Janice Hall, who founded an educational program in Guyana with a vision to help children remain in school and continue to college, while teaching values and conduct, was given a big boost recently from supporters who attended Flavors of the Caribbean, an evening of music, fine cuisine and a raffle-drawing to raised much needed funds to carry on the mission of the not-for-profit organisation.
Despite COVID-19 restriction, patrons showed up, and successfully donated $10,000 during the fun-filled evening, at Catholic War Veterans Post in Bayonne NJ, where Hall also encouraged donors to give a little extra, at the first such charity event since the program was launched in 2019, for youth ages 3 – 5 years old, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or socio-economic status.
According to Hall, while many attendees were compelled to contribute that evening, one very generous donation came from Tony Kissoon, a Guyanese living in Orlando, Florida.
The generous donor, along with other members of the Guyanese Diaspora in Orlando pledged a whopping $2800 and 21 electronic tablets.
“When Janice described the organization’s mission and what they have accomplished so far, I felt compelled to support them as they are a registered 501 (C)(3) Corporation. I am delighted to support such a dynamic group and I will continue to support them,” said Kissoon.
“The support from my community of Bayonne was beyond my wildest expectations. Benefactors traveled from New York and Washington. I never anticipated we would raise so much given $50 a ticket including food and welcome drink, and some entertainment,” said the appreciative humanitarian.
“Everyone had great things to say about the event. It was different — it catered to the audience. We had a mix of Caribbean and American cuisine, and Caribbean entertainment. The audience loved Devon “DaPanist” Atherley on steel pans and singer Andrew Clarke who serenaded the guests.”
“Our guest list included members of other not for profit organizations in Bayonne, the business community, and friends I know I could count on to support us. And they did not disappoint. They were intrigued with our mission, thought it unique and vital.”
“Cindy Sisk Galvin Business Development Officer of the BCB community Bank said, “it was a delightful well-organized affair, the food was delicious, the entertainment was superb and did not detract from the organization’s intent, to raise funds. It was well executed”
“We Are Gutsy, in its mission, will support the mental and emotional wellbeing of Guyana’s youth,” said Hall, director, who was heartened by the response, she received.
“We started in 2019 with 2 schools and 1 youth group but the numbers have increased due to a concerted effort to make everyone aware of our work.”
As part of its Social Emotion Learning, the group hosted a three-day virtual workshop series on Aug. 9, 10 and 12 titled “Refocus and Re-engage,” a free program that was tailored for Guyanese children two to 12 years old, as well as their teachers and caregivers.
The program prepared educators, caregivers, and students to refocus and re-engage into learning, as they get ready to return to school this September.
All participants learned how to utilize Social Emotional Learning techniques (SEL) to work through trauma and re-entry to the classroom after experiencing the pandemic. It focused on mindfulness techniques, fostering a growth mindset, and self-care strategies to aid everyone with reuniting.
“We are dedicated to the group of Guyanese educators, caregivers, and child rights advocates both locally and in the diaspora who are committed to serving the youth of Guyana.”
“Since we began in 2019, we have trained educators and facilitators in Social Emotional Learning (SEL) techniques surrounding our core values of self-reflection, respect, integrity, honesty, resilience, and Ddefense,” said the group.
We are Gutsy, a registered New Jersey organization, is also focused on encouraging children to examine and express their own feelings, that make them self-aware, while building skills in critical thinking. These are some of the attributes that come in handy when they are problem solving, according to We Are Gutsy.
“The program helps children connect their initial thoughts to new ways of doing things,” said Hall, adding that she has been blessed with people who support her work.
“With the support of the Guyana Ministry of Education, we hope to take the program into all the public schools and institutions with children. We’d like to train teachers and other like-minded individuals to assist us to coach the children.”
“We’re hoping to attract other volunteers and young educators who are experienced in working with children and have a passion to assist them to grow into responsible adults,” said Hall.
Carla Meerteens, a Guyanese educator based in New York, is the lead educator and is assisted by a team of qualified educators. They are Director, Desiree Heyliger, Director Dana Mason, Dr. Rose October, Ajiri Joseph, and Jonnel Simon.
The Board of Directors are: Janice Hall, founder and president; Lourdeth Ferguson, secretary; Burnell Mingo, treasurer; Carla Meertens, Nalini Tiwari, Dana Mason, Deanna Butters, and Neil Bacchus.
To learn more, make a donation or volunteer, go to https://wearegutsy.org.