Beacon Foundation entering 22nd year of social work
-hundreds of millions channelled to needy
Stabroek News
January 17, 2007

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The Beacon Foundation says numerous entities and countless individuals have contributed to it being able to embark on its 22nd year of continuous social welfare service but more work is still to be done.

The administration said it has channelled hundreds of millions of dollars from both local and overseas donors into transforming the lives of the country's needy persons. The organization was formed in 1985 when several prominent citizens including businessmen Clairmonte Lye, Vickram `Vic' Oditt, architect Albert Rodrigues, Dr K `Bud' Mangal and Guyana Publications' Inc Managing Director Doreen de Caires, decided that they would start a charitable foundation to help to feed and clothe the poor.

In the organisation's last report Beacon Foundation 20 Years of Service: 1985-2005, Lye said, "The social conditions that existed in Guyana in 1985 can best be described as desperate. Undernourished children, failed medical services, neglect of the indigenous people - these were but a few of the problems of the poor at that time."

The team decided to establish a fast food restaurant to help them to earn the funds they needed to finance the charity. The foundation said, "At first we sought donations from the business community but there was little response." It said "Providentially, CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) provided Beacon with a grant of Can$50,000 to purchase all the equipment for the kitchen and snackettes" and they utilised the expertise of members in the restaurant business to set up a food catering business and used the surplus generated to finance the building costs.

The organisation's first snackette, which was opened in 1987 on rented premises in Water Street, was an immediate success. After that property was bought by John Fernandes Limited, rent free tenure allowed it to reach ten years of service. The foundation's success persuaded the team to venture out once again and a second snackette was opened in February 1988 in Avenue of the Republic on another rent-free site provided by Central Garage Limited. This condition continued for nine years. In June 1990, the third snackette was opened at the foundation site on Carmichael Street and at the same time provided employment for about 100 persons. Hemraj Kissoon, in the report compiled in observance of the foundation's 20th anniversary, said "In view of the Foundation's charitable objectives, "The Kissoon Group of Companies" decided to sell the property in Carmichael Street to the Foundation…" The foundation was then registered in December 1985 as a not-for-profit organisation with all of its members serving on a voluntary basis. This is the only snackette that is still in operation.

Success stories

The Beacon Council of Management also operates a number of social support programmes. In the report, Hospice Nurse Marina Ramsden said, "Following a survey of pavement dwellers to determine their social, physical and emotional needs," the foundation started a night shelter in 1989. The shelter provided separate dormitories for men and women, each equipped with its own sanitary facilities, however, the facility's rules "prevented [residents] from continuing prior relationships, and as the numbers began to dwindle, it was decided to close the shelter."

Beacon also played a role in the formation of the Guyana Cancer Society and today the two collaborate with regard to referral and treatment of cancer patients. Beacon's hospice and medical service started in 1989 and is still in existence. It has provided care for hundreds of terminally ill cancer patients.

The foundation's aid in the health sector also included assistance in drilling shallow water wells in seven Amerindian villages in the North West district following a cholera outbreak in Venezuela.

A woman's support group, an ambulance service, a joint venture to replace a decrepit Children's ward at the Georgetown Public Hospital, a micro-credit programme for small business ventures in the Rupununi and a $25M rice experimental programme are some of the other projects the foundation has spearheaded.

Last year the Ministry of Education asked the foundation to add 20 schools to the cassava bread/peanut butter school feeding programme started in 2004 based on the programmes success in 2005. The report said that if all the schools in the Rupununi are eventually covered, about 200 new jobs (150 to women) would have been created improving the economy of the region by $65M. The Foundation also said that based on its success this project is cited as a model in other countries. The United States Agency for International Development had planned to implement a similar project in Ghana.

The report said all five founder members are still active in the foundation.