Raising awareness through advocacy and the arts

DPI, Guyana, Sunday, April 22, 2018

Using her acumen to achieve her dreams, 17-year-old Marissa Foster, an aspiring social worker chooses to raise awareness about social ills through poetry and social media.

The social works student who resides in Rose Hall Town, East Berbice-Corentyne, (Region Six) uses her social media platform and literary pieces to address topics such as suicide, gender inequality, self-harm and mental illnesses. Foster discovered her desire to be an advocate during her high school days at the New Amsterdam Multilateral School.

In Fourth Form, she joined the Humanities stream and it was there that the seed for social activism was planted.

Foster began to educate herself on the various social ills that plague societies whilst simultaneously developing a passion for the arts –  specifically the craft of makeup and poetry writing. Her decision to pursue a career in social work fully blossomed following her return from a Youth Ambassador Programme hosted in the United States of America in 2016.

That experience she noted boosted her self-confidence.

“During my time on the Youth Ambassadors Programme, I’ve learnt so much. I did not only learnt how to better myself but also my community and nation at large. I’m an only child and for me mixing, communicating and mingling with others can be somewhat difficult because sometimes I like my own space and to be in my own shell but while I was away on this program, I was forced to break out of that shell and to be free. It has helped me a lot to gain more confidence in everything I do and say,” Foster explained.

After the programme ended, the advocacy continued. Foster and the other youth ambassadors conducted an anti-suicide programme that saw several workshops and sensitisation sessions hosted at schools nationwide. Subsequent to those sessions, Foster continued the advocacy by producing short videos on her Instagram and other social media platforms on the issue of suicide prevention as well as gender equality and human rights.

Foster is currently pursuing a Degree in Social Work at the University of Guyana, Tain Campus. While she ensures her studies take priority, the young advocate has found time to be the Secretary of the Social Work Students Association of the university and also serves in the same position for the youth group of the St. Francis Roman Catholic Church.

“I aspire to become a professional social worker and to eventually gain a Master’s degree in social work. I’d also like to be involved in more programmes similar to that of the Youth Ambassadors programme; I want to volunteer and advocate on a larger scale than what I am currently doing,” she outlined.

Goal-oriented Foster also intends to one day acquire a certificate in professional make-up, thereby fulfilling another dream of hers.  However, her aspirations do not end there, as she also wants to write and publish a book of poetry, become a policymaker and start her own organisation that will be geared towards helping youths.

The advocate encourages other young people to, “Be yourself. In order for you to climb the ladder of life, you need to put in the necessary work and never give up, no matter what life throws your way.”

By: Tanuja Raikha

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