CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) A number of strategies geared to increase awareness, training and the capacity strengthening of several communities within one of Guyana’s remote regions have been mapped out by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Youth Ambassadors (CYAs) during their recent trip to the Iwokrama Conservation and Development Reserve.
The CYAs met with youths representing various communities located both within and on the outskirts of the rainforest, and shared thoughts on methods aimed at supporting the healthy lifestyle programme that was launched earlier this year for some fifteen communities within the area.
The objectives of the healthy lifestyle programme to which a two-year life span has been assigned, include increased HIV/AIDS awareness, training of 16 community health workers as HIV/AIDS counsellors, as well as human and institutional capacity building through the training of 50 peer educators and 60 employers.
The strategies rolled out by the CYAs for the communities to take on board, included the hosting of community workshops using educators from the region, one-on-one counselling, radio programmes focusing on HIV/AIDS, and the staging of cultural events to convey messages on HIV/AIDS.
In devising strategies to provide training for community health workers, CYAs felt that a stakeholder orientation workshop involving religious leaders, teachers and other reputable members of the community would augur well to gauge the level of training required. This is in addition to a peer education workshop geared towards training counsellors, at the end of which a written examination would be administered to sharpen the skills of potential counsellors.
The CYAs noted that the trainees would then be required to train at least two groups within their communities, and also submit to pre-counselling workshops for 3-4 months in addition to post-counselling sessions for HIV+ persons.
A refresher course every 6 months and monitoring and evaluation of the newly trained Counsellors was also recommended to the youths of the Rupununi savannah communities of Guyana as a means of keeping the training active and relevant to the needs of the community.
In terms of building human resource capacity, the Youth Ambassadors suggested an initiative where youth leaders would work along with the Guyana Red Cross which is constantly involved in community efforts at a broad-based level. The CYAs also proposed that counsellors and peer educators interact with residents of the communities to determine delivery content prior to engaging in counselling.
The establishment of a peer education network, the training of two youths from each community to become peer educators, community exchange visits, as well as refresher training was also cited as mechanisms to foster capacity building.
It has been recommended that two youths from every community undergo training by February 2006. Upon their return to Georgetown, the CYAs will present their strategies to Iwokrama’s coordinator for training, Ms. Melina Kalamandeen, who will spearhead efforts for their introduction.