Varqa leadership programme attracts 300 youths

Stabroek News
November 1, 2002

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The fourth Youth Can Move The World (YCMTW) training programme began last weekend with over 300 youths aged 15 to 25, in attendance. They came from all regions of the country including Berbice, the Essequibo Coast, Essequibo Islands, Paramakatoi, Rupununi, Linden, Mahdia, Demerara and Bartica, according to a release from the Varqa Foundation.

Varqa Foundation organised the one-year youth leadership programme in collaboration with IDCE of the University of Guyana. UNICEF and the International Baha’I community funded the programme.

According to the foundation, last weekend was the beginning of a 70-hour training course, spread out over a one-year period. After the training, the youth animators return to their own communities to conduct a similar programme with their peers.

Varqa chairman Dr Brian O’Toole officially opened the programme on Friday last by exhorting the youths to offer an eloquent example of unity in diversity to their peers.

First Lady Uma Jagdeo, although unable to attend, sent a message lauding the programme and its necessity at this time. She urged the youths to use their position to “uplift [their] less fortunate brothers and sisters”. She encouraged those present to reflect on the hatred, destruction and lawlessness which is ‘traumatizing and abusing our children.’ She stated that while there were no magical solutions the way forward is to ‘revive community spirit regardless of creed, race and political affiliation’.

Dr Sreelakshmi Gururaja, Assistant Representative of UNICEF spoke of the devastation that HIV/AIDS has caused worldwide and the need for action at the grassroots level to make a change in habits and attitudes towards sexuality.

Samuel Small, director of the IDCE urged the youths to be the standard bearers of new attitudes and approaches to old problems while Evelyn Hamilton, chairperson of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’i’s of Guyana, challenged the youths to begin the process of “daring to be different”.

Saturday began with an overview of the YCMTW programme, followed by a survey of the participants’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviour towards sexuality and HIV/AIDS. The participants were then trained to gather data from their peers so that 5,000 questionnaires might be completed within the next two months.

In the afternoon, Vidya Kissoon, along with a team of volunteers from Help and Shelter led a discussion on domestic violence issues. Dr Karen Boyle of Eureka Labs then presented an overview of HIV/AIDS.

A follow up session is planned for December 8th from 0930 hrs to 1530 hrs at the School of the Nations.