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“What makes me a special person? I really don’t have the answer to that. But I just cannot sit still and allow things not to happen.”By Leonard GildarieShe has risen to the top position in her community and has flown to Copenhagen to represent Guyana in climate change talks. She is also the Chairperson of the National Toshaos Council and has been a vocal representative of the indigenous people. Recently she was sworn in as a member of the Indigenous Peoples’ Commission, a body to deal with the rights of Amerindians as well as providing a forum to discuss their problems.This week’s ‘Special Person’ Toshao Yvonne Pearson, one of the longest serving Amerindian leaders, by her very animated presence, is not just another hinterland resident wanting her voice heard. She went out and did something. She was a crucial member of a team that revamped the Amerindian Act, giving more recognition to the rights to lands for Guyana’s indigenous people.Over the past months, with increasing attention being paid to the impacts of climate change to the earth, she was convinced that Amerindians were mandated to “put in their two cents”.Yvonne PearsonShe is a mother, a village leader, a farmer, a rights advocate and the list goes on.So how did this little lady take on these hefty challenges? HUMBLE BEGINNINGSThe 55-year-old mother of five, born Yvonne Fredericks, grew up in Abrams Creek, Pomeroon River and was the third of five children. Her father, Fred Fredericks, a well-known teacher and senior official of the United Force party, died earlier this year.“We had a farm back then and we had to work it, planting our own corn and coffee and looking after the chickens.”But her family was unable to afford to continue sending her to school at Abrams and her education was curtailed just as Pearson reached 15. She then moved to Wismar, Region 10, where she worked in a shop for a few years.“What I really wanted to do was become a mechanic. But I could not afford it at the time.”Pearson did better…she joined the library and became a voracious reader, devouring everything from Danielle Steele to Louis L’Amour novels.“I wanted to better myself. I was not satisfied and I also enrolled at the IACE (Institute of Adult and Continuing Education).”However, Linden was not to be for the little lady. Her mother decided to bring her family to Essequibo Coast. Yvonne was 22.“I could not become a mechanic. But I got a job driving for Mary Williams, the Regional Vice Chairman.”Williams was also the Toshao of Mainstay/Whyaka, an Amerindian community a few miles in from the Essequibo Coast. That community was later to become the launching pad for Yvonne Pearson.At that time,Wholesale China Jerseys, in 1978, Yvonne was driving what was considered at the time, a man’s vehicle- a long-based Land Rover. It was also during this time that Yvonne met her husband, Lascel Pearson, a teacher. The two now have five boys.Back in the ’70s and ’80s, being a Toshao meant not being paid a salary. Her husband was elected Toshao and Yvonne received valuable experience of the demands, experience that she used later to demand changes to the Mainstay community.In 1994, Yvonne was elected Toshao of Mainstay. Life changed for the little Amerindian village after then.“It was sleepy place and I started meeting with our people. How could we improve the area?”Mainstay is famous for its lake and its potential for tourism was aggressively explored.The new Toshao led a team to the then Minister of Local Government, Harripersaud Nokta, to discuss the idea. But it was not until a few years later that the Mainstay Resort was opened,Wholesale Jerseys, a major boost for the community nearby.AGGRESSIVE“We also started to look into the water supply,Jerseys NFL Wholesale, running pipes, and other economic activities.”It was during this time that the Toshao decided she was in need to be better skilled.She started to attend classes in Anna Regina, six miles from her village.“I had to ride along the road to classes and then return home. I had five children, had to be a wife, and then Toshao.”Two other persons who started classes with Yvonne dropped out.“You see, I grew up among boys and I wanted to ensure that I had my say.”In 1995, Yvonne was part of a national conference. She was given an opportunity to read a resolution on the rights of Amerindians.Leading a number of villagers, they started talks with a company called Amazon Caribbean Chemicals, which was heavily into producing the heart of palm, a delicacy that is heavily in demand.In 2002, after continuous banging on the doors of the company and government officials, the Toshao’s major dream for economic development of her little village kicked in high gear.It has become known today as the Mainstay Organic Pineapple Processing Facility, a $30M facility which processes organically grown pineapple and exports it mainly to France. More than 60 persons are employed there, with an estimated 200 acres being planted. It was commissioned by President Bharrat Jagdeo.In the meantime, Yvonne was loud as she fought to implement a toll for visitors to the nearby Lake Mainstay resort. Visitors have to pass through the village to access that resort. She was successful.Through the Amerindian Peoples’ Association, Pearson, who became its Vice President, attended a number of overseas meetings, including ones in Ecuador and Greenland. She was also part of a team that helped to improve a new Amerindian Act that took into account the long-standing issue of land rights, among other things.In 2005, the Toshao helped launch the Mainstay/Whyaka Women’s Development Group establish an aquaculture farm, and worked to establish the village as an eco-tourism destination.A heritage park was also established and the village has now moved to start honey production.LCDSBut while there was occasional mention in the media, it was only within the last year that Yvonne burst onto the national scene in a big way.“You have to understand that I am very concerned about sustainable development for the Amerindians. At our community, we were already moving in the direction with our organic pineapple, heritage park and aquaculture. So the Low Carbon Development Strategy of the President was right.”Yvonne was in the midst of the consultations that followed; consultations that were key to the entire LCDS drive.“We were also fighting for Amerindian villages not to be too near to mining and logging concessions. So the LCDS fit into the larger picture of our developmental strategy.”In 2006, also, the National Toshaos Council (NTC), a forum for all the Amerindian village leaders, was formed. Pearson, the current Chairperson,Wholesale NBA Jerseys China, who was elected last year, also got the government to allow the NTC to have an office at the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs.In 2012,NFL Jerseys Discount, Yvonne’s term as Toshao, a position that she has held for 16 years, will be up constitutionally.“I do know that my work to uplift my people and by extension, Guyanese, will continue. What makes me a special person? I really don’t have the answer to that. But I just cannot sit still and allow things not to happen.”
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