$9.3M children's counselling centre handed over
Stabroek News
July 20, 2002

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SIMAP formally handed over a $9.3 million building to house a counselling centre to the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security yesterday.

The Counselling Centre in the Palms Compound on Brickdam is already in use and 35 children yesterday also completed a two-week counselling programme there. They were drawn from the Cheshire Home at Mahaica and some were on probation and others from the street.

The children were present at the formal handing over ceremony at which Minister within the Ministry of Labour, Human Service and Social Security, Bibi Shadick and Social Impact Amelioration Programme (SIMAP) Executive Director Harry Nawbatt, officiated.

Nawbatt described the project as being a unique one for SIMAP, known for building and rehabilitating schools. When the National Commission on the Rights of the Child (NCRC) approached SIMAP to fund the project, he said, SIMAP readily agreed as research indicated that the street children population was growing.

He commended the volunteers who continue to give freely of their time and services and the bakery, which continues to provide meals, and encouraged others to get on board in assisting the drop-in and counselling centres.

In brief remarks Shadick said that the building was sorely needed in the community. She added that while the NCRC put forward the project proposal to SIMAP, the building would not be used by the NCRC as an office. The Probation and Family Welfare Department would now be able to conduct its counselling and rehabilitation programmes in a better facility. Previously the drop-in-centre was housed in the Sacred Heart Church compound for which, she said, rent was paid.

Shadick said that now that SIMAP has completed the top flat of the building, the ministry would approach the agency for more funding to enclose the open space below the building so that other activities could be conducted there.

Stating that "we live in difficult times now" in which "our country seems to have lost all morals and people don't have any values anymore," she said, the ministry was trying to revive those values, including peace and love for society, in the children.

While poverty might be the reason many children were on the street, she said, it was not the only cause. Some street children, she said, came from very good families and ran away from home for a number of reasons including discipline. In an invited comment, Deputy Chief Probation and Family Welfare Officer, Patricia Gray, told Stabroek News that while she could not give an exact figure of the number of children living on the streets, between seven to 15 children, all boys, visit the Drop-in-Centre on a daily basis. The Drop-in-Centre, with the entrance on Hadfield Street, is located behind the Counselling Centre. So far, no more than 11 at any one time has stayed there for a night. The children visiting the centre are between the ages of ten and 16 years old.

The centre also offers counselling sessions for parents. And Gray said this was necessary, if the children were to be reintegrated into the home with the minimum of stress. She noted that the response to the first two-week counselling programme was good and another session for children was being planned. She said that there had been more applicants than the required 35 so that some children had to be put on a waiting list.