Hey there — it’s me! Ya’ll are due for an update, and it’s been awhile, so there’s plenty to cover. Here we go…
Health Center Library: This is very exciting! Another PC volunteer had previously introduced a reading library at his health clinic, promoting reading to infants and children at a young age. Considering the literacy challenges in my village, and the volume of children that come through our infant clinic each month, I thought this would be a great opportunity at my health center as well.
So with the help of Darien Book Aid (awesome organization: http://www.darienbookaid.org)
I was able to get some books to start up a small library, and am now providing talks at the beginning of the clinic, explaining the importance of reading to children at an early age – even for just the benefit of kids seeing parents with books. For those parents who are unable or uncomfortable reading to their kids, myself or other health center staff read to the children for them.
The volunteer who initially started health center reading, Mike, helped me roll out the program and has so far been well received by kids and parents at my center. This initiative provides great utilization of the time parents and children spend waiting to get through the clinic process. Side Note: We can use more books! Board books or books with nice pictures and simple reading seem to work the best. So if you have any old children’s books lying around, they would be much appreciated here.
Literacy Tutoring: This is a new area for me, as I have never taught literacy or reading to anyone before. Thankfully there are plenty of resources, both human and material, through PC to give me a good idea where to begin. I have been working with neighbor kids in my community a few times each week (including James, the kid on the cover pic), and it has been so rewarding to see their progress being made. I can only imagine how frustrating it could be going through as an adult and being unable to read, but it’s a reality many people here live. Knowing that these kids are working to have the basic literacy skills needed to improve their lives is encouraging!
SASOD: I have had the opportunity to get linked up with a fantastic NGO in Georgetown that is working to help marginalized populations in Guyana. I am volunteering with them a few days each week to expand and further develop sexual, mental, and emotional health programs, in an effort to reduce STI’s, HIV, and depression/suicide amongst key populations. Not only is this work that is personally important to me, but it also gives me the resemblance of real “job” a few days a week, which has been surprisingly nice…PLUS, my office has AC!!! 🙂
Guyana Shines: If there is one area that Guyanese as individuals could have an immediate impact on, I would say it’s the environment. Unfortunately, garbage is inherently part of the Guyana I know; however, I have been told it has not always been this way. Formally considered the Garden City of the Caribbean, Georgetown was well kept and maintained. Now, after years and years of trash, piled in drains and trenches – it is difficult to find an area where littler is not present. This causes a negative cycle of “trash breeding trash” wherein Guyanese don’t think twice about littering, since the litter is already there. Guyana Shines is a fantastic group that has taken the challenge to tackle this problem, and it has been great to have the opportunities to work them. Their cleanup projects, combined with in-school environmental education and trash bin placements, help to provide the foundation to a better Guyana.
Colored Pencil Project: Another amazing organization from America! (http://www.thecoloredpencilproject.org) Hannah and Rachel from the colored pencil project came to Guyana to provide Peace Corps volunteers training and supplies to use in our communities. This was a HUGE undertaking, as they literally brought hundreds and hundreds of colored pencil packs for us to give to children. Their mission is to encourage self-expression in children through art, and to give children pencils they can keep to continue using art as way to communicate after the sessions are over. I was able to facilitate the sessions with all of Bagotville Primary. It was fantastic seeing the kids express themselves through their self-portraits and world drawings, and their surprise and excitement when they were told they can keep the pencils! Thanks again Colored Pencil Project!
Kings Highway Orphanage and Kids Play Park: These projects are still happening, and are also true testaments of the challenges in getting things completed in a developing country. Although we have received a lot of community support and pledged donations for materials needed to complete these, the logistics and delivery of such have been challenging. Luckily, I’ve still got plenty of time left to work through the challenges and see them through.
Workshops, Workshops, Workshops: The last few months have also been filled with plenty of workshops. As part of the HIV taskforce, I attended a PEPFAR in service training to address the issue of Gender and Sexual Minorities as they relate to HIV and key populations. Very informative workshop! The information was so valuable that the taskforce has taken the initiative to prepare a similar training that we will deliver to community service providers here in Guyana. Unfortunately, discrimination is still a big issue here, especially within the Guyanese health care environment, which prevents people from seeking necessary services when they should. The first training will be delivered to a group of New Amsterdam nursing students in April. I also was part of a diversity training workshop, which was put on by Peace Corps Washington and delivered to all Peace Corps Guyana staff. This was an inspiring workshop, which I believe really helped local Guyanese Peace Corps staff better understand the wide range of diverse volunteers coming from America, and I give kudos to PC Washington for the commitment to their volunteers.
Other Stuff – Good, Bad, and everything in between
Holidays: Guyanese holidays are FUN, and there’s a lot of them! As some of you may have seen on my facebook page, there have been a few very cultural and very fun holidays over the past month or two. Mashramani (Mash) celebrates Guyana being a republic. The work means celebration after hard work, and that it was. 🙂 Then there was Phagwah, or Holi, which is a Hindu holiday which celebrates good overcoming evil. This holiday involved A LOT of colored chalk, water, food, and fun. If anyone ever gets the urge to come visit Guyana, I highly recommend coming during one of these two celebrations.
Jhandi: My neighbor had a Jhandi to celebrate her birthday. A Jhandi is a spiritual devotion done by Hindus and is generally performed by a Pundit.
There was singing of devotional songs and blessings asked for the one who initiates the ceremony…..and oh, delicious puri and halwa (prasad) served after. Jhandi’s are one of my favorite things about the Hindu culture here! Check Out This Video!
Food: My diet has become somewhat limited…I need to start cooking again! I have settled into a routine of wheat bread or oats, PB, bananas, and cinnamon in the morning; tuna fish or egg sandwich for lunch, and a protein shake and egg/tuna with roti for dinner…it’s difficult cooking for one person, and these foods are easy to make and a bit more predicable than my cooking 🙂 Considering I have access to some of the best and cheapest fruits and vegetables available, I really need to start using them! Of course, there are some foods I will never get used to…such as cow face souse – yes, actually made from a cow’s face!
Health: I got chikungunya – AGAIN. Luckily, it’s not so bad the second time you get it…all the same symptoms, but less severe and they do not last as long.
The chikungunya may have led to some weird ankle infection/swelling at the end of January, but it only lasted a weekend…I have no idea what it was.
On the bright side, other than a slight recent sunburn, I currently feel like I am in fantastic health – both mentally and physically.
Comings and Goings: I can’t believe it’s almost been a year here! That being said, a new batch of volunteers is set to arrive, and the volunteers that got here before us are getting ready to leave. This is hard, especially since I have become close to several people in the group that is leaving. I will especially miss my neighbors, Pat and Mike, who have been a great support for me in the community. At the same time I am looking forward to meeting all the volunteers from the new group coming, and hopefully new friendships and connections can be made.
I also miss Andrew from our group, who recently went home to pursue other ventures…our Guy26 get-togethers just aren’t the same without him!
Alright, well I guess that’s about it for the here and now. Thanks for taking the time to catch up on me, and remember, I love to get caught up on you too! If you haven’t already, please shoot me a message letting me know how you are doing and what’s new in your world…it takes two to stay connected! 🙂 Until next time…