By all accounts, Ann Greene is an exemplary woman. She has devoted decades of her life to public service and spearheaded the creation of the Childcare and Protection Agency.
She started as a teenager, working part-time for the public service when she got her first official job as a receptionist. Greene worked her way up until she retired as Chief Probation Officer in 2005.
She later returned as Director of the Childcare and Protection Agency and spent the last 13 years working to improve the lives of abused women and children.
Now that she has retired, Greene will be studying for her PhD in Human Services to add to her many accolades over the decades and, most importantly, continue her work in social work and human services.
How did it all start?
Greene was the only girl in a family of six boys. This she believes is what made her “tough” in her career.
As a young girl, she dreamt of working at Fogarty’s department store in Georgetown simply because of how her neighbour dressed for work. Greene identified with the young woman, having grown up with only brothers.
“…the lady downstairs, she went out every morning with a lovely green skirt and a white top,” Greene said with a chuckle as she reminisced about her aspirations when she was just 12 years old.
Young mother and wife
While Greene completed her primary education, she did not finish her secondary education since she was married at a young age and started her family soon after. But this did not stop her from pursuing her education, since it was required at the time to get a job in the public service.
“I had to pick up back my secondary education and I did.
“…you had to get all of the requirements to join the public service and I went out and I got everything I needed to get in terms of qualifications that I needed to join,” Greene told the News Room.
Her first job with the government was as a receptionist at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Greene recounted that the public service in those days was different from today. Every year, persons had to complete an annual confidential report so they can get a pay increase.
It is no surprise that Greene got an increase every year.
“They used to use me for orientation for upward mobility in the public service; you name it, I’ve done it.”
Social work was a calling
Greene worked as a typist clerk, personnel clerk and accounts clerk before she got involved in social work, something she described as being her calling.
It started in the early 1970s when her three young sons and other boys would play in a schoolyard in Newtown, Georgetown.
Edmund Calder, a former policeman who had a great interest in the development of youth, had started a youth club in the community. After Officer Calder was shot and killed during a robbery, Greene took up the mantle.
“After Calder died, I said I would organise these boys – get them out of the schoolyard, throw in my three [sons] too – and I started Operation Youth Club,” Greene said.
She would work at the Agriculture Ministry, come home in the afternoons and head out to the Youth Club.
“This went on for years. We had about 30 [boys] and they wanted to march for Youth Week and they wanted jeans and so.”
That meant they had to find odd jobs to raise money.
“…and we went to a lady’s house and I didn’t know at this time she was working at [Ministry of Public Service].”
The boys did some work for the woman and after explaining what she was doing with them, Greene said the woman urged her to apply for a scholarship to study social work at the University of Guyana.
“So social work found me, it was a calling and I went and I did social work,” Greene said with a smile on her face.
After she completed her degree in social work, Greene was sent to the La Bonne Intention sugar estate as the first trained social worker; she was expected to spend six months but ended up working there for 11 months because she wanted to see some policies she was working on be implemented.
“I am a lady with passion, so I cannot do things just like and go through the motions. So I went to LBI estate and found out what were some of the things I could do,” Greene said.
“I know this is my career path, I stayed and I worked.”
In 2005, Greene retired as Chief Probation Officer. But within a month she was back at work as a Technical Officer for orphans and vulnerable children.
“There were things that I still wanted to accomplish in the probation service so I came back after a month of retiring.”
Some of the sore issues she worked on were child abandonment and researching how orphanages and children’s homes operated.
In 2006, she began working with Priya Manickchand, who was the then Minister of Human Services and Social Security, to establish the Childcare and Protection Agency.
“So, Miss Manickchand was the first child protection minister who worked on getting all the laws and really setting up with the agency.
“And it has evolved over the years. I told people we started with four and now I am leaving, we have 188 staff and seven units and that is something!”
Her retirement, she explained, is so that others can step up. Greene, now 71, says she will continue to help where she can. Over the next two years, she will pursue her PhD in Human Services at Walden University.
“I am still going to be available, I still want to help…I am just giving up the desk, the director’s desk.
“I will be available still to help the children, even if it is to the corner of the street and help them cross the road,” Greene related.
Greene also holds a master’s in Human Services and with all of her other qualifications and experience, and soon with her PhD, she explained she will be able to evaluate organisations and how to make them more viable.
Greene is the recipient of several accolades including Guyana’s Medal of Service, the European Union Human Rights award and she was this year named one of the 25 most influential women in Guyana.