Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Exploring Possibilities in Guyana

Pat Jordon-Langford, our board member, chairs the Tri-State Guyana Alliance. She, Pranav Gupta and I attended a breakfast honoring Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo. President Jagdeo stated in his speech that he was convinced that the Guyanese government needed to begin to partner more with NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) to address the needs of Guyana’s children. He would be willing to give an NGO control of a governmental institution such an orphanage and provide that NGO with food and funding, if he received a proposal. He agreed to meet with me and others from OI in January 2005 during the next scheduled board trip to Georgetown. On my previous trip to Guyana, I had also had the chance to meet with former president Janet Jagen.

Guyana already had five OI Child Sponsors in the United States waiting to support five children, proof that our supporters here in the U.S. believe strongly in our organization. What we didn’t have were homes, houseparents, and children.

The Guyana Committee, currently headed by Pat Jordon-Langford, was founded by Claud Leandro and Patrick Stephens. Pat plays an influential role in the Guyanese-American community in New York and was a presenter at the Orphans International World Congress in Indonesia. OI Guyana in Georgetown was organized by Justice Harper, now deceased, and the board now includes the renowned journalist Francis Farrier. Our NGO partners in Guyana include Project A.I.M. H.I.G.H., founded by OI America board member Yudy Persaud, M.D., and Promise to Guyana, founded by our good friend Dhiraj Singh.

The Guyana Committee, the largest committee within OI America, has over the years included Guyanese Consul General Brentnold Evans, Rozanna Ali-Beaumont, Ron Bobb-Semple, Phyllis Cort, Rupert Cort, Elizabeth Gonsalves, Lynette Hinds, R.N., Yvonne Marcus, Yudy Persaud, M.D., Dhiraj Singh, Pritha Singh, Jewel Thomas, and the City of Mount Vernon Comptroller Maureen Walker.

In August of 2004, Hon. Justice Rudolph Harper, a respected judge in Georgetown, agreed to chair OI Guyana, and we were prepared to travel down to meet with him the following January. But just before our November 2004 benefit he died in an accident, and our benefit program noted with sadness his passing.

Land in Guyana

Businessman, humanitarian, world-class motorcycle racer, father of four beautiful children, and member of Guyana’s parliament, the Hon. Stanley Ming flew to New York City at Christmas to meet with me and the OI America Guyana Committee at the home of Committee Chair Pat Jordon-Langford. Here he announced his gift of 20 acres to begin the campus of OI Guyana.

This property is in Parika, at the mouth of the Essequibo River, the fifth largest river in the world. The area is known as “The Gateway to Guyana,” and is twenty miles from Georgetown, the capital. The area is scheduled to join the electrical grid in 2006, but this may be delayed; our initial home, the Doreen Nurse House, will need to generate its own electricity. Fortunately, the area does have access to the water main.

The Essequibo River, which will run by OI Guyana,
is 21 miles wide at its mouth.

Approximately half of Mr. Ming’s tract of land went to OI Guyana, and the other half to Habitat for Humanity Guyana. “The importance of this gift cannot be overstated. This is the first case of receiving cooperation from the private sector and sets an example for all of our project nations,” stated OIA Guyana Committee chair Pat Jordon-Langford the OIWW World Congress I.

I was pleased that this was the second land gift that we had received. The first was announced in November 2003 during our Second Annual Benefit at the Americas Society by my old friend Rick Respicio, who generously contributed his family’s farm in Luzon in the northern Philippines. We are currently discussing a third gift, a family farm from a Thai family who wishes to build a large pediatric rehabilitation facility on our future OI Thailand campus, two hours from Bangkok.

Stanley Ming, historically involved with philanthropy in Guyana, is the quintessential model for our kids, being of mixed ethnic descent. He represents four of the six peoples of Guyana. A highly successful business man, he is chairman of two heavy industry companies that exclusively represent Mitsubishi, Yamaha, John Deere, Komatsu, and Daewoo. He has pledged assistance to OI Guyana in developing our new campus. I am particularly delighted that our first home in Guyana will be named after Doreen Nurse, mother of my old friend Claud Leandro, a founding member of OI America and an editor of the Initial Report in 1999.

The OI America Guyana Committee continued
to meet regularly in our New York office.

The Guyana Committee of OI America met in November 2005 to finalize plans for OI Guyana to be located outside Georgetown. In the summer of 2006, Jennifer Prince, co-chair of the OI American Guyana Committee, and Pat Jordon-Langford went to Guyana and checked on our progress there. Jennifer updated the committee in New York, and plans were made to nominate OI Guyana board members from Georgetown and New York simultaneously.

Jennifer Prince, who works fulltime with the United Nations Development Project, will be volunteering alongside Pat Jordon-Langford in the continued building of OI Guyana.

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