First Published: 14th of October, 2021 by Patrick Carpen.
A former soldier and teacher, a politician and family man, Community Development Officer of the South Rupununi Savannahs, Region 9, Guyana, South America, Mr. Manley Thomas, is a man who truly inspires.
Manley Thomas’ determination to succeed in life despite great challenges and the odds sometimes stacked against him is the driving theme of this story. The deaths of his mother and sister while he was still young were some of his greatest challenges – but he fueled his emotions in a positive direction – determined that their lives and sacrifices would not have gone in vain.
Manley Junior Polo Thomas was born in the beautiful South Rupununi Village of Aishalton in Region 9, Guyana, South America. His mother, Jenny Francis Thomas, belongs to the Wapichan Nation of Indigenous peoples from Awarewanau village, and his father, Manley Thomas (Senior), belongs to the Akawaio Nation from Warmadong Village, Region 7, Guyana, South America. Mr. Thomas explained that there is no specific name for an indigenous child mixed with two different nations of indigenous peoples, but that he identifies with his mother’s side – a proud Wapichan.
The main economic activities for people living in Aishalton village are farming, mining, cattle rearing, and small businesses. As such, in addition to being a Community Development Officer, Mr. Thomas also does small scale farming in his hometown of Aishalton, and believes that one day the Rupununi Savannahs can become self-sufficient in terms of food production – and even export to different regions and countries instead of being so heavily reliant on Brazil as is happening now. He relates that with greater effort and cooperation, many of the foodstuffs that are being imported from Brazil can actually be produced and sold at a much lower cost right in the Rupununi Savannahs of Guyana.
The young Manley Thomas attended the Aishalton Nursery School and then the Aishalton Primary School. He was later transferred to Awarewanau Primary. Then, he came back to the Aishalton Secondary School, and was later transferred to the St. Ignatius Secondary School at St. Ignatius Village, Region 9 – where the wrote the CSEC examinations in 2004.
After Highschool, in the year 2005, Mr. Thomas went straightway to enlist in the Guyana Defense Force. He became a soldier and was immediately posted to the G2 branch where he served as a military police for 2 years and then was posted to the Military Intelligence Unit where he served for another two years. A few years later, Manley was sent for overseas training in Belize where he spent one month training in the area of Marine Close Combat Training. Unfortunately, due to welfare problems, Mr. Thomas pulled out of the training and the military and set out to find a new focus in life.
My journey to upgrade myself was not easy since my support came from my mother, sister, and father. Unfortunately, my mom passed away in 2008 followed by my sister in 2010. This shook my world, but their deaths inspired the determination in me not to give up in life.CDO Manley thomas
Manley said his “firm resolve to remain positive in life” guided him to become a teacher at a Private School, Institute of Professional Development, on the East Bank of Demerara where he taught Social Studies and History for one year.
Move to Politics
Mr. Thomas explained that his motivation to enter the political arena, which he did in the year 2014, was fueled by his desire to leave a better legacy for the children of his community. His emboldened personality type further pushed him into this field where he is happy to have an opportunity to be the voice of his people.
I was an outspoken kid in Grade 1, a prefect in Primaries 4, 5, 6, class Rep in Forms 1, 2, and 3, and President of the School Body at St. Ignatius Secondary School during the years of 2003, 2004, and 2005.
Disheartened by the former APNU/AFC government’s many failed promises, Mr. Thomas joined forces with the PPP/C and rallied for its victory in the 2020 elections.
Today I am 34 years old, and all I want is to see that our government set the pace for our children. They must not be deprived of opportunities that I did not have. I will also be happy when I see the opposition and the government of the day work hand in hand to craft polices and implement them for the development of our country.manley thomas
Mr. Thomas says he was especially inspired by former President, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, and former Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Mrs. Carolyn Rodrigues – especially Mrs. Rodrigues words, “you can make a difference, you can create your path.”
An Accident That Didn’t Change His Life
Manley’s love for biking cost him dearly – a broken arm during an accident while biking to Parabara Village to deliver salaries to CSOs. He explained that the road was wet and slippery, and further, the waters had undermined the foundation of the road causing the bike’s wheel to sink. He lost control of the bike going at about 60 mph. The female companion at the back of his bike was also thrown off, and, unfortunately, also suffered a broken arm.
Manley suffered a broken arm, but that didn’t daunt his spirits. In a few short weeks, he could be seen out and about using the other arm to help load a tractor carrying relief supplies to different parts of the Rupununi.
Despite this tragic accident, Mr. Thomas keeps his love for biking. He’ll just be a lot more cautious and a bit more experienced next time.
At the same time, he would like to dispel rumors that he was under the influence of alcohol and racing on the day of the accident.
Continual Educational Advancement
In 2012, Manley applied for a short course in Public Management at the Institution of Distance and Continuous Education/University of Guyana where he came out with a pass in Credit. In 2020 he enrolled in the free courses that the government of Guyana had facilitated online and completed five courses at the University of California, Irvine. These included the Art of Negotiation, High Impact Business Writing, Managing Project Risk & Changes, Initiating and Planning Projects, and Basic Psychology.
Presently Mr. Thomas is a student at Indira Ghandi Open University through the Goal Online Scholarship.
So I’m happy to incorporate all of this knowledge and experience into this present job that I am doing as a Community Development Officer. I love my job. I am in charge of 14 villages, 10 of which are in the Deep South District and 4 in South Central.
Manley’s job entails monitoring of projects done by the villages through grants given by the Government of Guyana, monitoring the Community Support Officers, and supporting and guiding the Toshaos in the area of development. He is also also a direct link between those villages and the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs.
Mr. Thomas has a strong love for the Rupununi and boasts that he has already visited all 57 villages in Region 9. He explains that the average Community Development Officer is assigned 8 to 10 villages, but he was given 14, for which he is proud, because, as he says, “I guess when you are reliable, more responsibility is given.”
CDO Manley Thomas is happily married to Renita Casimero with whom he shares three beautiful children.
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