Community in New York’s “Little Guyana” mourns recent death of 19 children in the South American country

Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar with Guyana Foreign Affairs Secretary Robert Persuad (to her right with sunglasses) at the May 28, 2023, vigil for 19 children killed in a dormitory fire in Guyana. Seen in photo from left: Mayor’s Community Affairs Office South Asian Community Liaison Sookranie Dhanpat, Guyana Consulate representative Fazal Yussuff, NYPD Desi Society President Ravi Narine, Guyana Consul General Amb. Michael Brotherson, Assemblywoman Rajkumar, Pandit Lakharam Maharaj of Shri Tulsi Mandir, Foreign Affairs Secretary Persaud, and Councilwoman Lynn Schulman

On Sunday, May 28, 2023, New York Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar (D-AD 38) together with many community groups and leaders, held a vigil at Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto Park to mourn 19 children who died in a dormitory fire in Guyana.

The fire, which was intentionally set, occurred at the Mahdia Secondary School girls dormitory in Mahdia, Guyana. Three days of national mourning was declared, and the incident shook the diaspora of Guyanese including those living in New York. Some of those at the vigil knew children who had died in Guyana, a May 31, press release from Rajkumar’s office said.

The Assemblywoman pledged to help families affected by the children who died as well as another 29 who were injured, during the vigil at Richmond Hill, home to the Guyanese American enclave known as Little Guyana.

Among those present at the vigil was the Foreign Secretary of Guyana Robert Persaud, who along with Rajkumar read aloud the names of the 19 children who perished. The Consul General of Guyana, Ambassador Michael Brotherson, also attended.   “The fire that ripped through the dormitory in Guyana ripped through all of our hearts. It ripped through the hearts of the entire Guyanese diaspora, and it ripped through the hearts of Little Guyana. For us in Little Guyana, losing these children was like losing members of our own family,” Rajkumar said at the event, which was also attended by Guyanese American clergy of different faiths who offered prayers.

Pandit Lakhram Maharaj of Shri Tulsi Mandir, Imam Abdul Azeem Khan of Masjid Omar Ben Abdel-Aziz, and Apostle Lionel Etwaru of Global Christian Ministries all prayed for the children and their families.

Speakers at the event included Consul General Amb. Brotherson, Councilwoman Lynn Schulman, Community Board 9 Chair Sherry Algredo, the Mayor’s Community Affairs Office South Asian Community Liaison Sookranie Dhanpat, United American Hindu Leadership Council treasurer Naidoo Veerpan, NYPD Desi Society President Ravi Narayan, and Guyanese American Law Enforcement Association President Fayette Jafferali.

The event co-sponsors were the Richmond Hill-South Ozone Park Lions Club, the NYPD Desi Society, the United American Hindu Leadership Council, the Guyanese American Law Enforcement Association, and Community Board 9.



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