Empowering people – JM Christmas appeal

Guyana is a place where poverty often means a lack of opportunities for young people. The desperate lack of jobs has led to two thirds of all university graduates leaving the country.

The Guyana Human Development Centre provides a chance for young people to learn new skills after leaving school improving their chances to find work.

Jesuit Missions is working across the world empowering people to achieve their full potential. You can be a part of this work by supporting them this Christmas!

Among the Jesuits' initiatives in the region, in September, a new programme of bilingual education started being piloted in three nursery schools.

Ten percent of the Guyanese population are of Amerindian heritage and live in the Amazon basin which covers ninety percent of the country. The Jesuits have always played an important role in the lives of the Amerindian communities, which consists of over fifty percent of the total Guyanese Catholics.

A group of parents outside Sawariwau Primary school

Although English is the national language in Guyana, many children from the Amerindian communities grow up speaking an indigenous language, such as Wapishiana or Makushi. This means that when they go to school they have an immediate disadvantage nationally, as they struggle to take in and learn a completely new language.

The new bilingual programme encourages children to learn in Wapishiana simultaneously alongside English when they begin school. This is part of a campaign to preserve the local indigenous Amerindian culture which includes using traditional native stories that the children can relate to as part of their learning.

Stephanie Beech, JM Communications Officer, has recently visited the schools where the project is currently ongoing. “When I spoke to the parents at the schools,” she reports, “they were all very supportive of the programme and said how much quicker their children were settling into school by being able to communicate freely with their teacher in a language that they are comfortable with.”

Angelbert, a villager in Sawariwau where one of the pilot schools is located, and parent to six children says, “As long as I am a villager here, this programme will run, and it will grow. We are not excelling in our primary schools because the type of education they give us is a western way of doing things. Now this Bilingual education is coming from our own people, our own way of doing things, awakening our way of life, our culture and our identity. This is the most important thing for us Wapichan people.”

£18 could pay for one person to attend a six-month programme at the Guyana Human Development Centre
£60 could pay for one trained English teacher in South Sudan
£200 could pay for a high-quality emergency response tent

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