It was like Déjà vu, but a little worse. The excitement and variety of the holidays was over, and I was at the airport, saying good bye to friends and the comforts of America once again. The difference being that now, instead of going into the exciting unknown, I knew all too well the situation that I would be headed back to. I knew I was going back to unrelenting heat, retreating under mosquito nets for comfort, living on a diet reduced to a limited combination of eggs, tuna, peanut butter, and of course – roti, heart racing rides on minibuses, and the somewhat overwhelming mission of figuring out how to use the next 18 months of my life best. A knot grew in my stomach as I waited for the plane to begin boarding…should I be going back to Guyana?
Then I remembered what I also knew I was coming back to: the comfort of a home I have made for myself, the Peace Corps volunteers who have become like family, the Guyanese people who have taken me in as family, and most importantly – the Guyanese people that I have made a commitment to help. During my visit back in America, I came to really believe that you don’t need to move across the world to make a difference in it, but I also believe my experience in Guyana has helped me to fully develop that understanding. I needed a hard “reset” in my life, and the opportunity as a Peace Corps volunteer gave me just that. So I am back in Guyana, ready to finish what I started, with a sincere hope to leave lasting impressions in the lives of those I can work with here.
Below are some updates from the end of 2014, in addition to the day to day work at the health center and schools, and other things to look forward to in the New Year. Wishing you all the best in 2015!
Peace Corps Volunteer Thanksgiving
We couldn’t be more thankful to have each other!
HIV Task Force
The Task Force took part in a HIV Film Festival in collaboration with NAPS (National AIDS Program Secretariat), where HIV education themed films were shown to over 1,000 secondary school kids bussed in over the course of two days. We conducted a question & answer segment after the films, clearing up misconceptions about HIV and promoting stigma awareness.
The Task Force organized 8 HIV education day camps throughout Guyana, conducted in collaboration with local community volunteers and members. The camps were a huge success and provided a fun avenue for kids to learn about HIV transmission, prevention, and to make a commitment to Stomp Out Stigma in their communities.
Kings Highway Orphanage
Jenni, Genelle, and I continue to work on the completion of the Kings Highway Orphanage. With some help from a local Guyanese friend, we hope to have the orphanage completed this year. As I have very little construction experience outside of Legos, this has been a great opportunity for me to learn as well….Jenni and I even made our first cement step!
With the help of donations from friends and family back home, and the generosity of other local Guyanese people, I was able to take part in several gift giving opportunities for less fortunate children. It was a blessing to be part of!
Christmas at Kaieteur
This was one of the best experiences of my life so far. When you come and visit me here 🙂 this 4 day adventure through the interior of Guyana, and then up to Kaieteur Falls, is an absolute must. It’s truly an experience you won’t get anywhere else – amazing!
New Years in America!
I was fortunate enough to spend New Year’s back in America. Some of my best friends joined me there, and we rang in 2015 down in Key West, FL. The temperature was similar to Guyana, but everything else reminded me of home. It was a great vacation, and comforting to end this year of drastic change with a little bit of familiarity.
PDM Conference (Project Design Management) – This is the conference/training where Peace Corps really starts to dive in on helping us figure out what new projects we can start working on here. We’ve spent the last 9 months integrating, helping where we can in health centers and schools, and now we can start to focus on projects aimed at meeting needs in our communities that are not currently being met. This conference will cover project management, grant writing, and other related topics. I’m looking forward to this, and hope to gain information needed to get my project off the ground. (More info to be provided on said project once it gets some traction) 🙂
Literacy Focus – although I am a health education volunteer, there is ample opportunity and need for literacy help in my community. I hope to get more involved with this, giving some of my time to helping kids and adults in my community with literacy. (As a side note, if anyone has experience and/or resources they could recommend or provide on teaching literacy, either to children or adults, that would be much appreciated!)
Play Park Renovation – this project is still happening! We are working on securing the final donations needed to repair the bridge, and then can level off, weed & cover, and sand the area. This play park was a prior volunteer’s project, so it’s important to me to get it rehabilitated. It is also important to the community members, and we are working through ways to ensure sustainability of the play park once rehabilitated.
Language Classes! As you may remember, the national language of Guyana is “English,” and although the English spoke here is often difficult to understand, living here has not provided an opportunity to learn a 2nd language…until now! I have signed up for a Spanish language course through the Venezuelan embassy, which starts in January and will run through the end of my service here. The best part? – the course is in line with a volunteer salary…free! 🙂
…I am looking forward to these things, and all of the other opportunities that are sure to come about, as I make my way through back in Guyana!