CIOG providing hope for orphans By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
October 1, 2002

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Being a child from a poor family living in a third world country is hard enough. Being an orphan is the ultimate hardship. Some live with relatives and others live on the streets begging for money. For them the future is simply finding the next meal and a place to sleep. Education is a luxury.

But there is help out there. The Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG) has started an orphans programme with the support of Zakaat House of Kuwait through which hundreds of children are able to go to school and live a relatively decent life with their basic needs being provided for.

In an interview with the Stabroek News, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CIOG, Shaikh Moen ul Hack, said the programme was started more than five years ago as a result of a visit by the President of CIOG, Fazeel Ferouz to Kuwait. He said that during his visit Ferouz came in contact with the orphan programme in that country sponsored by Zakaat House, which get sponsors for orphan children through out the world.

Ferouz was invited to submit applications for orphans and on his return to Guyana twenty-three applications were tendered.

Nineteen applications were accepted because the stipulation is that from a family of two orphans, one will be accepted while two are accepted from a family of three. “This prompted the organisation to start a local sponsorship of orphans and hence parallel to the Zakaat House sponsorship we started the local sponsorship,” Moen ul Hack said.

The other reason for the CIOG’s action was that Zakaat House only accepts a child as an orphan according to the Islamic law which is when both parents have died or the father is dead.

He said that there are many cases where the fathers have abandoned the children and the mothers being single parents needed a lot of help. The programme also caters for children who have both parents but the family is experiencing financial difficulties.

To date Zakaat House has sponsored 77 orphans while its local counterpart has sponsored around 261 orphans.

Hack who was assisted during the interview by Shereefa Mohammed the person in charge of the orphan programme, said local sponsors come from Guyana, the Caribbean, North America and the United States. Most of the sponsors are Guyanese who live overseas. The sponsorship entails payment of $3,000 per month per child who receives $2,500 per month while the $500 goes towards administrative expenses which include the travelling of a monitor and the preparation of reports to be submitted to the sponsor. The reports usually include documents such as, school reports, a thank you letter and a recent photograph of the child. These reports are sent to the sponsor two times a year while the same thing is done three times a year to Zakaat House.

In addition, to the financial benefit, Hack, said every year there is a medical check-up for each orphan done by doctors associated with CIOG. In the event of any illness or emergencies the orphans will be admitted to the hospital where they are treated and the bill is borne by the sponsor.

Also each orphan benefits from a monthly supply of medical benefits. The educational programme includes a strict monitoring of the orphan’s academic performance. If there is a need for extra lessons then those extra lessons are paid for by the CIOG and the sponsors. The orphans also benefit from annual education tours around the country. The children over seven years also attend summer camps held during April and the August holidays.

“We have recognised that many orphans are in a very disadvantageous position for several reasons, one because of poverty and the lack of certain main family members who are not around. This places them in a very weak position and this has a negative impact on their school performance, so we have introduced counselling for orphans also, and this is done through their monitors who visit the homes of the orphans often,” Hack said.

Last year the CIOG started to take account of orphans who were living in very deplorable conditions, “some of them had what we would call a box to live in sometimes three orphans and their mother live in one bedroom where everything takes place in that room, their cooking and studying.” As a result the CIOG started to build homes for the orphans and their families and having built three last year has constructed more this year.

At present the total payout per month to the orphans is $800,000 while there is an additional sum also paid out to some fifty-six children awaiting sponsorship. They receive $1200 a month from the CIOG.

“Success stories? Yes we have had many. To date we have had more than 90% passes at Common Entrance.......and we have had more than 70% passes at the CXC examinations,” Hack said.

At the annual fun day held at the Muslim Youth Organisation compound last Saturday, 27 children who were successful in their examinations received bursaries. Hack said some of their female orphans have now married while others are employed at various companies. The males have gone on to pursue higher studies, including vocational training to become qualified mechanics and electricians.

“We can safely say that we have achieved the objective of the orphan programme when a child attains the age of seventeen he or she can stand on their own feet,” the CEO said.

The CIOG is hoping to expand the programme in the direction of financial help as well as free tuition to those who wish to pursue studies at an advanced level.

Currently there is a programme that is called the Islamic Development Bank Scholarship Programme. This is a revolving loan which is given to students pursuing studies in Science or Engineering at the University of Guyana. The loans for tuition and a stipend are offered interest free.

Hack said “The executive of CIOG in the coming year will now be expanding the programme to include non-Muslim children, because we felt that our religion teaches us to be kind to humanity and while most of the contributions may have come from Muslims...there is now this information that we must extend a helping hand to every unfortunate member of our society. Therefore, that will now include children from other religions and denominations.”

He added that children under the programme will not be required to change their faith.