Georgetown, Guyana – (August 15, 2017) The Small Business Bureau of the Ministry of Business and the Republic Bank Limited Guyana, today, engaged over 150 youths from 23 communities of Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo (Region Nine) in various areas such as identifying business opportunities, applying for funding and loans and how to grow a successful business. This activity was part of the Ministry of Social Cohesion’s Inter-Village Exchange, which commenced on Sunday but formally launched yesterday by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo. The week-long event will conclude on Saturday.

Technical Officer at the Ministry of Social Cohesion, Mr. Shameer Ally, in an invited comment today, said that the engagements with the Small Business Bureau and the Bank are geared at giving the young people of the region, a chance at identifying opportunities in their communities which can launch them into entrepreneurship. Further, he noted that this can improve their livelihoods and by extension, their communities.

“We are promoting a whole host of activities to foster social cohesion so that people understand both in a practical and a classroom setting. We are hoping that we can create an enabling environment to promote trust, unity, equity, equality and appreciation for diversity. We are also hoping to develop the capacity of the young people at the community level individually, which will help them with self-growth and livelihood and economic development in the long term. At the end of it their community becomes developed,” he said.

Mr. Ally also noted that the Ministry is also hoping to build a cadre of young people in all of the communities who will help to promote the Ministry’s message of social cohesion and respect for their communities. He said that as part of the sessions, the participants are being taught how they can identify and capitalise on business opportunities in the various communities, how to access a grant and financing and how can they tap into the opportunities that are available.

Programme Coordinator at the Ministry of Social Cohesion, Ms. Sharon Patterson, said that the idea derived out of the Strategic Plan, which was developed by the Ministry through countrywide consultations. She noted that the activities at the camp will be focused on educating the participants on the role of social cohesion in nation building and building their capacity to foster inclusivity and unity in their communities.

The youths will be provided with additional information on topics including the importance of education, career opportunities in various fields, business opportunities at the community level, youth and the law, as well as social issues such as Trafficking in Persons (TIPs) and domestic violence, which will be facilitated by representatives from Government agencies, educational institutions and businesses.

The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the Guyana Police Force have confirmed their participation and will engage the participants on the opportunities, which are available in their respective organisations. The Ministry of Public Health will also be sending its Adolescent Health team and the Ministry of Social Protection will have a presence at the activities as well.

Leroy Hendricks, a participant who hails from Lethem, praised the initiative as he noted that it will go a long way in creating a feeling of inclusiveness among the youths in the region, thereby encouraging them to participate in the process of achieving social cohesion.

“It is something that has been lacking in Guyana. I think will probably help to break barriers and make us feel like we belong and that we are not divided into this group and that group. It is a really good initiative. Social cohesion is really important to Guyana but how do we get there? It takes one step; it takes one person to make a small steps and then we make small steps from there and with this, I think a few years from now, we will see a better Guyana,” he said.

Mr. Khan Brown, a resident of Masekenari, who is also participating in the week-long programme, said that the programme is one, which must be commended as it engages youths not only in the Ministry’s work but also equip them with skills for personal development.

“It is very interesting. I am learning a lot of things that I haven’t experienced before. I believe that it is important that we work together because it is going to bring people together; where people are far apart, we must bring them together so that we can have a cohesive society in the end, initiatives such as these will really go a long way in helping us to achieve that,” he said.

Ms. Alice McDonald said that she is hoping to take the experiences and lessons learnt back to her village so that she can educate her fellow residents. “I am hoping to go back to my community and share my experiences. If you have a vision, then we have a mission so it is important that we work together to reach the goals we have set out,” she said.

The programme was launched on Monday by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo at the St. Ignatius Secondary School. During his address, the Prime Minister encouraged the participants to remember their responsibility to their country even as he urged them to find their purpose and work towards its achievement.

Prime Minister Nagamootoo told the youths that they are an integral part of the country and they must therefore use their numbers and voices to effect the change they would like to see in their nation, especially as it relates to national unity and nation building.

“You are brilliant and you could place yourself in the midst of the revolution for change in Guyana and in the world, so claim your space, you start here with this inter-village movement,” Prime Minister Nagamootoo said.

Minister of Social Cohesion, Dr. George Norton, who delivered brief remarks, urged the youths to take full advantage of the programme that will not only empower them but has the potential to begin the social cohesion movement. Minister Norton noted that while Guyana is blessed with six races and no religious wars, there is still more to be done to move the country forward. Social cohesion, will therefore aid this process, he said.

“Through this programme the youths will be better positioned to develop themselves personally, as well as to contribute towards the development of all the communities that are here today. There is no doubt that the future of our country lies in the hands of the youths,” Minister Norton said.

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