Provide women with the tools they need to succeed so they can stand on their own two feet rather than financially depend on abusive partners or on ad hoc government resources.
This has been the motivation of Humanitarian Mission-Guyana Inc, a tax-exempt non-profit organization based in Guyana which fosters women’s empowerment through skills-based classes including sewing, culinary arts, cake decorating, and more.
The mission began in 2005 under the auspices of the New Jersey Arya Samaj Mandir, Inc. in efforts to serve humanity and help the underprivileged break the cycle of poverty in Guyana. It has since rebranded itself as a secular entity, the Humanitarian Mission-Guyana, Inc. (hereinafter “the Mission”) to serve a wider population, regardless of race, color or religious affiliation.
Rajshree Singh Harripersaud of Ankerville, Port Mourant, is the Administrator of the Mission, and also functions as a teacher and sewing instructor. She provides strategic leadership in the planning, implementation, management and oversees all skills-based programs. Mr. Suresh Sugrim, the founder and president of the Mission, brought Harripersaud on board upon the recommendation of a fellow teacher, and quickly realized the breadth of her experience and natural leadership capabilities.
Prior to working with the Mission, Harripersaud, referred to as “Ms. Raj” by her students, worked with the Guyana Human Development Center and introduced cosmetology in the institution teaching women and girls skills including how to professionally style hair and paint nails from 2011 through 2015.
In a conversation shortly after she completed her second class for the day, Harripersaud indicated that her main role is to “empower, elevate and educate women who are affected by domestic violence.” Haripersaud stated: “I try to shift the cycle of poverty so that women know they can be independent and earn something through whatever they learn. Instead of focusing on giving out food hampers, we teach women a skill so they can go out into the world and work; so they can stop accepting abuse.” Harripersaud continued by saying, “Many women end up murdered. We can’t afford to lose women on a daily basis like this. I want to help women come out of their misery and become better women for their own future and for the future of their children.”
Harripersaud acknowledged that her inspiration to work at the Mission stems from her being a survivor of violence herself. “I feel for these women because I once experienced great suffering myself. This is why I want to live a life of purpose at the Mission,” she said.
With the support of kind donors, the Mission has a fully equipped building to support its activities located in Port Mourant, Corentyne, Berbice, sitting on over one acre of land currently leased from the Guyana government. However, resources are limited and Harripersaud indicated that the Mission is in need of supplies ranging from sewing machines, to kitchen utensils, to an additional stove. Currently, the Mission has approximately 10 sewing machines, and one fully functional stove, making it difficult to serve as many women at a time as possible, and lending itself to very long working hours given that class sizes must be limited.
People from all around Guyana maximize on the classes offered by the Mission, traveling from parts of Port Mourant, Fyrish, New Amsterdam and over the river in areas such as Rosignol. The Mission spreads the word about its classes through various mediums including social media (Facebook), radio programs, and word of mouth. Harripersaud indicated that she has additionally done groundwork by distributing flyers at the local marketplace.
Harripersaud has been with the mission since January 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Among the greatest moments of her time at the Mission has been witnessing the frustration of some of her students having no idea how to turn on a sewing machine and watching their perseverance. Students at the mission range from age 17 through 51. Harripersaud indicated that many children who join the Mission had dropped out of school; some were abused by their parents, and others victims of sexual assault.
Reflecting on her own past, Harripersaud indicated, “I wish if I had something like this when I was a victim. I could have gotten more help for my life. There are women who don’t want to talk about their financial struggles, women who have children; we want to help those women so they can in turn help their children to finish their academic goals.” Harripersaud herself worked two to three jobs at a time to ensure her four sons got a high school education. Harripersaud also indicated that there are some teenagers who drop out of school in need of an alternative. “They may not have made it academically but they are eager to learn something with their hands so they can make money.”
To learn more about the mission, visit its Facebook page at Humanitarian Mission Guyana. The Mission accepts donations via check at Humanitarian Mission-Guyana Inc. 3441 Rolling Hills Lane, Apopka, Florida 32712 or via Chase QuickPay with Zelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.