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By Jenelle Willabus ?Violence, in all forms, is a social ill that affects everyone in one way or another, hence having seen the effects one organization over the past decade has dedicated all it resources towards combating this scourge.Help and Shelter Coordinator, Margaret KertziousHelp and Shelter has been in operation since November 1994 and has become a recognised leader in the fight against violence in Guyana – particularly domestic, sexual and child abuse. It is no secret that domestic violence, in particular, takes a heavy toll on an individual’s emotional and physical health and has high social and economic costs for families, communities, workplaces and the country as a whole.The organization was the brainchild of a support group created in 1994 as an adjunct to the Georgetown Legal Aid Clinic (now Guyana Legal Aid Clinic) and can be considered a company limited by guarantee with charitable status.This vibrant institute is headed by a Coordinator, Ms. Margaret Kertzious, and a Board of Directors. However the day-to-day operations are currently carried out by a staff of eleven very capable and skilled personnel including, Counselor Advocates,Cheap Adidas NHL Jerseys, counsellors and Public Education Officers.One may ask what one entity can possibly do to fight against an issue of this magnitude. Well to begin with, Help and Shelter, which is located on Homestretch Avenue, has over the years been a place where battered women, children and men have sought much needed help. It is also safe to say it may have also saved the lives of many who were removed from abusive environs.Help and Shelter has essentially been working to build respect for the rights of all persons to live free of violence or any such threat, by actively fostering high levels of awareness among all sectors, including governmental and non-governmental.The organization also seeks to inform persons about the prevalence, causes and costs of violence, including in the home and other personal relations; and about alternatives to the use of violence through public education, advocacy and networking with like-minded individuals and groups. Also, through its shelter for abused women and children, Help and Shelter assists persons to develop alternative ways of handling power and resolving conflict, by providing progressively enhanced counseling for victims and perpetrators of violence through counseling services, including a crisis hotline.Residents of Kwakwani during a public education programme in the area.Ms. Kerztious has been at the helm for the past 13 years, not only because of her love for the job but because she is driven by the entity’s mission and policies as it relates to helping persons. The mission is to bring about behavioural change in societies where, attitudes to the use of violence and practices of violence are transformed. Some other areas of focus include child abuse, trafficking in persons and HIV/AIDS.“We recognized that these social ills are linkages between domestic violence and gender-based violence… they go hand and hand as far as I’m concerned.”On a daily basis, counseling services are offered free of cost. This can be done face-to-face or via a hotline service. But that isn’t all.“We offer public education outreach programmes where we have public education officers and facilitators, who we also have mobilized in different regions to assist us in doing the public education work.”Notably, Help and Shelter provides support to victims who have to go to court. With the assistance of counselor advocates these victims are prepared for such appearances.“A story of abuse involves the police and the court. We have two counselors who go to court every day to support our clients. We try to let them not feel nervous. We try to let them have confidence in themselves so that they can answer questions posed to them by the magistrate or lawyer,” Ms. Kertzious explained.“If at any point during a court hearing the counselor realizes that the intimidation is too much or it is found that a magistrate is insulting or seemingly has an attitude towards the client in any intimidatory form, a record of this is made. It does not only stop there, if it requires the incident being reported to the Chancellor or any other relevant authority,Stitched Cheap Jerseys, this is done without hesitation,” the Coordinator emphasized, while noting that this has been done in the past and has borne fruit.All in all, Help and Shelter over the years has been able to foster a better relationship with the judicial system through a workshop which was said to have been help for many magistrates. There are even instances where matters are now referred to Help and Shelter by Magistrates.Some of the reading material available to clientsHowever in instances where Help and Shelter does not have the resources to deal with a client, they use what is called their networking resource partnership.“We would refer our persons to other organisations,NFL Jerseys Outlet, meaning if we have a client and we do not have the services to meet their needs, we refer them to other agencies like Legal Aid, the Ministry of Human Services and now the Child Care and Protection Agency,”.Another remarkable service which Ms. Kertzious boasts about is the organisation’s shelter for abused women and children. It is at a location which is never disclosed for obvious reasons,2014 Olympic Team USA #44 Brooks Orpik White Stitched NHL Jersey, and is upkept through an annual Government subvention. There is a process which a client must go through before being afforded use of the facility.Ms. Kertzious explained that first a woman must want to be removed from an abusive situation. But this is always not an easy task as most times abused persons go through a series of emotional transformations.“We look at their cases and they have to say definitively that they want to be removed. If they don’t say this, it depends on how the counseling process goes and then we determine if staying in that environment is safe for them.”In addition the person is carefully screened through an intake process and if it is a matter for the police, a counselor advocate accompanies that person to ensure they follow through with a report, and also to lend support.“We saw this necessary since we have had cases where persons are reluctant to go to the police alone or when we send them many of them just abandon the process of getting help. So one of our counselor advocates will accompany that person to the police and even to the hospital once a medical certificate is needed.”Further,Cheap NFL Jerseys, once a person has signed onto to Help and Shelter for assistance this is not done in one visit, the entire process sometimes takes months. For instance, for those women who have been placed in the Shelter they are afforded counseling to help with the healing process having dealt with years of abuse.For those who have not opted for services at the Shelter they are treated with follow-up counseling sessions. This too serves to help them deal with the sometime physical and emotional scars during their years of abuse. In addition, systems are put in place for women with children at the Shelter, including transfers for their school-aged children and self-empowerment programmes.Meanwhile, while some may be of the opinion that Help and Shelter is a women’s organization, Ms. Kertzious insists that this is definitely not so.“All the services rendered to abused women are also available to men…except for them being offered a safe haven at a shelter. Help and Shelter is not a women’s organization, we deal with domestic and gender-based violence, so the acts to protect the victims are gender neutral. When a man comes in here and reports abuse we have all right to attend to him. We attend to them the same way we attend to a woman, we don’t have any different way how we attend to men”, the Coordinator stressed.“If a man’s situation warrants a protection order against his partner that is granted with our assistance. Statistics have shown that an average of 6 to 8 men access our services every month. For last year, out of four hundred new clients in excess of ninety were men who were abused by their partner. If these cases require being reported to the police this is also done.”Notably the services offered by this organization are not limited to Georgetown, where it is based. Through its outreach programmes other regions are involved, but unfortunately on a limited scale because of funding.“In the past the organization was able to reach other administrative regions, but as it obtains now our services only extend to Region 3. We are in the process of sending out proposals to donor agencies for funding. The outreach programmes which are ongoing are funded by USAID under the Gender-Based Violence Project and European Union Project on Human Rights,”m Ms. Kertzious disclosed.For the Coordinator this is one of the organisation’s biggest challenges as she feels their work is being curtailed.“For the public education programme over the past three years we were not able to attract any major donor, so we feel that the lack of funding has really put us in a difficult position to do the work we really need to do in other regions and other communities.”Ms. Kertzious explained that this aspect of their service is important to them and the society as large, since it serves to let persons know what is on offer and also helps persons to change their attitude towards domestic violence and the practices of violence and how to operate with their partner without violence.Meanwhile, as it relates to the services offered to children, this has been somewhat scaled down for the organization since the establishment of the Child Care and Protection Agency. Nonetheless, they still accept cases and render assistance whenever they are called upon to do so.In addition, like every other organization, being a part of Help and Shelter has it downside, since as human beings violence affects us all. Staffers at the organization are sometimes faced with clients, who would have opted out of getting help, turning up dead at the hands of their partner with whom they chose to reunite. In some instances clients are grievously injured.Ms. Kertzious recounted one case which has impacted her, where the abusive partner died as a result of a heart attack having been told that he would be heading to jail for his act of brutality towards his partner.“It all started a Saturday morning when a woman called in to our hotline seeking assistance having suffered years of domestic violence. With the help of our counselors the woman made up her mind to report all the incidents of abuse, which she never did prior to contacting Help and Shelter. Eventually that woman’s plight engaged the attention of the Police and subsequently the Magistrates’ Court.“All of the woman’s past reports to the police were tendered in court against her partner, and the Magistrate used it against him. During one court hearing the man was informed by the magistrate that he would be sent to jail since a strong case had been made out against him. Having heard this, the man suffered a heart attack and subsequently died. This was indeed devastating for his partner as well as our staffers. Today the woman involved is an advocate for Help and Shelter and shares her story with other women.”Additionally,Cheap Jerseys From China, Help and Shelter runs a 24-hour hotline service where persons can call in and access free counseling if they do not want to come in face to face. In most instances, these persons are asked to visit the organization for improved assistance.ConfidentialityThe question of confidentiality maybe a big one for persons who are thinking about accessing the services of Help and Shelter, but according to Ms. Kertzious, it is one of the organisation’s biggest priorities.? As a matter of fact, the breach of confidentiality is a ground for dismissal and this is a clause in the employment contract for each employee.In the past, which dates back to more than a decade ago, there were instances where persons were asked to leave the entity because of breach of confidentiality. In addition, training is provided for staffers in this area.“In the event that a client needs his or her file to be removed from the organization to be used in a court, this can only be done with a request from the court. Only then the file is released, after the client would have signed a waiver of confidentiality. Each file is stored in a confidential place where only authorized persons are allowed.”In the meantime, Help and Shelter and the hard working staff remain committed towards alleviating the scourge of violence in our society with the aim being to see more behavioural changes and to get the message across about communication in a non-violent manner.

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