Overall, an amazing experience.
Did I enjoy myself?
Yes. The best part about St. Cuthbert's were the people. I absolutely adored the village and the villagers. I was perfectly suited to this environment because I love children and there was no shortage of their energy and enthusiasm for 5 weeks. I was also very happy to integrate into the culture and found it easy to make friends. The people were so kind and so generous. Often they would invite myself and my volunteer party over for dinner, on a boat ride, or to their farm.
Did I feel leaving I made a difference?
Yes. I was fortunate to be able to utilize my blogging skills and help develop the village blog for high school students by giving a blogging workshop. I also taught grades 1-11 everything from math to social science to travel and tourism and I believe, a lot about life. I had many kids who were attached to me begging me not to go home! I've kept in touch with many and even sent down a care package! I formed many close relationships and had so many people open their hearts up to me, in fact, I even had a baby named after me! It was a very rewarding experience to watch people learn and grown and to develop friendships.
What was the food like?
Coming from Toronto, Ontario, the food lacked diversity. I would have preferred more of the budget allocated to fresh meats and veggies. I was lucky because my field officer, Tygue Legall, was an AMAZING cook. Without him, I don't think I would have been able to eat so well.
Overall, I enjoy Guyanese cooking. A steady diet of fried rice, chow mein, fried chicken, curry, roti, fish etc. Standard food made better by an awesome chef!
Would I go again?
In a heartbeat.
Did the support staff address my needs?
The support staff in Toronto were INCREDIBLE. I especially recognize Heather Auden, Jane Baldwin, and Sarah Vickery for their dedication to the program and to the their positive, supportive spirits. Without hesitation I could ask any one of them for help. They have been amazing pre and post volunteer experience.
The staff in Guyana were much less supportive. I would have liked more structure in orientation and more professional and mature attitudes.
Did I enjoy volunteering abroad?
Yes! I have traveled to over 30 countries and this is in the top 3 of my experiences. It was an amazing was to submerge yourself into culture and experience. To learn and grow as a person and to touch the lives of others.
Would I recommend the program to a friend?
How did the program change me?
The program showed me how one person can make a difference. That a positive attitude, and friendly demeanor makes all the difference. It helped me develop my entrepreneurial spirit - to build structure when there was none, to connect with people from different walks of life and of all ages, and to appreciate the simple life. I have a new found appreciation for nature and the resilient spirit of mankind.
Did I feel safe?
The majority of the time yes. However the village experiences abuse with alcohol and drunk driving. At night we would not go out to parties as those were said to be unsafe. There were also stories about domestic abuse.
At times I felt unsafe because of that.
Were the program costs appropriate to the work involved?
I feel that costs could have been better allocated. There were no supplies to help us teach and food costs could have been better distributed. The last week we struggled to feed ourselves. As well, there needed to be allocation for mosquito coils because the net and repellent weren't enough.
Was the local community welcoming?
VERY MUCH SO! Almost shocking how open they were but I think we were lucky because there was a Peace Corp volunteer there that had been in the village for a year. She was the icebreaker so to speak.
What would I have done differently?
I would have packed differently. I have since sent in a packing list appropriate for the community. I would have brought more food. And I would have gotten in touch with field staff before the trip.
What do I wish someone had told me before I had left?
I wish someone had told me how attached I would get to the village. By the end, the village felt like my home and I was shocked at my connection to it and the people there. I was very sad to leave.
Did I forget to bring something?
I should have brought shorts. I ended up cutting a pair of pants into shorts. I also only brought sport bras instead of bras. That was a mistake. It was too hot for sport bras! Maybe a tank with built in support would have been best.
Also I would have liked to bring water/hiking shoes. Something that would have been suitable for swamp like terrain.
Did I bring something I didn't need?
No. I needed absolutely everything I brought!
Did I live independently or with a host family?
I lived independently.
What was the social scene like?
We were so busy! We had activities back to back every day! Swimming, cooking, tutoring, hiking, fishing! It was exciting!