Thinking of becoming a volunteer teacher? Read Guyana Field Director Alicia's passionate list of her eleven favorite things about the country (so far), and start considering Guyana!
Three months ago when I accepted the position of Field Director for the WorldTeach Guyana program, I had absolutely no idea what I was in for. Well, after just about a week here I am thrilled I decided to come. While I am no country expert (yet), I have compiled a list of reasons why YOU should consider Guyana for your volunteer adventure. It is not the first country that comes to mind when people consider volunteering, but I am starting to believe it should be.
This tiny and minimally populated country is absolutely fascinating. Untouched by massive tourism, the people here (natives, expats and travelers alike), have the opportunity to experience things that are not possible elsewhere.
The following eleven things I love about Guyana are based on what I have witnessed thus far, and I look forward to having even more fantastic experiences as my time here goes on. I am prepared for my year here to be unforgettable, and any potential volunteer's year as well!
A friend called and said she wanted to go for a walk and see the manatees that live in the ponds and canals around Georgetown. Not in a zoo, just naturally in waters around the park. I jumped on the opportunity, picked some grass from my front yard and hopped in a taxi. We were not sure if we would see any, but with a little grass for temptation we hand fed over 10 manatees throughout the morning. Talk about Sunday Funday! My friend stated, “This is the most fun thing you can do with grass!” and I couldn’t agree more! I'd even go so far as to say it is probably one of the most fun things I have ever done in my life.
Guyanese hospitality is something that comes up constantly when you Google the country, but it can't be truly understood until it is experienced. I have never lived in a place where people are so friendly and willing to help. The natives and immigrants alike are so welcoming it is almost unbelievable. The people I have encountered want to show you their country and want you to be happy here. When they tell you to “have a good day” when you leave a shop or get out of a taxi they really mean it! It is refreshing and makes me feel safe and welcomed.
Guyana has a very diverse population. African Guyanese and Indian Guyanese are its main populations. The Amerindian native population is also quite large and I can’t wait to learn more about it! There are many Brazilians and other “mixed” ethnicities as well, adding to the magical mix of cultures. Religion is even more amazing, evidenced by the fact that I currently live within a triangle of churches! Across I have Catholic church, next to that is a Jesuit Brazilian Protestant church, and behind me, the largest mosque in Guyana is being built. All religious holidays, of all practicing religions, are observed in Guyana (which also means lots of days off!).
I understand the draw of learning a language while immersing yourself in a new culture, but exposure to new language is even possible in an English-speaking country. First of all, Guyanese English is unlike anything I have heard before. English-Creole is an interesting way of speaking, which with time, will hopefully be perfected and practiced with the colorful locals. Also, such diversity exists in Guyana that the opportunity to speak Spanish and Portuguese is always available. Free Spanish and Portuguese classes are offered at various embassies and in the United Nations Development offices, and furthermore, Spanish will be taught in all schools starting this fall. (I see an extra-curricular club for Spanish-speaking volunteers!)
Guyana boasts the most prestigious rainforest in the world. Totally unspoiled and basically tourist free, the forest is open to exploration. Conservation efforts are strong and there are many organizations to get involved with that protect wildlife and plant well-being. While I have yet to venture into the forest, I have been told that it is absolutely gorgeous and that the Amerindian villages scattered throughout the forest are welcoming and eager to show you around. (The chance to live in a very remote region with an Amerindian population exists as well. That would be a genuine experience for sure!)
There are 83 varieties of mangoes in Guyana and 18 varieties of Papayas. Yum.
Spectacular. Sunny and hot, it truly feels Caribbean here on the coast. Then, the rain comes, cools things down, and disappears. People are so happy. I really think it’s the sunshine!
As Guyana is still developing, many NGO’s, government agencies and other non-profits are scattered throughout the country. Being so small, the executives of these organizations mingle with us non-executives and the potential professional connections are amazing. It is possible to have coffee with a United Nations officer, then meet the USAID official in charge of literacy for lunch. Habitat for Humanity and UNICEF are both located right next to the WorldTeach office, and are always looking for more people to get involved. Taking volunteering to the next level is completely possible, as the only requirement is to start talking!
9. Good Looking People
Gentlemen, the Guyanese women are gorgeous, and (lucky for you) they outnumber the men by a substantial amount. Ladies, don't worry! There are single men out there, and as a foreigner you will have many choices if you are looking for love. Regardless, they are a good looking group to be around! Men here are also tall, making Guyana the best option of South American countries for tall men. Also, they rarely wear shirts.
The volunteer placement sites are filled with the most adorable children. The love and appreciation they have for volunteer teachers is fantastic and the impact made is tremendous. WorldTeach works with some of the poorest children of the country, but past volunteers have told me they have had their most rewarding experiences here.
Cheap and Delicious. There are rum tours.
There are many more things I can say after being here for such a short time. This place is not perfect - it is a developing country and requires a sense of adventure and an open mind to face its challenges. But, if you want to teach children to read, multiply, use Microsoft Word or understand the planets, think about Guyana.
We will be waiting to welcome you!
- Alicia Vignali, WorldTeach Guyana Field Director '13
If you are interested in learning more about WorldTeach, check out our website at www.worldteach.org. If you have any additional questions, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 857.259.6646!