Youth mentoring programme launched
Stabroek News
February 16, 2004

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The Volunteer Youth Corps (VYC) has now initiated the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) programme here, making Guyana the 36th member and only South American country to join the international organisation.

Arlene Dinally, coordinator of BBBS Guyana, said that the programme is in its pilot phase and is therefore being executed on a small scale.

She said that if it were successful, it would be administered on a larger scale expanding to many regions of Guyana but that plan would not be implemented in the near future.

There are also BBBS programmes being run in Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago.

The oldest and largest youth mentoring organisation in the United States, Big Brothers Big Sisters Inter-national works to improve the lives of disadvantaged children worldwide.

Potential volunteer mentors are screened, trained and supervised.

Mentors engage in a number of activities with these children, including going to the movies, sports, visiting museums or simply talking.

The pilot phase of this programme is catering to children between the ages of eight to twelve who are at risk, disadvantaged or are affected by HIV/AIDS.

Dinally said that the programme will be administered at four primary schools and five children will be chosen from each of these schools.

St Angela's, St Andrews, St Sidwell's and J.E. Burnham are the schools chosen to participate in this BBBS pilot.

When a child is referred to BBBS, a consent form will be sent to his/her parents. If parents agree, BBBS sets up an interview with them and the child.

At this meeting, the child's needs, background and potential are discussed. The child is then placed on a list to be matched with a mentor who can best improve the child's potential.

According to Dinally, BBBS is recruiting mentors from private and religious organisations only, and will send out letters inviting their staff to get involved in the programme.

When these organisations approve, they are sent forms for volunteers to fill out and return to BBBS. These volunteers are interviewed and if an interview is successful they are selected.

For a candidate to be successful, there are certain criteria that must be met. A volunteer mentor must be over 21 years of age, have a sound educational background, must be willing to commit for at least one school year and must not have any mental illnesses or a criminal record. Upon selection, a candidate is trained and then matched with a child.

The mentoring will be conducted during school hours on the school premises and each mentor has to dedicate at least one hour per week to the child to whom he/she has been assigned.

Dinally said that the aim of the mentor is to work on the strength of these children to help them reach their potential.

She said that based on the results and evaluation of the pilot phase, the programme will be expanded to other schools and the public will be invited to apply for mentoring positions.

The BBBS Guyana is partly sponsored by USAID under the Guyana HIV/AIDS Sex-ually Transmitted Infections (STI) Youth Project.