NGO activity in Guyana: The Christian Children's Fund of Great Britain, Guyana
By Cecilia McAlmont
June 14, 2001
The Christian Children's Fund was founded as the Chinese Children's Fund in 1938 from a base in Richmond, Virginia. Over the following thirty years, it extended its programme from China to other parts of Asia and Latin America and was subsequently incorporated as the Christian Children's Fund (CCF) Inc. of Virginia. The Christian Children's Fund of Great Britain (CCFGB) is the parent body of the local organization, the CCFGB, Guyana. It was founded in 1983 as an independent British charity in affiliation with CCF Inc. Initially, CCFGB took sponsorships wholly in CCF Inc.'s programmes, but by 1990 60 percent of its charitable activities were in respect of its own programmes. These were being done parallel to their support of CCF Inc.'s programmes in Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. The association with CCF Inc. was terminated in June 2000.
The Christian Children's Fund of Great Britain.
The work of the CCFGB is recognized by the United Nations. Indeed, the charity actively promotes and implements the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN International Declaration on the Rights of the Child. It supports any child in need regardless of race, religion or sex. Although the roots of the charity are in Christian ethical principles, it is non?denominational and has no formal relationship with any one church. The child is the focus of the organization's long?term development programme. However, it also benefits the child's family and community and encourages self?reliance. The eventual aim is to leave a community able to continue without CCFGB support. The charity obtains its funds chiefly through sponsorship of children by individuals. Children who are sponsored enter the programme only with the consent of their parents. Parents are interviewed and visits are made to the homes to see the home situation. When a child is sponsored, the sponsor sends 15 pounds each month for the child, which is used for designated activities.
The origins and activities of CCFGB, Guyana
The implementation of the ERP in Guyana in mid 1988, reinforced by the free and fair elections of October 1992, created a facilitating environment for the resurgence of national and international NGO activity in Guyana. The severe impact of the Structural Adjustment policies made Guyanese women and children among the most vulnerable and created an ideal environment for the work of CCFGB. After a preliminary survey, it was decided to concentrate its efforts on the catchment area of Houston and Bagotstown, with its first project in Agricola. In May 1995, the Agricola Family Helper Project was established.
In collaboration with the PTA of the Agricola and St Ann's primary schools, feeding programmes were started for the schools' 250 pupils, of whom 94 became, sponsored children. A Thrift Society Account was opened for each sponsored child. For each month that the child is in the programme $200 is saved for them. This money is released in an emergency or when the child graduates from primary school and is ready to enter secondary school. At the beginning of each school year, students are provided with new school uniforms, including footwear. If the sponsored child goes on to secondary school, and almost all of them begin secondary school, a Globe Trust Investment Account with an initial sum of $2,000 is opened for the child. Every deposit of $300 made for that child by the parents is matched. That money becomes available when the sponsored child reaches 18. The money can also be used to purchase school equipment and pay examination fees. This allows both parent and child to recognize the importance and value of saving regularly. At the request of the parents, an enrichment programme was sponsored for the children. Its activities allowed the children to express themselves through drawing, painting, sewing and other recreational activities and quickly evolved into the Shining Stars Youth Club.
It was recognized that because many of the children were from female?headed households, their continued well?being ultimately depended on the situation of their mothers. As a result, support has been given to several income?generating and other activities identified by the women, including talks on parenting and other related issues.
Based on the initial success of the Agricola project, in 1999, the East La Penitence Family Helper Project was established. As in Agricola, the heads of the primary and nursery schools and the PTA were used as focal points and similar activities are being implemented. Additionally, in both communities there is a significant focus on health. Sponsored children get dental checks and other health checks from the MEDEX. From the experience learned from the Agricola project, it was decided that "extra money gifts" donated outside the monthly sponsorship payment would be pooled at project level to create a "Pooled Gift Fund" so that all enrolled in the project could receive a present.
After nearly four years of operation in Guyana, CCFGB recognized that the continued success of its Guyana branch necessitated the fashioning of programmes, which suit the cultural environment in which it operates. Therefore in 1999?2000, the organization became involved in an in?depth needs analysis to see how the communities' needs had changed and to what extent its current programmes were addressing those needs. CCFGB also undertook a feasibility study with a view to extending its work to other areas, including a hinterland community. Yupukari in Region Nine was identified as the hinterland community in which CCFGB, Guyana would undertake its next intervention. Three?year plans were also developed for the Agricola and East La Penitence communities.
In 1998, CCFGB had developed a three?year plan for Guyana which included, among other things, the development or reinforcement of basic services, especially in regards to health, nutrition, education and income generation, that would effectively and efficiently meet the needs of the members of the community. It was also felt that there was a need to encourage young people to become involved in more meaningful activities that would enhance their educational and social development. These decisions were supported by the findings of the needs analysis.
In addition to the continuation of the existing programme, parents requested the reintroduction of the feeding programmes which had been phased out. However, the new programme would necessitate the involvement of all parents to plant a kitchen garden to grow the vegetables for the meals. Mothers have undertaken to do the preparation of the meals. CCFGB will only provide bulk cooking gas, rice, sugar and oil. Parents also requested help for their children in English and Mathematics. As a result, three months ago the "skills for success programme" was launched in collaboration with the University of Guyana's Institute of Distance and Continuing Education.
CCFGB, Guyana hopes to launch two other programmes in the new school year. These include the reintroduction in the three schools of Music Education which, it is agreed, has the ability to enhance the children's ability to learn. The programme also envisages beefing up the libraries. Teachers for the libraries and music teachers will be identified and trained with assistance from the Ministry of Education. Also in September, there is a plan to introduce Information Technology in the three schools. Each school will be provided initially with three computers for use by six to ten?year olds. Each succeeding year three more computers will be added until each school has 15 computers. The Ministry of Education will provide security and help with the training of the teachers.
The Yupukari project will be the first CCFGB grant project in Guyana. The plan is to construct 50 pit latrines for the estimated 500 persons in the community. The project will be undertaken in collaboration with community health officers from the Ministry of Health/GAHEF, who will train the community in their proper use.
To date 800 children from Agricola and East La Penitence have benefited from the CCFGB, Guyana programmes. In September another 91 children, consisting of three groups from the three target primary schools, will go on to secondary school and join the 70 already benefiting from the Globe Trust Investment Account. However, most of the children attend the Community High School and there is a very high drop out rate after the first year. Additionally, illiteracy and functional illiteracy, poor health status, teenage pregnancy and high unemployment and underemployment of the mothers are still endemic in the communities. CCFGB has indicated its determination to continue its efforts to improve the quality of life of the residents of the two communities. To this end, it is now moving its operations to larger premises. It is also soliciting assistance from SIMAP to construct a multi?purpose centre on land donated to it. CCFGB has also joined the NGO Forum with a view to networking and collaborating with other NGOs which can assist it in its goals.
However, the continued neglect of children and their mothers and unrest in poor, marginalised communities throughout Guyana send a chilling message. It is an indication that not only CCFGB, Guyana but also all NGOS must rethink their strategies and the nature and scope of their interventions. If not, the children, in particular, will not get the opportunity to live up to their potential.