Shaheed Girls Orphanage reopens after devastating fire

The Shaheed Girls Orphanage, which was completely destroyed by a fire in late October 2018, was officially reopened on Sunday with a ceremony held at its Oleander Gardens location.
The new building houses eighteen girls ranging from ages 4 to 16 years old. In attendance were Social Protection Minister Amna Ally, Mayor of Georgetown Ubraj Narine and former Attorney General Anil Nandlall.
Chief Executive Officer of the Shaheed Girls and Boys Orphanage, Raheema Rahaman speaking with Guyana Times on Sunday said that the reconstruction of the home is a huge success story after lots of obstacles and negativity.
“The building was burnt flat to the ground. Everything was lost. All that was left were the clothing the children were wearing at the time,” she said.
Rahaman said the experience of the fire was a traumatic and emotional one for her and the children as they lost everything.
She added that with limited resources and a small budget, she faced major difficulty in making any progress with obtaining materials to begin the reconstruction of the home and it was at this time that she reached out to former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, who she said was always readily available to assist in any way possible.
As a result of his “determination and heart of gold,” she was able to receive every piece of material she needed for the reconstruction of the home to commence.
She expressed gratitude to Nandlall and others who helped to rebuild the facility which is a safe place for vulnerable girls.
She added that more work is still needed in getting the home back to where it was in terms of facilities for the girls. “We still need ACs, fans, TVs and computers and so on and Mr Nandlall said he will continue to work on getting assistance for us in this regard. He said he is working to ensure that every child gets a computer,” Rahaman said.
She also expressed gratitude to all the neighbours and others who played a part in getting the orphanage back on its feet.
The girls that were temporarily being housed at the Shaheed Boys’ Orphanage returned to the newly-constructed building last week and are settling in well.
Meanwhile, in an invited comment on Sunday, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall said that he is privileged to have been afforded the opportunity to assist in the rebuilding of the orphanage which has been around for several years.
That home, he said, has produced a number of wholesome citizens that have returned to society and have made significant contributions. Some of which were in attendance at Sunday’s ceremony.
“One of them is a member of the Guyana Police Force and his sister is married and has assisted in the rebuilding effort,” Nandlall said.
He is hopeful that the publicising of the event by the press will bring further awareness of not only the existence of the orphanage but its functions because it survives based on contributions from members of the public who have generously donated over the years. “It is hoped that those contributions continue,” he added.
He noted that he is currently working with the orphanage to supply computer systems to them. “At least a personal computer to each child, both the boys and the girls and I look forward to the public’s support in this regard,” he said.
Nandlall pointed out that computers and access to computers will be a sure way in educating the children and education has been tested and proven to be one of the surest ways to extricate one from poverty.
“The education of these children is vital. Just imagine if you didn’t have institutions like these that take our children off the streets, imagine the destitution, the prostitution, the crime and everything else that they would have been embroiled in,” he added.
These institutions, Nandlall said, play a vital role and the Government and civil society must partner in ensuring that these institutions continue to function.
He expressed thanks to dozens of persons who have responded to his calls for contributions and donations. “That building is an amalgamation and a result of the efforts of so many kind, giving and hardworking Guyanese and I want to thank them and recognise them for that,” he added.
Nandlall also received a certificate from the institution recognising the integral role he played in the rebuilding process.
“I am humbled by the gesture by Shaheed Boys and Girls Orphanage for recognising my simple contribution and it’s a stepping stone for a lot more that has to be done and I will continue to make whatever simple contribution I can towards the upliftment in the lives of those unfortunate children,” he said.
The Shaheed Girls Orphanage is a Muslim orphanage which was established in the 1930s. The institution provides care, home and other services for orphans, vulnerable and destitute children.