I guess we could say it’s been a hot minute since my last blog update, and it’s been LOTS of hot minutes here lately. The rainy season has officially wound down, and the past few weeks have been dominated by the relentless pounding of the sun. Among the many things I’ve learned through this Peace Corps experience, the value of a breeze is one I will not forget. I’ve always preferred to live in places with natural light, and now I know equally important is a place’s “breeze” factor. My apartment, although open to the outside world in many places, only seems to be allowing bugs in…not breeze. The apartment is facing the wrong direction, in addition to being behind a fortress of mangroves, diligently blocking any lifesaving breeze from the river.
Without a breeze, a fan is necessary to survive the days and nights. However, with compounding days of heat adding up, the fan begins to just blow warm, hot, breathy air around my body….so I find myself in a breezeless convection oven, cooking to a perfect temperature just below the boiling point. Still, I appreciate the fan – as my sanity would not be possible without it. There is only one real relief to the heat though, and that is stepping out to a natural cool breeze hitting your sweat glistened skin at the exact moment you knew you could not take it one second longer. I’ve never been so grateful for something so natural and free.
Fortunately, I have not been in my apartment often, so am only really losing sleep over the issue…no biggy, eh. 😉 If you’ve been following my facebook page you may have a pretty good idea of what I have been up to the past few months.
July marked the end of school term here, so some other volunteers and I helped support the regional summer camps put on by the Ministry of Education throughout the month…it was a good experience, and truthfully, it is a good thing we were there. An opportunity common among many areas of life in Guyana is organization…the summer camps being no exception. I was also able to take part in workshops over the course of August and September, which provided valuable information on project proposal writing and public policy advocacy to support the work I’m doing with the non-governmental civil society organizations serving Guyana.
Some other highlights of what I have been up to are the book bag drive and donations through my host family’s charitable organization The Blessed Hands Foundation (Thanks to those who supported their facebook page, there is new info on our December project coming soon!), helping with a “Spay Day” event that my friend and fellow PCV Jenni put on to help address the homeless pet population here, and assisting in the Diabetes focus group being done by friends and PCVs Mark and Sallay.
Volunteers also came out to support the Novelty Sports Fun and Health day in recognition of International Day of Peace (IDP), on September 21, 2015. The event, hosted by the Guyana Equality Forum, brought society together in promotion of peace, human rights, general health and well-being for all Guyanese. As youths of all ages, genders, and backgrounds were engaged to participate in various sports and activities, several health services were also offered to achieve the three objectives tied to the 2015 IDP theme “Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All”: 1) Promotion of Positive Health & Well-Being 2) Youth Participation and Civic Engagement 3) Promotion of Human Rights and Equality. Our Peace Corps team was there to support Guyanese civil society in meeting all of these objectives, in addition to giving them some healthy competition in the day’s events. After the scores were tallied, team Peace Corps walked away as 2nd place winners, leaving 1st place to the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association, a worthy competitor!
It has been just as rewarding, if not more so, to help support other volunteers in their efforts as it is to focus on my own. As far as my own efforts go, we recently received funding for a project proposed through SASOD, so we will be starting the “Youth Matters” project to meet three main objectives:
- Combat stigma experienced by LGBT youth through community engagement, advocacy and empowerment
- Provide improved access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment through local collaborations
- Strengthen LGBT and civil society groups in their efforts to reduce anti-LGBT stigma and discrimination
As you can imagine, being an LGBT youth can bring challenges anywhere in the world, but more so in a culture and country where being so is widely unaccepted and discriminated against; and although not the only cause, the lack of support for these youths are directly linked to the alarming suicide rates in the country.
In addition to the Youth Matters project, I am helping coordinate a health project through APC providing focused HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care interventions to the key populations of Guyana. It can be rewarding and frustrating work, which I suppose is the norm for most things in life really.
When considering the work I was doing prior to Peace Corps, I sometimes find myself asking how I ended up here doing what I am doing…it’s hard to imagine myself ever doing what I was doing before again, and it’s hard for me to imagine doing what I am doing now forever…so where does that leave me? It leaves me at 32 years old, still trying to figure life out…but I’m learning a few things for certain along the way, which I will take with me wherever it is I end up next:
- Just show up. Being there can make all the difference, whether you think it will or not.
- Helping others IS the way to help yourself.
- When the heat is real, appreciate a breeze whenever you can.
That’s it for now folks. I hope those back home are enjoying your pumpkin spice lattes and cool fall weather…just a few of my favorite things! 🙂
P.S. The border dispute between Venezuela and Guyana seems to be heating up…will keep you posted as the situation unfolds.