[www.inewsguyana.com] – His birth name is Lenox O. Shuffler, known to many as Uncle Leny, L.O., Cucumber Head, and Lenwald. He’s oldish, incredibly funny, patient, loves people, especially the young people, believes in a ‘hand up’ not to be confused with a ‘hand out’. He’s a visionary and creator of the Sports, Education and Culture Train (SECT) Initiative.
Robin Phillips founded the Buxton Youth Developers (BYD) in March 2007, was joined by Lenox Shuffler as Patron and Paulette Charles as Special Advisor, to promote positive change in the community. Rotary Club of Stabroek, Guyana (RCOSG) has provided critical management support and guidance and continues today. BYD’s Mission Statement “Regaining the glory of Buxton through Sports, Education and Culture” and their Motto is “Promoting Friendship – Influencing Change.”
Over the years a fantastic bond of friendship evolved between Robin Phillips Founder and General Administrator (BYD) and Uncle Leny, Patron and Strategic Planner (BYD) that demonstrates their unselfish and dedicated service to the Buxton Youth Developers on a daily basis.
Elements of Sports, Education and Culture are what are BYD and a place of learning that is fun filled for the youth of the community. Yes, Uncle Leny’s vision and Robin’s ability to turn vision into reality through his inimitable way of mobilizing, motivating and moving people into action.
After the history of crime in the community (2002 – 2008) BYD provided positive images of the community and proved that change is possible with creative thinking, collective effort and commitment. At the risk of being contradicted, I would say that the grandmothers and mothers, especially the many single parent mothers decided to take back their community for their children.
The programme began with 30 students, three afternoons a week at the old Buxton Market. It now caters for more than 300. Parent and community involvement have grown significantly and so has children’s attendance and performance at their schools.
With collaboration of the RDC, the Vigilance Community Centre ground was identified and approved for BYD to develop for the benefit of all. Many supporters came on board, the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives built the centre’s building, sanitary block and bleacher stands. The Government of New Zealand raised and sand filled a huge portion of the ground for sports. Digicel, Scotia bank, UNICEF, Toucan Industries, Courts Guyana, Farfan& Mendes, Food for the Poor, Red Entertainment, Grant a Dream; Dr. & Mrs. Radiq Talim and Gord Johns from Canada and others from the Diaspora to name a few other contributors.
This afforded additional classes for school dropouts from 8:00 am – 3:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Ten volunteers conduct these classes which cover Reading, Writing, Math and Social Studies. A community library previously accessible on Tuesdays and Thursdays is now accessible daily and sports sessions are conducted on Saturdays.
In addition to scheduled classes there are regular motivational, life skills and cultural sessions. Larger scale activities are also executed e.g., Annual Christmas parties, Spelling Bees, Literacy Competitions, Anniversary Award Ceremonies, Cultural Pageants, etc.
BYD is managed by its Founder, Robin Phillips, a man with a huge heart and community spirit, volunteer teachers and a management committee.
The BYD literacy initiative is premised on “learning is fun.”
Prior to moving to the new facility, the children learned football way down the line in Buxton, almost getting to the cane fields, on an uneven open spot in the village, filled with ‘cow holes’, but their enthusiasm for the sport and learning were mind blowing, both boys and girls. Mostly for me though was a conversation with one of the volunteers. His name is Percy Miller, I call him Rasta Man, he has the most amazing locks and a gentle soul, he plays for the Rastafarian Football team, he’s a Mason by trade, was at the time working on a construction site in Linden and used to travel home to Buxton two days a week to work with the kids.
A female football team was formed and 11 members of the team were called to East Coast trials with five selected to train for the National team.
The 12 year old that could not read, and after being tutored, stood before her entire group and read a vote of thanks to visitors.
There is an annual cultural pageant with a focus on history and community development issues. The participants then become “ambassadors” and share with their colleagues in facilitated sessions on social issues. They also assist whenever feasible in working with the younger children.
Two female participants were selected in 2008 to represent Guyana at wind ball and athletics.
Two members – one male, one female selected this year to represent Guyana at the Table Tennis championship in the Dominican Republic.
BYD has a positive impact on women as at the time of date collection by the Rotary Club of Stabroek, 65% of the youth participants are from single parent households where that single parent is female. Parents know that their children are learning and playing in a designated safe space and benefiting from structured after school activities.
Fast forward to 2014, seven years later and after many challenges BYD continues to provide a safe place for learning and fun for its children and those of neighbouring communities.
I wish to salute Uncle Leny, L.O., call him what you will….. A true giant and am very proud to have walked and continue to walk this walk with him. He’s like Nike……. Just do it!
Robin Phillips and his amazing volunteers get my big shout out, also RCOSG, the management team, all those who have and continue to support BYD. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have satellites of this model across our beautiful land?
My old people folks used to say “one, one dutty build dam” and they also said “it takes a village to raise a child”, though not quite in those words, but Aunty and Uncle in the village (no blood relative) had the right to discipline us. BYD represents that one, one dutty. Listen to old people everyone. Let’s do our part collectively and while we’re at it, bend, bend and pick up de garbage, better yet put it in your bag until you reach home.
If you’d like more information on BYD, to make a contribution, or get involved, Robin and Uncle Leny would love to hear from you at 686-0457.