By Lakhram Bhagirat
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted not just the economic and social aspects of society but it has deeply affected the mental well-being of everyone. The idea of being holed up in our homes is one that causes a lot of undue stress.
Children, ‘on a regular’, have great difficulties in articulating their emotions because that is even a great task for fully-grown adults.
The Give Another Chance Foundation (GACF) has been focusing on the mental well-being of children, encouraging them to articulate their feelings through the promotion of Emotional Intelligence or EQ, as it is also known which stands for emotional quotient.
GACF President Alechia Amos, Founder Miranda Thakur-Deen and Director Terrence Jaskaran recently sat down with Guyana Times and they discussed the importance of the work they have been doing.
The organisation runs its programmes under four pillars – Good Health and Well-Being, Ray of Hope for Generation Good, Give Another Chance, and Access to Quality Education. The EQ component can be categorised as part of every pillar of the GACF’s work. GACF was birthed from the concept of charity begins at home. Though it has been in existence for just over 10 years, GACF’s principals have been engaged in charity work for much longer.
Thakur-Deen founded GACF to supplement the work she had been doing throughout Guyana. The non-profit Non-Governmental Organisation has a track record for helping to improve the lives of children across the country.
GACF is committed to helping to provide education from pre-school to university, and health care to underprivileged children in rural and urban communities. It is the belief of the organisation that whether you are addressing health care, poverty, population control, unemployment or human rights, there is no better place to start than in the corridors of education. According to the GACF Facebook page, the vision is to provide children and young adults with the building blocks for a better future.
With mindfulness and the courage to make a change, the Foundation has accepted that responsibility. Its main aim is to provide children and young adults with the necessary resources and tools to ensure that they have the chance to evolve into productive citizens.
According to PsychCentral, Emotional Intelligence is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathise with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.
Emotional Intelligence helps you build stronger relationships, succeed at school and work, and achieve your career and personal goals. It can also help you to connect with your feelings, turn intention into action, and make informed decisions about what matters most to you.
GACF’s President explained that when the idea of promoting EQ was raised as one of the projects of the organisation, it did not initially find favour with the trustees, but the persistence of its founder saw the Board acceding.
“This year is our third year that we had EQ activities. We would usually carry it out a day before World Children’s Day or a day after because the day would usually fall on a school day. The schools have embraced it and what our celebration would include was a walk from Parliament Buildings to Burnham Court and our children would have placards saying ‘love yourself’ and other things,” she explained.
The overall purpose and benefit of promoting EQ is to help children understand their emotions and, according to Amos, the organisation believes that if it plays its part in nurturing children from a tender age, that could result in a generation of strength and positivity.
“EQ is understanding oneself and emotions, thinking positively and diffusing conflict, communicating with others, expressing empathy. These are the things we want our kids to learn and to know because of late we find that there is a lot of conflict on our schools. Now with COVID-19, you see the real purpose of EQ because depression and metal health are real. EQ also assists parents in understanding the emotions so that they could relate to their children,” Amos said.
The organisation is actively working on getting EQ to be incorporated into the school curriculum, and has since met with Director of the Child Care and Protection Agency, Ann Greene and Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr Vindhya Persaud whereby they are working on proposals to achieve same.
Because of the COVID-19 guidelines, GACF for 2020 shifted all of its activities online utilising virtual platforms. It could not have hosted its annual EQ walk so the organisation shifted online and had various townhall-styled meetings, training seminars and workshops for members and invitees.
Though not a sizable NGO, its reach this year was vast, since its activities included participants from the Ministry of Education, UNICEF, University of Guyana, First Lady Arya Ali and experts on EQ.
“Our focus is children, but this also plays a great deal in adults’ lives, because many of us are brought up in environments where our parents don’t teach us how to manage our emotions and how to feel. With the crisis of suicide, EQ could greatly assist in that because it is finding oneself, understanding one’s emotions and to know that there is more to life,” Amos posited.
In addition to its plethora of programmes, the GACF is also introducing free lessons for Grades Five and Six students who are behind owing to their lack of access to virtual means of learning. The programme will be introduced this month in the East Ruimveldt and Tuschen areas.
Founder Thakur-Deen related that even with COVID-19 pulling the curtains on the various fundraising events and limiting donors’ contributions, GACF still distributed over 600 gifts to children across the country.
Adhering to the strict COVID-19 guidelines, GACF held its annual Christmas tree light-up on Wakenaam Island, where it was joined by representatives of the Government.
“We knew that we wanted to light up Christmas tree. We knew we wanted to share gifts with experiencing what the children would have gone through for the past nine months. For us, we said we are going to do it small, because we knew the economic challenges of some of our donors so we said we are not going to pressure them for donations. We knew that this is the least you can do for the kids this Christmas after all they went through,” Thakur-Deen said.
“We had to cut out our fundraising totally. We would do fundraising by selling food, having a little bar, have attractions for the kids and that for the past five years have been able to give us a $300,000-$400,000 profit that we look forward to because that takes us into the next year to start our Access to Education backpack initiative and our lessons that we would pay for children,” she added.
The GACF continues to work on expanding its four pillars to ensure the better life of all children across Guyana.