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…seeks additional funding as programme expands. 

DESPITE its need for additional financial support, Blossom Inc. has expanded its fight against Child Sexual Abuse to remote areas of the country.
Established in 2014 with support from the Child Care and Protection Agency, Blossom Incorporated is the only known NGO dealing with child sexual abuse cases in Region 2 through a Child Advocacy Centre. The Region is one of the most affected in the country.
“Child rape and incest transcend race, class, ethnicity and geography. It occurs on a daily basis and not too few of us dare to speak out especially when it involves family members and close loved ones,” the NGO said in a statement on Wednesday.

Despite the need for more finances, Blossom Inc. said it has been collaborating closely and effectively with the Police in ‘G’ Division – Sexual Offences Unit, Childcare & Protection Agency, Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs and the Regional Democratic Council to raise awareness in outlying areas such as Bethany, Tapakuma, Capoey, Mainstay, Kabakaburi, Wakapoa, Akawini, Mashabo, Karawap and others. Child victims of sexual abuse are also being rescued through the organization.
“But the bugbear remains funding, as there is never enough to go around. The hope is that a greater number of public and private sector agencies will come on board in the coming months to forge a multi-sectoral approach to this issue as the little that’s available to us is drying up fast, especially when we move to tackle interior and remote locations,” the organisation said.

The work in the outlying communities stemmed from meetings Blossom Inc. Managing Director Ayo Dalgety-Dean and Child Counsellor Bibi Barakat had with Toshaos from Region 2. There is reportedly an ever-growing issue of child sexual abuse in the region. “They asked the organisation to visit their communities as they needed guidance, help, support and training in tackling the issue of child sexual abuse,” Blossom Inc said.
The outreaches to the outlying communities sought to enhance the villagers knowledge on the legislation relevant to children such as the Sexual Offences Act, Marriage Act, Sexual Reproductive Act, Disability Act and the Protection of Children Act.
Child Abuse Prevention Watch Groups are being initiated which will see community members come together and devote themselves to preventing child sexual abuse and promoting child well-being.

The organisation said that without community participation, primary prevention programs cannot be successful. Therefore, community members are best placed to know the community’s strengths and aspirations, vulnerabilities and needs. The organization also sees active community involvement as essential in developing genuine long-term capacity and sustainability.
“Life skills will be offered to community members in the form of Parenting Workshops, which will be delivered using an evidence-informed programme which empowers parents to meet their children’s core emotional needs. It offers a step-by-step guide for parents to learn how to raise emotionally healthy children and hence build emotionally healthy communities. This will mitigate the risk factors that increase children’s vulnerabilities,” Blossom Inc. explained.

In June 2017, Blossom Inc. Programme Manager, Shaundell Shipley, participated in a multi-disciplinary team, which conducted child abuse prevention outreaches in Region 9. This included engagement with community members in two of the five districts and other stakeholders in the region. As part of the response, the team met with representatives from the Regional Democratic Council, Ministry of Public Hearth, Ministry of Education and the Guyana Police Force. The National Protocol for Child Advocacy Centres Multi-Disciplinary Team was shared with the Regional Health Officer and the Officer in Charge at the Lethem Police Station.

Blossom Inc. staff also oriented the officers of the Sexual Offence Unit on the use of the protocol. Specialise sexual abuse medical examination, the single interview approach that is child friendly and developmentally appropriate and the responsibility of reporting child sexual abuse cases were discussed at length. “A notable observation in the region is while there are systems in place for the reporting of child sexual abuse cases, it is not being followed,” the organization said. It is believed that this may have been as a result of the absence of a child protection officer in the region or lack of follow-up by reporting professionals in the region. During the community engagement leaders were identified for the establishment of a Child Abuse Prevention Watch Group in South and North Rupununi.

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