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“My principle in life is that people must do positive and uplifting things for themselves…make yourself somebody and be dedicated to whatever it is that you do.”By Leon SuseranEli Hazel is a community leader, a fitness/sports enthusiast and a role model for young people – something that society needs a lot these days. Whether it is walking from Corentyne to New Amsterdam; re- enacting slaves being shackled and walking long distances in public for a significant, or even balancing a football for a lengthy period, he has done it with purpose.Eli HazelHis love is keeping fit and participating in sports-promoting events and activities, and is quite conscious about moulding youths and keeping them occupied in meaningful activities.? He is a fitness, aerobics and gym instructor too.Eli Zachius Hazel was born at Kildonan Village, Corentyne, to Vernic and Radcliffe Hazel, both farmers. He attended the Kildonan Scots School.Eli was fond of sports from a very early age, with football, cricket, table tennis and swimming among his preferences. He used to play cricket for the Central Corentyne area. Soon after high school, he began to work at age 17 at the Guyana Rice Board as a sweeper then later drier-operator at Mill 220 at Johanna, Black Bush Polder. He spent around eight months there and decided to enter the Guyana National Service (GNS), where he gained valuable experiences, which played a very important role in shaping the young man whom he was to become.Guyana National ServiceHe was amongst the first batch of persons to enter the GNS?at Camp Papaya in the North West District in 1973.“In those days, as a country boy, you decide to leave to go to see if you can get greener pastures”.He described those days (at GNS) as some of the “best times of my life”.“We met people there from all walks of life…all parts of the country and everyone was scattered for the first, but within six months everybody became one, and we celebrated every holiday— Diwali, Phagwah, etc”.“At GNS, they had the best teachers there for you, even Spanish, every language and who couldn’t read, they taught you to read, but at the end of it, they ensured you became somebody.”“Those are the days I developed the likeness for being a fitness man.”He spent one year.Posing with his fitness certificates and a trophy“I wasn’t short of nothing at all because the people there made you feel at home. Physical fitness played a major role in people’s lives in the National Service… that is the reason I became involved in sports.”The GNS helped him in many ways and upon completion, he recalled, “one had to choose a trade and I chose the military”. He praised such an initiative since “it shapes a person and makes them into a well- rounded individual ready for life in any society”.“It is one of the places that have people who care about others and people who ensure that you do work the way it is supposed to be done. One of the hardest things was when you had to leave the camp to go to Georgetown on the Great March…everyone cried.”Hazel then became a young Prison Officer at age 18. He worked at the Georgetown Prisons and was later transferred to the New Amsterdam facility. He recalled attracting much attention while going to work as many persons were somewhat surprised at such a young person as a prison officer.“I guess it looked strange, so I didn’t walk where the people could see me and after spending five months, I decided to come off the job. I was too confined, because you got to be locked in and all of these things.”He subsequently joined the Guyana Police Force in the 1980s and was posted at Eteringbang, along the Guyana- Venezuela border, during relatively tense relations with respect to that area. He vividly remembers those days when he and the other Guyanese officers were more than prepared to give their lives for the nation.“That was very, very scary at first…we were at the front- point. However, the Venezuelan soldiers, were very, very friendly and we enjoyed cordial relations. We exchanged rice wine and we used to get soap, cigarettes, etc. They were very fond of rice wine and they used to come across {the border}….and they liked Tequila and Guyanese soldiers liked to smoke. Our motive was to protect our country, even though we were not that equipped— no surrender, no retreat and nobody had any intentions to leave there because Guyana was our country— we were prepared to die”.Hazel (in front bearing flag) leading the first Fitness Walk from Canje to New Amsterdam in 2003Hazel was later transferred to the Tactical Services Unit (TSU) and followed that by working in ‘A’ Division and Albion, Reliance, Fort Wellington on General Duty. He then worked as a Judge’s Orderly— the very first such— at the New Amsterdam High Court. He learnt a lot during all those experiences having had to accompany the judges at court trials, giving evidence, etc. He left the police force for personal reasons and became employed in 1993 with the Guyana Telephone & Telegraph Company as Internal Security Officer, a designation which he still holds today.Fitness EnthusiastFitness was a passion, and Hazel started up the “Melt the fat and stay in shape gym” in New Amsterdam at the Church View Hotel. He then began to organise walks in and around the town since he believed that people could be united by sports and fitness activities. He organised the Unity Walk in 2003 from Canje Welfare Ground to New Amsterdam.He then started an annual run from the Port Mourant Hospital on the Corentyne to New Amsterdam on Mother’s Day “and I did it for the love of our mothers”. And there was a midday run from Courtland on the Corentyne to N/A, “and this was for Father’s Day and I started that because I felt that, as a father, you had to be strong and if you’re not strong, it cannot work. My aim was to do that midday run without drinking water and that took me about two to two and a half hours”. His wife and sons accompanied him along the way. Many of his events were executed while promoting messages such as good manners and healthy habits.“The Love of the Grandmothers” was another run he started. He performed this with his grandson. “I believe grandparents need to be recognised and respected…and I did the last run from Canje Turn to N/A during last Father’s Day.” Hazel balanced a football on this run. “I dribbled the ball all the way and controlled it with my foot — I couldn’t pick up the ball—because, as a father,Liverpool Adam Lallana Jersey, you have to take control and he cannot be someone who plays…you’ve got to be strict and that is why I did what I did.”Last year, he did a ‘Shackle Walk’ on August 1 for Emancipation from Canje Bridge to N/A. The idea behind such a venture was to “see for myself what the slaves were going through; what they felt, being shackled walking around the place and the masters, what they were doing to them (the slaves) and on completion, we went to the Mission Chapel Church yard, where the first group of African slaves in Berbice received their education and were taught Christianity”.Laying a wreath, as a Guyana Legion member, at the Esplanade Gardens during a Remembrance Day ceremonyFor this year, Hazel did “Messages by drums”, which he performed in the Mission Chapel Church, “to let people understand when slaves wanted to communicate they did so through drums. I always believed in doing things that people could be educated from. I wasn’t interested in getting a crowd”.“My principle in life is that people must do positive and uplifting things for themselves…make yourself somebody and be dedicated to whatever it is that you do.”He would like to see sports administrators being put in places where they could perform to the best.“Being an administrator means to not only administrate, rather you must be a part of what is happening.”He opined that today in sports, many administrators cannot motivate young people.“The key is patience; you have to have patience and commitment and you’ve got to be you. You find some people involved in sports because of the good name they can get.”Hazel has had training in numerous sporting disciplines including tennis, cricket, canoeing and other Olympic pursuits under the United Kingdom High Commission’s Sapodilla Learning Centre training programmes, which he and many others completed a few years ago on the West Coast of Berbice.When asked about the state of sports today in Guyana, more particularly Berbice, our ‘Special Person’ opined that “there is not enough for young people, at all”. He reflected that he was called to be a part of the Region 6 Sporting Committee with the hope of helping in that area, “but the persons in this region doing sports are not qualified and do not have a clue as to what they are doing”.“I was hoping that the region would have taken sports to a different level, but it’s not working at all and nobody cares about anybody, but at the end of it all, I would like to dedicate my life to helping the next generation.”Hazel rises daily at 04:00 hrs and begins training and doing his fitness routines. He and his wife, Theresa, who accompanies him exercising around the town, do shuttle runs, etc.He is also a Peer Educator having completed numerous HIV/AIDS and counselling workshops. He is the Former President of the Guyana Legion’s Berbice Branch as well as Executive Member and Berbice Representative of the Postal and Telecommunications Workers’ Union. He received the Sports Leader UK Award for Best All- Round Student in 2006.He has earned several certificates including Certificate of Participation HIV/AIDS Workplace Education Programme; GTUC( Nov 2011); Sports Leader Certificate at Sapodilla Learning Centre (Sept 2005); IDCE Course in Sports Management Administration and Marketing (Nov 2005); Certificate in National Referee and Volleyball Coach (Sept 2006); attended a Teachers’ Volleyball Course at Cliff Anderson Sports Hall in 2005 and Training Programme Certificate for Boxing Coaches in April 2011 and was graded as a Level- One Boxing Coach.Hazel also supervised popular swims across the Corentyne, Demerara and Berbice Rivers in 1999, 2001 and 2002.In concluding, he had these words for those in positions of authority in the local sporting front.“Sports in this country call for commitment, we do not want talking, lip service, we want action. Enough of the talk.”

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