West Side teacher creating hope for grieving children in Guyana


  • receives Queen’s Young Leaders Award

DPI, Guyana, Monday, July 9, 2018

Child bereavement is real and painful, therefore having a strong support system to cope is very crucial for the well-being of children who have lost either or both parents.

In Guyana and many other developing countries, this service is not readily available, but one young teacher inspired by a personal experience has embarked on a life journey to provide child bereavement services.

Twenty-five-year-old, Den Amstel born, Marva Langevine during a recent interview with the Department of Public Information (DPI) said a few years ago, she lost her best friend, who was the mother of two young boys aged two and four, to cancer. After observing how that loss affected both children, particularly the older child, she began her quest to help him overcome his grief.

Saddened and desperate to help her best friend’s child, Marva did the only thing that came to mind, “I went online and I typed in, “what happens to children when their parents die” and I came across the cause for child bereavement awareness.”

She immediately decided that it was a cause she wanted to champion, after all, she always wanted to give back to her country, after spending years in Barbados with her mother.

Guyana Golden Lives Organisation was birthed and Marva quickly began to offer assistance to those children in similar circumstances using whatever resources she had at that time, even soliciting the help of relatives and friends.

The young teacher while contesting in the Miss World Guyana 2016 pageant, used that platform to further raise awareness on a national level about child bereavement. She won the Beauty with a Purpose Award and attracted the much-needed attention to her organisation.

Since then, she has never reneged and her stellar contributions have been recognised. This year, Marva is a recipient of the Queen’s Young Leaders Award for her advocacy efforts.

This is an annual award given in recognition of leadership skills by young persons between the ages of 18 and 29. The award is open to selected Commonwealth Nations to recognise exceptional people or organisations making a difference in improving the lives of citizens. The programme was established by the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, in partnership with Comic Relief and the Royal Commonwealth Society.

Marva spent 10 days in London, where she got the “golden” opportunity to network with other agencies and individuals from various parts of the world, some even pledging support to Guyana Golden Lives.

During her UK stay, Marva took part in master classes at the BBC World Service and the UK Headquarters of Facebook, met with the Commonwealth Secretary-General and High Commissioners from across the Commonwealth, before receiving her Award from the Queen at Buckingham Palace. she also attended workshops at the University of Cambridge and visited projects that are changing the lives of vulnerable people in the UK.

How does she see the future of the organisation? “One thing we have is a scholarship programme I see it expanding in terms of getting the funding… and also collaboration with other Non-Governmental Organisations, the government also because it is not only about providing support but spreading awareness,” she said.

It has been a tough four years for Marva and her organisation in getting support but she is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, with Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, who also hails from the West Side pledging his support, among other agencies, community groups, professionals and ordinary citizens.

While she has not publicised much of her work on Social Media, to protect the privacy of the children, Marva has learnt how she can do so without revealing personal information and will endeavour to increase her organisation’s presence on Social Media.

With a team of Social Workers by her side, Marva’s Guyana Golden Lives also provides mentorship to those children suffering loss, but her aim is to provide professional grief counselling as well.

Like the true leader she is, Marva is presently pursuing studies in Psychology to do just that.

She is calling on interested persons to reach out to the organisation in whatever way they can either as a mentor or even by offering a hug to a grieving child.

Marva is a holder of a Bachelor’s in Education, with a focus on Modern Languages from the University of Guyana, has a passion for things cultural and is a Youth of UNESCO and was part of the UNESCO youth forum hosted in Paris last October for her work in cultural advocacy.

She also created Camp Golden, a camp for bereaved young people, which provides counselling, food, shelter and educational opportunities and is a founding member of the Den Amstel Dynamic Network, a youth group which focuses on restoring the cultural art forms.

Marva is a Spanish teacher at the Uitvlugt Secondary who has gotten her heart’s desire. Initially, she began to pursue studies in Law, to satisfy her parents but quickly discovered it was not her niche.  The Queen’s Young Leader quickly switched to teaching and has no regrets!

By: Stacy Carmichael.