Volunteer in Guyana with Youth Challenge International

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Join Youth Challenge International as a volunteer in Guyana. Community development in Guyana suffers from a lack of skilled human resources in remote areas. As a result, Guyana is currently on of the poorest countries in the Caribbean Commonwealth.

Volunteers with Youth Challenge International will work in conjunction with Youth Challenge Guyana (YCG). Participants will assist in projects that will provide technical skills training to the remote communities of Guyana. Projects include literacy sessions, reproductive health workshops, and empowering women through small business.

Learn more about volunteer opportunities in Guyana with Youth Challenge International on their website!

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8.75 Rating
based on 4 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 75%
  • 7-8 rating 25%
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  • Impact 8.8
  • Support 8.5
  • Fun 8.8
  • Value 8.8
  • Safety 8.5
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Yes, I recommend this program

Drainage Project in Guyana

During my 5 week stay in Guyana, I worked with the Health Center in St.Cuthbert’s to implement drainage maintenance in part of the village. The population of the entire village of St.Cuthbert’s is 1500 people, and about 200 people live in subsidized housing called the “Scheme”. There are forty 500-square foot houses in the Scheme, each equipped with an out-house because there is no running water. The Scheme is on lower land and when it rains heavily, there is a lot of flooding, which causes land erosion. Mosquitoes that carry Malaria fester and thrive in dark standing water and poor sewage drainage adds to the soupy swamp which in turn can contaminate the entire area in the Scheme. Children are seen playing amongst these puddles and families tend to their gardens that feed their families. As you can probably see, this is a very significant health concern.

Standing water around houses can cause land erosion and health issues. I was delegated to take initiative and approach the people of the village with this issue. After visiting the Scheme and going from house to house, I realized that the only option to fix this problem was to dig and maintain deeper drains around every lot and create a main drain that leads out to the river down past the village. I met with a few people that knew the geography of the land, and we drew a map of the Scheme to figure out where the best place would be to dig a main drain . Since the houses were originally built, a drain was included with the construction, but over time erosion caused the drains to become almost non-existent. I also noticed that the drains were filled with garbage, such as empty bottles, papers, etc, which obstructs the water flow.

We had to act!

I facilitated a workshop explaining the cycle of good drainage, clean soil for gardens, and proper nutrition, which ultimately leads to good health. Only a few people came to the first meeting but the following week I encouraged more people to come out and start digging.

I created posters for my drainage project information session.
Soon after, I visited the Scheme every few days and found that more and more drains were being dug. I kept following up with the people to encourage them and reminded them why it is important to maintain their drains.

The beginnings of the drains dug around each lot in the scheme.
The biggest challenge of this project was keeping people motivated! A Drainage Committee was created in order to provide encouragement and ensure commitment to the project.

Before my departure, I was pleased to findout that 70% of the Scheme residents had dug their drains! I feel confident that the people will continue to work on their drains and I hope that it will be a sustainable project.

This experience has shown me that with commitment and a positive attitude, a community can work together to make a positive change!

-Kasia Wolowski, Youth Ambassador, Guyana 2011

1 person found this review helpful.
Yes, I recommend this program

A Very Worthwhile Challenge

I recently volunteered in Guyana for three months and had an amazing experience overall! My group was placed in an Amerindian village called St. Cuthbert's Mission. The landscape of the village was beautiful and the people were friendly and welcoming. I can't wait to go back and visit the friends I made, as well as to explore more of the country!

During my time in St. Cuthbert's, I taught the Grade 3 class at the primary school three days a week along with another volunteer from my group. Occasionally, I would fill in for other teachers at the primary school as well. I also helped teach remedial Math and English classes to the Grade 7/8 students two days a week. Apart from teaching, I also helped plan and run workshops for both the primary and secondary school students on a variety of topics including dental hygiene, nutrition, study skills, test-taking, and water conservation.

There were tons of other things to experience in the village as well, and we tried to keep a busy schedule to ensure we could make the most of our time there! We went camping, fishing, hiking, and swimming with some of the locals. I had my first ride in a dug-out canoe, and shampooed my hair in a black water creek! Some of the villagers invited us over for dinner sometimes as well. It was really interesting to experience life in another culture and another part of the world, and also very rewarding. While learning about Guyanese culture and building relationships with some of the locals, I learned a lot about myself in the process.

However, as expected, there were a few challenges to overcome during our project as well. As this was my first experience volunteering internationally, I felt a bit overwhelmed at first and didn't quite know how to get involved in the community, or what kinds of projects I could participate in. We were given little direction or encouragement from the field staff in Guyana upon arriving in St. Cuthbert's. I would have appreciated a bit more support and guidance overall throughout the project, but especially while trying to settle in and adjust to our new home during those first few weeks. However, having little direction also had its benefits. It forced me to try to integrate into the community on my own, and to become more proactive. We were expected to get involved and to find useful ways of contributing to the community. We had to take initiative and seek out projects we could create or participate in. It was definitely challenging, and even frustrating at times, because I didn't know what to do, or felt overwhelmed by the task of trying to find something meaningful to do. In the end, however, all these challenges made for a very valuable learning experience! I had a wonderful time in Guyana and would definitely consider volunteering with Youth Challenge International again in the future!

1 person found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program


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?

Most definitely.

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!

1 person found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Thumbs Up for YCI

I volunteered with YCI in Guyana for three months, January to April 2012. Overall, I most definitely enjoyed myself – sure, there were ups and downs but that is the same for anywhere. There were many things I learned while I was at my placement in an Amerindian village. For example, I learned how to be around children and not run screaming from them. I also learned that I quite enjoy classroom teaching… for teenagers, that is. I still don’t like children THAT much! I’ve also experienced firsthand the difference between general volunteering and sustainable development work (my favorite adage is “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and he feeds himself for a lifetime). I also realized that small villages are just as bad/hilarious as a soap opera. And that you only really start to truly get to know a place, its hidden corners, and its people if you are there for more than a couple months. I discovered new reserves of patience and diplomacy as well as that there are spiders and there are SPIDERS. I learned how to teach people of a different culture and life experience as well as that you definitely cannot think that development work and social work are even remotely the same thing.

The work that I did for the three months included teaching literature at the high school (gr 7-9), working in the library, and giving workshops (study/test taking skills, dental hygiene, nutrition, water conservation). It was pretty incredible to be involved in all of these things and I definitely felt that I was able to contribute my knowledge and skills to my students and other people of the village.

In Guyana, you are technically not representing YCI – you are working for a local NGO called Youth Challenge Guyana (YCG). They are the one to organize you upon arrival, provide your food (but take advantage of the yummy local food!), your main point of contact in-country. The staff at YCI are an awesome bunch of people and they do an excellent job in guiding you through the pre-departure process of the project. As for the staff at YCG, I was not 100% happy with them but they were adequate. In the village itself, my group lived together in a house with a local staff member from YCG. While support exists, it really is up to each volunteer group to introduce themselves to the village, to sniff out projects, and all round figure out how to live for the next little while. Sounds daunting, but it definitely forces you to develop all sorts of skills such as adaptability and initiative.

YCI has an alumni program for new volunteers to take advantage of – pre-departure, you can ask them all sorts of questions. Alumni can give you firsthand knowledge and help you to prepare for your trip much more than YCI staff (based in Canada) can (staff can give you the basics and generalities but for the specifics, as an alumnus!). YCI also has many ways for alumni to stay involved with them upon your return home which is pretty great especially if you want to continue building your international development experience for your resume/school/etc.

All in all, great community, great country, tons to do (especially if you like nature), great project. I definitely recommend YCI and I most certainly will be returning to explore more of this great country!

1 person found this review helpful.