Govt’s CEW initiative transforming lives in Region Nine

Employment in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo (Region Nine) has been a painstaking situation over the years, resulting in many young persons leaving the district in search of work elsewhere.

The employment crisis not only affected those in the hinterland, but many on the coast, a situation the PPP/C Government had pledged to address during its elections campaign.  

Since assuming office in August 2020, the promise has been fulfilled, as several ministries and government agencies reinstituted and reformed` various programmes that provide job opportunities.

Community Infrastructure Improvement Project (CIIP) , team leader Jonathan Albert.

One such programme is the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development’s  Community Infrastructure Improvement Project (CIIP), which employs persons as  Community Enhancement Workers (CEWs) to improve and preserve their community’s aesthetics and infrastructure.

The project commenced in 2014 and was restructured in 2015 by the former government. 

Under Minister Dharamlall’s direction, there have been some significant changes to the initiative which saw the increase of CEWs stipend from $25,000 to $35,000.

There are currently over 1,800 CEWs across the country.

In the South Pakaraimas, CIIP team leader, Jonathan Albert said the opportunity is one which the people are grateful for, as it is indeed difficult to be gainfully employed unless one chooses to farm. 

“We did not have any kind of work in here for our youths and so when the government offered us the chance to become Community Enhancement Workers, we went ahead.

We are so happy that we were allowed this opportunity and even, the people of Karasabai are happy to get this village clean,” he said.

He added that while the workers had faced some challenges fulfilling their mandate to the standard required, it was largely due to the lack of tools and equipment. The matter is now resolved following the distribution of the items.

Albert manages 25 CEWs in over six villages including Karasabai, Tiger Pond, Tiperu, and Yurong Paru among others.

Deputy Toshao of Karasabai, Elvis Edwards shared simialr sentiments. He said “ They are easing a lot of pressure from the village council because before they were employed we had to do a lot of self-help and so today we find it to be easier.”

Toshao of Tiger Pond, James Davis.

Toshao of Tiger Pond, James Davis, said that the work of the CEWs within his community is quite amazing,  especially since it is the image that residents wish to maintain.

“We are very grateful to the government because we need to keep our environment clean and at the same time, the government is creating job opportunities for the youths who are not doing anything in the area.” 

He added that “some of them are school drop-outs who do not have that kind of education to venture to other places for employment since they do not have any certificates. Others are residents who are struggling financially to maintain their families and this job helps put food on the table.”

Davis stressed that the initiative has helped to ease the minds of villagers, since the lack of government support has delayed the development of his village.

Waltz Edwards, CEW of Tiger Pond said that he decided to become a CEW after it seemed impossible to find employment within his vicinity.

Waltz Edwards, Community Enhancement Worker of Tiger Pond.

“I  was down on my luck finding a job to provide for my four children. So, when the government called for persons to join this programme, I did cause I couldn’t carry on that way for long.  But you know what, I am glad to be able to clean up my village because cleanliness is next to godliness.”

The local government minister, who had visited the region earlier this month committed to employing at least 10 more persons as CEWs to manage Pai Pang and Rupertee communities. From this amount, one CEW will be elected as a sweeper cleaner to work at the recently commissioned $19 million Rupertee Primary School.

The ministry allocated $1.1 billion for its community enhancement programme in the 2021 national budget.

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