Lifeline celebrates fifth anniversary
Stabroek News
October 23, 2001

From humble beginnings in 1996 in one room with no telephone, Lifeline Counselling Services has grown to become the leading non governmental organisation which addresses HIV and AIDS in Guyana.

Addressing the media at a press conference to mark the organisation?s fifth anniversary Lifeline's Patron Mrs Audrey Glover issued an appeal for the public's support of the annual Phillip Vanderhyden Walk-a-Thon, through active participation and monetary donations.

The event, which is scheduled to take place on October 29, will begin at 6:00 am from the Bank of Guyana building and end at the National Cultural Centre.

Mrs Glover, wife of British High Commissioner, Edward Glover, presented Lifeline with $35,000, part of the proceeds derived from the British High Commission's Shakespeare Film Festival held last week. And Ambassador of the United States to Guyana, Ron Godard donated US$100 towards the effort, which aims at providing care and support for persons living with HIV and AIDS.

Recounting the history of the walk-a-thon and the establishment of Lifeline, Mrs Glover said that the formation of the body was influenced by a meeting between Vanderhyden and professional counsellor and founding member, Dereck Springer. The two of them and others worked with a US Peace Corps volunteer Jennifer Rosenzweig to set up a 'lifeline' for people afflicted with and affected by HIV and AIDS. Vanderhyden had been diagnosed with AIDS in April 1994 and had initially rejected counselling, stating that he was going to die. He finally accepted counselling seven months later, reversed his status to HIV positive and went on to live for another four years. It was his firm belief that counselling provided away from the stigmatised Genito-Urinary Medicine Clinic could make a difference in the lives of people.

Mrs Glover recalled the organisation's humble beginnings on October 22, 1996 with one room minus a telephone and commended its members. "...To date Lifeline has counselled 316 people not only in the office but also by telephone since the installation of a hotline at the end of last year."

According to Glover, Lifeline's aim is to help persons diagnosed with the dreaded virus to choose "personal and social change, ..., and so lead a dignified life."

Glover highlighted the organisation's plan to officially launch a its website in the near future, and noted that the body was currently operating in far flung areas such as Mabaruma and Lethem. In addition to counselling related to HIV and AIDS, the Lifeline also deals with family relationships and matrimonial problems, sexuality and suicide. It conducts education and awareness sessions, provides school uniforms and text books to children orphaned by the disease, some financial support to purchase medicines, food hampers at Christmas and clothing throughout the year.

Speaking to the gathering, Godard endorsed the endeavour and pledged his personal support and that of the US mission.

He stressed, "One important element in addressing the problem is to promote awareness and personal involvement."

The US Ambassador pointed out that AIDS had been a problem in the United States for many years and stated that walk-a-thons had proved to be highly successful in raising awareness.

He reminded that at the recent UN Summit on AIDS, particular attention was paid to the Caribbean.

"Everyone in Guyana needs to be personally involved in order to contribute to banishing this epidemic from the shores of this beautiful country," Godard urged.

Godard and Glover performed the sticking of the beautiful red and white anniversary cake.

Executive Director Jimmy Bhojedat expressed his gratitude for the endowments supplied by various agencies and individuals and indicated that those wishing to participate or give donations may collect sponsorship sheets, call telephone numbers 226-8684 and 231-7289 or visit the office at 354 Cummings Street, Georgetown.

Following the press conference Lifeline held an open day as part of its anniversary celebrations and visitors were given tours of the facility and told about its services.