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‘Achieve’ preparing orphans for ‘Common Entrance’ during COVID-19

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 March 2021, 7:44 by Denis Chabrol

A newly-formed non-governmental organisation is assisting residents of Guyanese orphanages to prepare for the Common Entrance examination and provide counselling services

The organisation is also sounding a public appeal for support.

If you would like to donate to Achieve or volunteer, you can message their Facebook page called “Achieve” or email at [email protected] . All monetary donations will fund counseling sessions. Stationery supplies are also needed.

Achieve is dedicated to offering tutoring and mentoring services to local Guyanese orphanages in hope of helping the children increase their overall score for the Common Entrance Exam and provide counselling to those in need. It was started by 24-year-old, Saleema Haniff, in June 2020. She is a School of the Nations high school graduate who is now continuing her degree in Project Management at Nations University.

Unlike some children outside of the orphanage who can afford after school tutoring and may have access to better books and resources, the children in the orphanages, are not as lucky. Although they do go to school, they are limited based on what the orphanage can afford. Their financial limitations are not only the lack of funding in public schools, but also the lack of funding arriving to their orphanage. They do not have access to private after school lessons, which can help support them in subjects they struggle in or enhance the skills they already have. They also do not have the familial support system to nurture their growth and hence also lack motivation to want to do well. As a result, they are less prepared for their Common Entrance Exams.

Background of Achieve

When asked, what motivated her to start this programme, Ms. Haniff said “During my time as a 6th Form student, we were required to be involved in an extracurricular activity before applying to university. A group of other students and I came up with the idea of spending time at Joshua’s Home every Sunday. We would play games with the kids, help with their homework, and sometimes take gifts for them. Before leaving we would receive a slip from the person in charge of the orphanage stating the time we spent, which we would take back to our teacher. After graduating I would continue to visit the children since I grew a bond with them and I found pleasure in teaching them and seeing them achieve a goal or task. It made me feel a sense of happiness and accomplishment. I remember specifically a young girl named Priya. She would hold my hand the entire time and always called me “miss”. Over the past year, I thought about those kids who I have stopped visiting and wondered how they were doing. I revisited the orphanage and could only recognize a few faces since most of the older children have left; Priya was one of them. I was sad I did not know where she was. I thought for months about how I can help these orphaned children after they have reached the age to leave the orphanage. This is when I came up with the idea of a mentoring/tutoring programme called Achieve. This way they are given a greater chance to excel academically and therefore widen their chances of finding a job or to be motivated to further their studies.”

Ms. Haniff explained that the target group of tutors are students currently enrolled in fifth or sixth form, and hopefully, students currently enrolled in University. If selected to be a tutor, Achieve will ensure that tutors receive a form of appropriate extra credit within their own educational careers, and some form of recognition for being part of the programme. Due to COVID-19, they are unable to implement the programme to 5th and 6th Form students. However, they are currently accepting eligible volunteers to tutor the children at Bless the Children’s Home located at Industry every Saturday. COVID precautions are taken by the orphanage and the volunteers at each session.

Ms. Haniff added that having a shelter and food may be more than some children may have, however there are other fundamental needs that are important for their development. All of the children in the Orphanage came from broken and abusive families. Many have experienced physical abuse, mental abuse, their parents were either addicted to alcohol or drugs or some were simply neglected love and care. Coming from such traumatic backgrounds can affect any individual’s mental health and limit their ability to realize their full potential.

“My aim for this programme is to help Orphaned children achieve a school of their choice. I would love for this programme to be implemented in as many orphanages to help more orphaned children. The 5th and 6th form students will not only benefit from this programme by using it as an extracurricular activity but they can also gain the knowledge and skills needed for teaching. Lastly, to help the children achieve the appropriate mental health help they need to acquire these goals and to become a well-rounded individual. Education not only benefits an individual but can also benefit our country. It is one of the fundamental factors of development.  My hope is to also have this programme more recognize, as we would love to have more volunteers and donations. Education improves the quality of lives by increasing productivity, creativity, and it promotes entrepreneurship. These are all linking factors that can reduce poverty and crime in our country since these are children that will grow up to enter our society.” She said.

Wider Mental Health Support

Achieve has been able to garner wider support from the community in the endeavor. Once such support is that of Ms. Raiza Khan who is a Counselling Psychologist and the owner of Anira Counselling and Psychological Services. One of the main goals for Raiza’s desire to work in the field is to be able to transform not only this generation but future generations in Guyana into healthier families and individuals through therapy and psychoeducational awareness. Raiza has experience working with orphanages in Georgetown as she previously worked with REDbandaid Foundation. An organization geared towards the development of the lives of the orphans and orphanages within Region 4 and Region 6.

Through her work with REDbandaid Foundation and her own professional work as Psychologist she is more than eager to support the Achieve team this year as she understands more than ever the needs of children residing in orphanages in Guyana. Many of the children come from difficult upbringings, whether it is unstable homes, guardian neglect and abuse, poor parental mental health or limited access to educational opportunities or financial support. As with any child, the need for a wholistic plan for support is understood and important for the development of any child’s life.

The programme intends to work with children within the orphanage ages 6-16, where we will work towards addressing and supporting any mental health challenges, emotional needs, behavior modification and educational tutoring. It is understandable that some of these children may suffer with a lack of trust of adults, fear of abandonment, trauma and overall behavioural issues which can make life harder for them as they grow and develop. It is with this hope that more persons who have time to give, compassion in their hearts and a skill to share with these children will come forward and support our cause. We look forward to the continued support by our donors as we embark on these programmes aimed at supporting some of the more vulnerable children of Guyana.