An 18-member relay squad from Guyana, comprising athletes from the Fort Wellington Secondary School, arrived in the United States on Wednesday to participate in the annual Penn Relay championships, scheduled for this weekend.
Although the team originates from Guyana, it has reportedly received no support from the government of Guyana, but rather a Jamaica alumni association from the United States, through former Guyanese runner, Tanya Barry.
This was revealed by manager of the team, Keisha Burnette, who travelled with the team.
Upon arriving at the JFK International Airport on Wednesday, Burnette unequivocally expressed gratitude to Fly Jamaica and the Jamaica alumni in the U.S., who made it possible for the team’s participation in the championships.
She noted that after a recent visit by Barry and her colleague, Mark Webster, to Guyana, they would have seen the potential of the runners and thought that they stand a chance in the competition.
Ever since, they have been in contact with the sport department within the Education Ministry, but to no avail. She explained that they took a budget to the tune of just over G$4 million for the team members to travel to the U.S., but at the last minute the department informed them that they could not help.
Nevertheless, after the team was selected she said that the ministry promised to assist the children in getting their visas to travel to the U.S.; this again never came through.
“They said they were going to help with the visas first and after we did the application forms for the visas and the 6th was the due date for the payment for the visas. They called us the 5th and say they can’t help us because we received a private letter from Pennslyvania and they say the letter was supposed to be addressed directly to the department of sports, but it came to us from Ms Tanya,” Burnette explained.
This she added was devastating news, but they did not give up. They managed to raise the money to pay for the visa applications, but were also promised by the ministry that after they secured the visas, it will assist with airfares.
“When we get it they say we not registered with the AAG (Athletics Association of Guyana), hence we went there. We got a letter and took it [to] Christopher Jones, but he told us that they can only buy tickets for two athletes out of 18,” Burnette revealed.
After being told that, they approached Fly Jamaica on Tuesday and met with Roxanne Reece, who immediately assisted.
Although the team is in the U.S., it still needs help with transportation from New York to Philadelphia and some additional miscellaneous expenses.
Upon hearing the plight of the team, Roraima Airways Chairman, Gerry Gouveia, as well as Dynamic International Airways extended their support.