Radio Paiwomak crackles across the Rupununi savannahs by Johann Earle
Stabroek News
March 27, 2003

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Radio Paiwomak, a community radio station which serves about thirteen Amerindian communities in the Rupununi, is helping to bring residents together and preserve cultural heritage.

The FM station produces and broadcasts programmes that promote the themes of education and conservation.

The modest broadcast studio of Radio Paiwomak is located in the North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB) building at Bena Hill, Annai, and is run by a small volunteer team comprising Rocky Van Long, Adam Nash, Norbert Salty, Ellen David, Paul Nash and Virgil Harding, who heads the team.

Radio Paiwomak came to fruition two years ago after members of the broadcast team attended radio production workshops in Trinidad. Some amount of training was also given by the Guyana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC).

Harding told Stabroek News that programmes covered topics such as health, quiz shows and broadcasts to schools. Programmes focusing on environmental awareness are also produced.

The station's aim is to create a strong link with the communities, which it hopes to achieve by promoting the teaching of the Makushi language on air.

Using the frequency of 97.1 FM, Radio Paiwomak is able to have an 18 mile broadcast radius with the aid of a 25 watt transmitter.

Ellen David, who was once a teacher, said that she is involved in Makushi language teaching. She told Stabroek News that the station operates under GBC's license and is on the air every day from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm and every Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6:00 am to 8:00 am.

According to David, personnel from GBC make monthly visits to monitor the operations and the station reports to GBC on a monthly basis.

The station accommodates schoolchildren from the surrounding communities making visits to the studio as well. These children may sometimes give performances in song and poetry which are broadcast live.

The word 'Paiwomak' is an acronym derived from 'Pakaraima Mountains' (PA), 'Iwokrama Mountains' (IWO) and 'Makarapan Mountains' (MAK), all of which are in the Rupununi.

The station sometimes attracts advertisements from businesses in the area.

At a conference on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) held on February 6 at the Caricom Secretariat in Georgetown, a case was made for community radio.

It was found that radio is low-cost and is therefore the most practical option for significant communication. Because of this advantage, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) examined radio with a view to harnessing the medium to promote Caribbean identity and culture. It was said, too, that radio provides a mechanism for people to speak to each other.

Radio Paiwomak was mentioned at this forum as a model for community radio.

The Caricom study had concluded that because Caribbean people lived in a global setting, they must carve out their own spaces to deliver their own messages.

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