Featured Veteran: Hospital Corpsman Second Class Edson Arzu of the United States Navy, July 2001 – April 2008.
Arzu is the President of Garifuna Veterans of America (GVOA). GVOA started as a way of acknowledging and chronicling the achievements of Garifuna service members. Since it is difficult to categorize the Garifuna service members in military documents through current ethical and racial classifications methods, Arzu took it upon himself to help build a template. He hopes that the collected data on Garifuna service members will one day bring change and that they will be able to annotate their background, along with their accomplishments on official military documents.
In the past six years GVOA has identified over 1,000 past and present Garifuna service members. Arzu has been at the forefront of those efforts by personally searching through record books, databases, and using word of mouth to track down individuals in the United States and abroad. GVOA’s biggest achievement in gathering names and information is their annual Garifuna Veterans Service Award ceremony. This annual event has been able to bring mainstream attention to the cause while attracting Garifuna service members and the Garifuna community. For his efforts, a local Garifuna organization has asked Arzu to join them in their ranks for the betterment of their community. Arzu graciously accepted the offer.
Arzu was appointed as the Community Liaison with Garifuna Community Services (GCS). GCS helps with immigration status, housing, food and much more. A large portion of Arzu’s tasks has him dealing with elected officials, but his main goal is the economic growth of the community members. With his knowledge of business and entrepreneurship, he has been able to help individuals incorporate their own businesses, secure micro grants and connect businesses with government contracts. His next big endeavor is the 2020 Census. His knowledge on collecting data and reaching out to the Garifuna community make him uniquely qualified. Since GCS has just been approved to be a certified Census organization group, they are seeking individuals interested in helping in the field to collect data. Their next goal is adding Garifuna as a category in the Census.
Besides gathering information, a huge topic on Arzu’s agenda is Veteran outreach. He feels that there isn’t enough support coming from the government entities down to the individuals in need. Edson acknowledges the efforts they have made but believes more can be done. He specifically believes that funding towards programs that deal with suicide awareness, post traumatic stress disorder, and employment can be increased. This is why GVOA has pushed huge efforts into helping the economic development of both Garifuna Veterans and the Garifuna community, as a whole. Recent GVOA events include a business expo and a health fair. Upcoming projects include a Youth Financial Literacy event and gathering individuals for the 2020 Census.
If you are a Garifuna Veteran, please visit Garifuna Veterans of America Facebook page here.
For more information on Garifuna Community Services, please contact Gregoria Flores-Nunez via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone at (347) 389-2093.
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