Region 10 Amerindian communities receive $92M from COVID-19 fund

Toshaos across Region 10, on Monday, welcomed a $92 million injection into their local economies through the Government’s one-off COVID-19 cash grants. Communities received sums ranging from $5 million to $15 million, depending on their populations, to help to create sustainable jobs to buttress them as the pandemic prevails.

Minister of Public Works, Hon. Bishop Juan Edghill along with Toshaos of Amerindian villages in Region 10 and staff of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs

On the side-lines of the distribution exercise, which was held at the Watooka Guest House, Mr. Flagan Carter, Toshao of Rockstone, was pleased with the $5 million provided for his community. 

“Anything that would assist the community with jumpstarting its economy, I think, is noteworthy. The amount given, I think, can assist the process.”

The Toshao said there are plans to use the funds to complete the village’s multipurpose building, which is currently unfurnished.

Toshao of Rockstone, Mr. Flagan Carter

“We have also written to several ministries asking for assistance as well as the Region with furnishing. So, I think this will help some of the furnishing aspects,” Mr. Carter said.

To create job opportunities, Mr. Carter said several people from the community who would be hired on the project so that the building could be fully utilised for the school feeding programme, its internet hub, and to host events.

For Wikki Calcuni’s Toshao, Mr. Kent Campbell, his village’s $10 million grant will make an indelible impact.

Toshao of Wikki Calcuni, Mr. Kent Campbell

“I think this is great! I must say thanks to the Government for this grant that they gave us and we do hope that it will enhance our community a lot. We are going to complete and furnish our ICT hub,” he said.

The Toshao also expressed the hope that a portion of the sum would be used to address dilapidated bridges within Wikki Calcuni.

While other plans are in the pipeline, Mr. Campbell said he intends to consult with residents to explore other ventures the community may want to invest in.  “I would have to call a meeting and get some ideas from the residents because I alone can’t just come up with ideas. They have to have their input,” he said.

Malali village also benefited from a $10 million grant. Toshao, Mr. Orlayne Williams, said the sum was the single largest grant he has ever received for his community.

Toshao of Malali village, Mr. Orlayne Williams

He said he has eyed opportunities for growth in the tourism and agriculture sectors. Regarding the former, Mr. Williams said much work could be done especially since the community’s roads are under construction.

With regard to agriculture, Mr. Williams said some companies are interested in the community. “We are going to give people the opportunity to do a bit of farming so that we can sell back the crops to these companies that is going to open in Malali or around Malali,” the Toshao added.

Ms. Loretta Fiedtkou of Mauritaro is another village leader who is interested in expanding the agriculture sector in her community.  She said investments in kitchen gardens and starting cultivation of long-term citrus crops are on the cards to diversify the village economy since it is heavily dependent on the logging industry.

Toshao of Mauritaro, Ms. Loretta Fiedtkou

Minister of Public Works, Hon. Bishop Juan Edghill distributed the grants today, on behalf of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs. The Minister said the grants were a testament to the Government’s continued commitment to the Amerindian people.

Minister Edghill said the COVID-19 grants were to ensure Amerindians are never left out of the Government’s development agenda, and it would ensure the sustainable development of the nation’s First Peoples.

“We initiated measures to ensure, number one, that the impact of COVID-19 is cushioned and, number two, to ensure that your village economies don’t suffer and your livelihoods destroyed.”

The Minister said the initiative was carefully thought-out and planned to meet the needs of the people.  

Regional Executive Officer for Region 10, Mr. Dwight John; Minister of Public Works, Hon Bishop Juan Edghill and Management Development Officer within the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, Ms. Alexi LaRose

“This is not one a one-off, fly by night-trying to keep Amerindians happy-programme, as some people may want to say. This is part of a structured, well-planned, well-orchestrated strategy, to ensure number one, the empowering of Amerindian communities, to ensure the sustainability of Amerindian communities and to ensure the vibrance in Amerindian communities.”

Further, Minister Edghill urged village leaders to hold themselves to the high standards of transparency and accountability in spending the grants.

Region 10 Regional Executive Officer, Mr. Dwight John, who also attended the event, pledged to provide technical support to the villages as they undertake their projects.

The terms of the cash grants require each village council to hold village meetings and consultations with the villages prior to approval of any project.

Afterwards, project proposals, detailed estimates, minutes of meetings and the meeting attendance sheets must be submitted to the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs.

A section of the attendees at the COVID-19 cash grant disbursement in Region 10

Once the project is complete, a report including a certificate of completion along with photographic evidence and copies of expenditure receipts must also be submitted to the Ministry.

Cheques were handed over to the villages of Hururu, Wikki Calcuni, Wiruni, Sand Hills, Kimbia, Rockstone, Great Falls, Malali and Mauritaro. River’s View village will receive its $15 million grant in Region Seven since it is located closer to that region.

Over in Barima-Waini (Region One) Minister of Housing and Water, Hon. Collin Croal today  handed out cheques totalling $96 million, through the same initiative in 11 Amerindian villages.

A total of $1.73 billion in COVID-19 relief funds would be distributed to the hinterland and Amerindian villages and communities. Of that amount, $542 million will be shared among 77 villages in Region One.   

On Friday, Minister Croal and a team handed over $225 million in grants to 27 communities in the Moruca sub-district. The team will be travelling to Mabaruma on Tuesday to distribute additional grants to 38 communities.