A small South American nation of fewer than one million people, Guyana has faced a history of political and social turmoil that has left its economy and its people struggling in poverty. With a GDP per capita of a mere $8,000, Guyana ranks as the third poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, surpassed only by Haiti and Nicaragua.
A recent UNICEF study found that nearly 50 percent of the country’s children under 16 years of age suffer from poverty – a number disproportionately greater than the 36 percent of the entire nation’s population who live in poverty. Many of those who suffer extreme poverty are from rural areas, where they lack the infrastructure and resources necessary to provide for themselves and their families.
While initiatives that seek how to help people in Guyana will have to turn their attention to helping the nation as a whole develop, there are ways to get involved and help make a difference in the lives of people in Guyana.
- Consider volunteering your time with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which, last November, launched a $64 million project to aid and assist the youth of Guyana. USAID gladly accepts volunteers and partners who want to get involved and help reduce poverty across the entire globe.
- Some support organizations are already assisting the poor in Guyana, such as UNICEF and the United Nations Development Programme. These groups have strategies and goals for helping Guyana; they are outlined on their websites, so you can familiarize yourself with them and consider volunteering time or money to help make an impact.
- Write to your representatives in Congress to urge them not to support bills that would cut U.S. funding to Guyana, such as a recently proposed budget which would slash a great deal of federal funding. Many Guyanans feel this budget would likely end with a large amount of essential American aid being stripped away from them.
- Recently, Guyana was discovered to possess huge amounts of natural oil reserves – a resource that many companies are hungrily eyeing, particularly ExxonMobil, who already plans to drill in Guyana. Spreading awareness of the largely negative outcome of such drilling can help prevent Guyana’s environment from being destroyed and its people and economy from being further exploited.
While these may not be the most hands-on ways of lending aid, there are plenty of organizations who already know how to help people in Guyana most effectively. However, these groups also need support so they can expand their efforts and send more help to the people of Guyana.
– Erik Halberg