One hundred and thirty youths from nineteen villages and communities in Region 9 who participated in the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Hinterland Employment Youth Service HEYS Program received an additional financial boost to their respective businesses established under the youth program.
Youths from eleven villages in South Central, Rupununi and eight in Karasabai with existing businesses received their grants Wednesday and Thursday last in Shulinab and Karasabai.
Present at the exercise were Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Permanent Secretary Alfred King (Shulinab), Coordinator of the HEYS Program Junior Williams, Region 9 HEYS Monitor Rohan Bishop and the respective village Toshaos’ and senior councilors.
Minister Garrido-Lowe during her engagement with the youths said she is pleased with the overwhelming response the program has received from villages and youths and is extremely proud of the success stories seen and heard from across the hinterland.
“You being here is a fact and testimony that HEYS has done something for each and every one of you… The APNU/AFC Government has spend on Hinterland Youths alone, close to two billion dollars of tax payer’s money on your development,” the minister stated.
This, according to the Minister is the reason the youths must capitalize fully on the opportunity which will ensure they receive “the good life promised”.
The Minister explained to the youths that in order for them to see success, “you will pass through bumps and cracks and a lot of things before you achieve your dreams; it makes you a stronger person, a wiser person, better able to cope with life.”
In commending the youth for their discipline and commitment, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Alfred King believes the “HEYS program now after two cohorts is now considered a program of choice for young people in almost every indigenous community that we go to and also considered a household name in any part of Guyana”.
Mr. King noted too that “when you say HEYS people can identify with it, and what it is doing for young people, can identify with the impact the program is making on the lives of villages and the lives of the young people. We are proud of it because it provides you with training in good life skills which is a big thing, provide vocational skills training and the entrepreneurship training or business training which are all necessary and critical to improve your lives”.
Angella James a participant from Sand Creek Village said she received tremendous support and was economically empowered after joining the HEYS program after “starting in my yard at home with a little kitchen garden and now I’m making a small ranch for myself and I am very proud of what I am doing”.
“I really want to thank you Minister and the Government for the business that I have and I can say that people in my village wanted me to work, but I tell them that you all cannot pay me like how I’m earning in my house from the HEYS Program” said Dianne George from Katoonarib Village.
One of the young men joining the program from Sawariwau Village Ezra Williams said, “before the HEYS I was just gaffing, I didn’t have no skills that I could have maintained a business, but when this program was introduced to my community through the facilitator Mr. Cedrick, he was the one to build up our financial capacities and leadership as well. Now I’m really trying with pig rearing and it is coming up good. Thanks to the Ministry for bringing up this program to the youths in my community because they didn’t had anything too but now they have a business”.
Sharing her experience after joining the HEYS Program Shulinab’s Marisa Paulo said “I sell motorbike parts and gasoline. Before I started the HEYS program I didn’t had anything to do but then I started my little business I had a little downfall but it picked up back and its ongoing right now”.
A very vocal Gerald Johnny from Toushida Village said “I would like to say a great, great thanks to the government for giving us this opportunity. I’m now thirty two and for thirty years, I was struggling for a job and opportunity in my days in my home and today I have learnt many things that I haven’t learn before. I take the six month training and put it to action. In my village it was hard you couldn’t make a profit so I looked for something that could bring in profit for me. So I double up everything from the grant and the HEYS stipend and I start up poultry, then sheep, but the transportation was the main thing that used to beat us through the Mountain. So I started selling sheep one, one and chicken, that’s how I bought my two wheel (motor cycle). I use to also live in a leaf house and from that same money I invest and I buy zinc and start up my building, and I still got my chicken and sheep and my transportation”.
Tipuri’s Karen Johnson said her entire village “is grateful for this HEYS program which give us an opportunity to learning skills like sewing, cooking and carpentry. I must say that we have our own jobs in our villages and our businesses are all successful. Before HEYS I was unemployed and didn’t know what to do, then the opportunity presented itself and I took it and with the fifty thousand dollars grant we will be receiving today we will be expanding our businesses”.
Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Sydney Allicock, Minister Garrido-Lowe, other senior staff in the Ministry and the HEYS staff have all been travelling to the respective regions where a fifty thousand dollars grant is given to youths with existing businesses to support their initiatives.
This exercise has been receiving rave reviews since youths are speaking candidly on how the HEYS program also referred to an “irreversible movement” has positively changed the trajectory of their lives.
Meanwhile, the Ministry has been evaluating the program and from all indications the success stories are compelling and already villages have been lobbying to have a third cohort.