health where the residents were educated on the myths and facts of it and how to cope with persons suffering from depression. At the end of the session, a community support group was set up to assist person in skills training and to offer mental health counseling, among others.

 Guyana Foundation team heading to Mashabo.

Guyana Foundation team heading to Mashabo.

 Sunrise Center Manager, Miriam Hinds speaking to residents of Mashabo.

Sunrise Center Manager, Miriam Hinds speaking to residents of Mashabo.

 Some of the residents of Mashabo who attended the meeting.

Some of the residents of Mashabo who attended the meeting.

 Some of the volunteers at the meeting at Wakenaam.

Some of the volunteers at the meeting at Wakenaam.

 Founder, Supriya Singh-Bodden speaking to resident at the Wakenaam meeting.

Founder, Supriya Singh-Bodden speaking to resident at the Wakenaam meeting.

 Supriya congratulating Ms. Constance St. Hill, the head of the community support group at Wakenaam.

Supriya congratulating Ms. Constance St. Hill, the head of the community support group at Wakenaam.

Dreams do become a reality

We all are fed up of Facebook at times but then it allows us to share the success stories from the work we are doing in Guyana; that is when Facebook rocks.

We are working in an area of the world, which many of you have never heard of; Essequibo, in the country of Guyana on the coast of South America, taking its name from the mighty Essequibo River, which is 22 miles wide at its mouth.

We work here because the suicide rate is high; there are many social ills that are out of control, alcohol addiction, lack of economic opportunity, hopelessness among the youth, among others. It is a lush beautiful place with beautiful people but they need help to move forward.

Through our skills transfer courses at our Sunrise Center many persons have been able to uplift their lives. Here is someone you need to meet.

Browne Jacobus graduated in December 2017 and has since been using her skills to generate income for herself and her family. She operates her nail tech, a small business from home and does house calls to clients.

"Prior to receiving the skill, I was unemployed, at home doing nothing. I feel like a better person now that I have found something that I love. I never knew that I could have done this, what a great feeling to be independent. To the Founder of the Guyana Foundation, thank you for using your dream to help me dream bigger than where I was. To the donors, thank you, you must know that your donations have not gone in vain but it has truly made a difference in my life and in the lives of many others, thank you all"

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Another Sunrise Center success story

Since opening our doors, the Sunrise Center has contributed to building the lives of countless individuals. Our counseling and skills transfer programs continue to make a huge difference. Our commitment is to ensure that individuals are equipped with skills to empower them to be self-sufficient so that they can create a better life for themselves and families.

Meet Aileen, a single parent who like many women in Guyana struggles to make ends meet. She operates a small shop in the town of Suddie on the Essequibo Coast. There is little economic activity on the coast so her shop is not doing well and she cannot provide for her family. She heard of the courses offered by the Sunrise Center and enrolled for the Fabric Designing course. Aileen has successfully completed the program and has since started to apply her skills in fabric designing. She creates beautiful tie-dye pieces and decorative dolls and sells them in her shop.

“I was able to learn how to socialize with others and to interact; I never knew that I had all this creative abilities locked off inside of me. I am happy to know that I can create pieces that can make others feel and look beautiful. My encouragement to other women is to stay focus, and don’t be discourage by the hardships of life because despite what you may be going through in life, don’t give up.” Aileen said.

Her dream is to one day expand to a level where she can employ other women and pass on her knowledge particularly to other single parents.

Way to go Aileen. God’s richest blessings for your continued success.

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eGov's Community ICT project

The Guyana Foundation has partnered with the Ministry of Public Telecommunications through their community ICT Hub project .Work is on the way to have an ICT Hub established at the Sunrise Center, Zorg-en-Vlygt, Essequibo Coast.


The National Data Management authority/eGov provides the complete solution as the hubs would be fully equipped with both the devices (Laptops) and the provision of internet signal as well.

This would offer the residents of Zorg-en-Vlygt and its environs as well as the participants of the Sunrise Center a golden opportunity as Government moves to put their services online.

Through the Hub, individuals of all walks of life would be allowed free access to the use of the internet in a space that is safe. In her address to community members, Ms. Blackman, the Community Development Officer attached to NDMA's Region No. 2 office shared that this initiative would be beneficial to the community as it opens a door of endless possibilities for residents.

Guyana Foundation sees this partnership as one that would foster the well-rounded development of community members and as a means of increasing access to our programs, as we fulfill our organizational mandate to contribute to the rebuilding of communities.

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Guyana Foundation reaffirming its commitment to transforming the lives of Guyanese

The Guyana Foundation, on Tuesday 10th April 2018, held a Press Conference/Luncheon to update the media and the public on the work of the Foundation and its vision for future projects. This briefing was held in the Conference Room of the New Thriving Restaurant on Main Street, Georgetown where the Trustees of the organisation, the Foundation’s Team from Guyana, Cayman Islands, special invitees and members of the diplomatic corps were in attendance.

The Founder of the organization Supriya Singh-Bodden, in her opening remarks told the audience that the Guyana Foundation began doing primarily charitable projects around Guyana from 2013 to 2014. However, it became evident while working in the villages that Guyana had a serious mental health problem as more and more cases of suicide began to occur. In addition the Foundation encountered countless persons whose lives were torn apart by domestic abuse, alcohol addiction and other substance abuse.

In view of this, the Foundation commissioned research to be done by Serena Coultress of Maastricht University, among others on the causes of suicide in Guyana.

The Foundation changed course to set up its first Sunrise Center. It was named Sunrise in an effort to allow its work to instil hope in persons so that they would want to wake up to see another Sunrise rather than go the dire route of ending their lives.

The Scotiabank Community Programme provided the vital financial assistance that was needed to make the Centre able to provide support services to at-risk individuals. Counselling is provided free of charge to persons. A wide selection of training courses are taught in floral decorations, sewing, cosmetology, computer repairs, IT training and much more. To date more than 150 adults students have graduated from these programmes. More than 300 children also benefitted from after-school programmes as well as a Kids Club. These kids programs provide mentorship to kids in underprivileged troubled homes. Particular emphasis is put on improving their numeracy and literacy skills.

Three of the students who have benefitted from the Sunrise Center programmes, Candace Calistro, Zohise Harris and Nateefa John were invited to tell their stories of how they become involved in the activities of the Centre and how it has transformed them. They were so emotional in expressing their experiences at being hopeless and depressed that it brought tears to the eyes of many persons in the audience but the end-result of their stories brought comfort. They are now well set to move on to a brighter future.

In her brief remarks, Scotiabank Marketing Manager, Ms. Jennifer Cipriani, said that she is working towards offering further assistance to the Guyana Foundation. She said that the stories of the young women made her realise that they did not gave money but hope to many persons. In March 2017, the Scotiabank Community Project donated US$36,000 in funding to assist the organisation in its humanitarian work in Guyana and has again done so this year, 2018.

Trustees of the Guyana Foundation, Stanley Ming and Eric Phillips expressed their appreciation to Scotiabank and the many donors who have assisted and continue to do so. Mrs Che Jian Ping, a Trustee and the owner of the New Thriving restaurants showed her appreciation by hosting the luncheon.  

With additional funding, the Guyana Foundation hopes to continue its efforts to improve the standard of living for Guyanese. In doing so, the organisation wishes to establish more Sunrise Centers on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway, Berbice and other areas in the future. More activities such as sports, music, drama, dance workshops, in addition to those already being offered at the Sunrise Center in Essequibo will be introduced. More bakeries will also be set up in remote communities as women empowerment projects. The Guyana Foundation would also like to assist the Wai Wai and other Indigenous communities to streamline their craft production and transportation issues to enable them to sell their products online which will bring vital income to their villages.

The audience and the Media were served with a special luncheon after the Press Conference.

 Group photo with Team members of the Guyana Foundation and the Sunrise Center with the diplomatic corps.

Group photo with Team members of the Guyana Foundation and the Sunrise Center with the diplomatic corps.

 Members of the Diploamtic Corps

Members of the Diploamtic Corps

 Special invitees and Sunrise Center Team

Special invitees and Sunrise Center Team

 Mrs Che Jian Ping, Trustee of the Guyana Foundation and Owner of the New Thriving Restaurant with Founder of the Guyana Foundation, Supriya Singh-Bodden.

Mrs Che Jian Ping, Trustee of the Guyana Foundation and Owner of the New Thriving Restaurant with Founder of the Guyana Foundation, Supriya Singh-Bodden.

 Mr. Stanley Ming, Trustee of the Guyana Foundation delivering brief remarks.

Mr. Stanley Ming, Trustee of the Guyana Foundation delivering brief remarks.

 Mr. Eric Phillips, Trustee of the Guyana Foundation delivering brief remarks.

Mr. Eric Phillips, Trustee of the Guyana Foundation delivering brief remarks.

 Ms. Jennifer Cipriani, Scotiabank Marketing Manager delivering brief remarks.

Ms. Jennifer Cipriani, Scotiabank Marketing Manager delivering brief remarks.

 Lunch with Special Invitees and the Diploamtic Corps

Lunch with Special Invitees and the Diploamtic Corps

 Candacie Calistro sharing her experiences. Sitting from left are the Child Crae Manager of the Sunrise Center, Madonna Paul, Nateefa John and Zohise Harris.

Candacie Calistro sharing her experiences. Sitting from left are the Child Crae Manager of the Sunrise Center, Madonna Paul, Nateefa John and Zohise Harris.

 Sunrise Center Manager, Miriam Hinds performing, "Back On My Feet Again"

Sunrise Center Manager, Miriam Hinds performing, "Back On My Feet Again"

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Successful Mental Health workshop held at Suddie

As Mental Health continues to be a prime issue of concern in Guyana, particularly the mental health of men, the Guyana Foundation continues in its quest, not only to talk about the problem, but also to be a driving force in the promotion of good Mental Health and Holistic Wellness for all Guyanese. In the year 2017, we commenced a program in partnership with the Guyana Police Force through the Richard Fickal Police College, training new recruits in the area of Mental Health.

On February 27th and 28th, 2018, staff and volunteers of the Guyana Foundation Sunrise Center conducted a two days’ workshop at the Police College at Suddie on the Essequibo Coast. The workshop took the form of group discussions, role plays, introspection exercises and games all with the objective of having a better understanding of Mental Health primarily the mental health of men. The aspiring police officers participated fully in all of the activities where many of them shared some of their own personal struggles not only as it relates to mental health but also to achieving personal success.

Some of the topics covered were as followed; understanding self, benefits of knowing who you are, identifying personal strengths, weakness and values, factors that shapes and build and individuals self-esteem, what does it mean to be successful, setting SMART life goals, the valley of blame and shame how negative life experiences influences the present, understanding cultural norms as it relates to men, understanding mental health, factors that affect and individuals mental health.

Overall, the sessions were a resounding success as persons took time to share what were some of the points throughout the workshop that resonated with them and how they intend to apply the knowledge learnt moving forward in their personal lives and career.

In her closing remarks to the participants, Manager of the Sunrise Center, Ms. Miriam Hinds told the young men, “… if you are going to be successful in the road ahead you first need to deal with those things in your lives that may potentially serve as obstacles to your success. This means that you must be true to who you are and be honest about your feelings.” She further said, “if you are going to be effective in serving others then you must also be willing to be served which mean, if you recognize that you need help then get the help that you need knowing that it will not make you less of a man”. 

The session ended with participants expressing gratitude to the organization. A follow-up session is slated for March 27th where the recites will demonstrate through role play what they would have learnt throughout the two days.

 Sunrise Center Manager, Miriam Hinds poses with staff and volunteers of the center as well as police cadets from the training college.

Sunrise Center Manager, Miriam Hinds poses with staff and volunteers of the center as well as police cadets from the training college.

 Sunrise Center Manager, Miriam Hinds during a role play at one of the workshops.

Sunrise Center Manager, Miriam Hinds during a role play at one of the workshops.

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A BIG Thank You for a Successful Conference

The Guyana Foundation wishes to extend sincere thanks to the Government of Cuba, the University of Medical Sciences, Ciego De Avila, The Rector and all of the professors.

Our appreciation and thanks are extended to The William James College of Global Mental Health, its President and Professors in particular, Jill Bloom, Marie Benessar and Natalie Cort .

A tremendous amount of effort was put into organizing the recently concluded mental health conference in Cuba.

These professional institutions shared completely with the Guyana Foundation a most incredible amount of knowledge on the issues of Child Abuse, Domestic Abuse, Achohol dependency and suicide. We will now continue our training in mental health counselling techniques with them to ensure that our work in the Sunrise Center and the communities is evidence based and more effective.

It was a privildge for us to able to spend this time together. Their committment to humanity is without question. 

We thank our translator, Margherita Alercon; your intellect is astounding. You are a real asset to your country.

We thank H.E. Ambassador Halim Majeed, Guyana's Ambassador to Cuba for supporting us every step of the way. The Guyana Team, Mayte, Dachiel and Ibis was so very supportive. We thank you all.

The Mangement and Staff of Hotel Playa Coco and other attendees who embaraced us like family.

We look forward to another fantastic conference in 2019.

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All We Need is Love! No Health without Mental Health

The Guyana Foundation in Collaboration with the University of Medical Sciences, Ciego De Avila Cuba recently concluded a three day symposium Psicoavila 2018, in Playa Coco, Cuba. The symposium provided a space for professional contributions from Cuba and the USA on the following topics, Alcohol dependency, Domestic Abuse, Child Abuse and Suicide. Many professionals from the field of psychology, medicine, and law spoke at the event. Most of these individuals have publications on the issues presented.

Attending from the University of Havana was Dr. Cristobal Martinez Gomez who spoke on Emotional Intelligence; Dr. Carmen Rey Benguira on Child Abuse; Dr. Leon Marmol Sonora on Neuro Linguistic Programming and Alcohol dependency; and Yeline Ruiz Betancourt on preventing suicide. Presentations on related topics were also made by Dr. Carmen Rey Benguira and Grisel Maria Alonso Gutierrez. In the field of law, Rafael Gonzalez Caballero presented on the legal rights of children.

In attendance and at the invitation of the Guyana Foundation was a team from the William James College for Global Mental Health in the USA, Dr. Jill Betz Bloom, Director of the Global Mental Health Program; Dr Natalie Cort, Director of the Cultural Immersion Program (Guyana); and Mari Bennasar, Director of Latina Mental Health Program. The William James Team explained the work of their college globally and highlighted its Immersion program in Guyana with the Guyana Foundation’s Sunrise Center in Essequibo.

Honorary Presidents of the event were Dr. Angel Batista Diaz, Rector of the University of Medical Sciences, Ciego De Avila and Supriya Singh Bodden, CCH, Founder of the Guyana Foundation.

Delegates were welcomed to the Playa Coco Resort in Cuba where the Guyana Flag was ceremonially raised in the presence of the Guyana Delegation from the Foundation, delegates and Guyana’s Ambassador to Cuba, H.E. Halim Majeed.

The Organizing Committee headed by Nathaly Duenas Lopez, and members Lourdes Alvarez Lopez made excellent arrangements for what was a very successful conference.

In her opening address, Supriya Singh Bodden said, “The issues we are here to understand more fully are just some of the ways humanity is crying out for help. There is no health without mental health. If we are to be truthful to ourselves we would admit that when we hear of these issues they seem too difficult for us to understand and it makes us sad. Many world leaders when asked to comment on issues pertaining to mental health move quickly on to other topics they feel more in control. This has to change. As the poet Rumi said, “We have the spark to start a fire”. I want to understand that to mean that each one of us in this room and beyond has that spark to start a fire of change to bring mental health issues out of the dark and into the light”

The Guyana Foundation is actively engaged through its Sunrise Center, offering mental health counselling in Guyana, thanks to the support and training received from these Universities.

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