$46M NBS counselling centre to open by end of month By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
August 11, 2003

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A national counselling centre, built by the New Building Society (NBS) at a cost of $46 million to aid in reducing suicide, substance abuse, HIV/ AIDS and forms of domestic violence, is to be opened shortly at Port Mourant.

Director/Secretary of the NBS, Maurice Arjoon in an interview on Friday told Stabroek News that the East Berbice/Corentyne centre will be managed by a board of directors which has been named. The board had its first meeting to plan the opening and operations of the centre. It is due to meet again shortly to plan the official opening which is tentatively due by August 30.

Those represented on the board are the New Building Society; the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security; the Ministry of Education; the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport; the Regional Democratic Council of Region Six; Non-Governmental Organisations; representatives of religious bodies; the Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Industry; the University of Guyana - Berbice Campus; the Guyana Police Force and the Berbice Medical Association.

The government is to furnish the building and Stabroek News understands that furnishings have already been bought.

The centre, which is L-shaped and has a courtyard and caretaker’s residence, is 3,500 sq ft in size and is found at the back of the Port Mourant Hospital.

It has among its facilities an office for a psychiatrist, six individual counselling rooms, two rooms for group counselling, a conference room, administrative block, outdoor and indoor waiting rooms, a cafeteria and staff room. Its facilities also make provision for persons with physical disabilities.

The project, Arjoon said, was conceptualised in 2000 as a 60th anniversary undertaking for the NBS. He recalled that for the Society’s 60th anniversary celebrations, it undertook several activities and while decisions were being made it was noted that there was a high incidence of suicide in the country, especially in the Berbice area. The Health Ministry has labelled suicide as a national crisis.

Arjoon said he discussed the idea with then Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Indra Chandarpal and Dr Wesley Stepp of the Bible Institute in the USA initially. Further discussions were held with the Chairman of the NBS Board of Directors, Ramdial Bhook-mohan, who bought the idea. The idea was then further discussed with the Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy.

Once the decision was taken the Society’s architect, Albert Rodrigues, was called in and he designed the building. The contractor hired for the job was Michael Guyadin of Guyadin Construction Company.

Arjoon recalled that initially there had been a suggestion that the centre be built at nearby Baboo John but the location was too distant from the main road. There was also another suggestion that a building be rehabilitated for the purpose but that, too, fell through.

The decision to build at the back of the Port Mourant Hospital thereby making the facility accessible through the hospital was meant to give privacy to persons desirous of visiting the centre and to put it within the reach of all.

He said that Berbice was chosen as the location to build the centre because of the high incidence of suicide in that area but it will also cater for persons from all over the country.

The name of the centre is still to be decided on. Among the suggestions mooted were the `Health and Wellness Cen-tre’ suggested by the Ministry of Health and the `National Health and Counselling Cen-tre’ put forward by the NBS.

The Society, too, Arjoon said was committed to the maintenance of the building. He said that the bank would not construct a building and not contribute to its maintenance.

Other 60th anniversary projects included the refurbishing of the Linden centre for children with physical disabilities and the Anna Regina Community Centre on the Essequibo Coast.

Arjoon described the Society as a good corporate citizen which puts back its profits into the Guyanese community which supports it. Last year he noted that the Society, which is headquartered in Georgetown and has branches in Berbice, Linden and on the Essequibo Coast, contributed some $6 million to charitable organisations and sporting activities among other areas.

The Society has funded the construction of a Hall of Residence, at a cost of $36 million for out-of-town students at the University of Guyana and has maintained it. Prior to the February 23 jail-break last year the bank donated six vehicles to the Guyana Police Force to help in its bid to fight crime. Arjoon recalled, too, that during a period when the economy had slumped, the NBS printed 500,000 exercise books for the government for free distribution. At another period when there was a water crisis in the city, the Society sank a well to aid in water supply.

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