Sunday, 17 February 2008

Mabaruma Region One

Immediately after I came back from Bartica, in fact the next day, we set off for Mabaruma which is in the farthest North West of the country near to Venezuela to visit our VSO friends Helen and Celia who are working as a Literacy Specialist and an SEN Specialist respectively.

The region is accesible by boat or plane but there are no roads. We went there once before when we went by boat to Shell Beach - See April. This time we went the easy way by 12 seater plane - just 55 minutes.

They live in a beautiful part of the country and it is very different from Georgetown. The people are mainly of Amerindian descent and are for the most part very gentle and polite.

We visited the main schools in the area and also the Regional Education Officer who is one of the Master Trainers I train.
There is a lot less available in Mabaruma and the market was very sparse compared to Georgetown. (only one pineapple on sale at three times the price). So there are advantages and disadvantages of living anywhere.

They treated us to lovely home cooking and tried quite a few different Guyanese dishes. The bats in the loft, the cow at the door and the general lack of loud music, dogs and quiet frogs made it a very pleasant weekend experience.
I've put together a collection of pictures. Look at the children. They are beautiful. What happens to them?

Just click on the Arrow below.

Trip to Bartica with Diaspora Volunteers

On 3rd February 2008 I got up at the ungodly hour of 4-30am (well, it's not so ungodly when in Guyana) to set off to Bartica (Region 7) with two Diaspora Vlunteers from Canada. The Diaspora are people who left the country some time ago and return from time to time.
The purpose of the trip was to visit schools and deliver a workshop on "Motivating Teachers". I was their guide and advisor. I had been for a fact finding mission and needs assessment in November. The two volunteers were Peter Jaillal (Story Teller and Poet) and Bharat Mathoo (Management Specialist). Both were from the Toronto Region in Canada and had left the country in the middle 60s.
The first day was spent in orientation in three or four schools and meeting the staff of the education office.
The workshop the next day went well and Heads worked on ways of motivating their staff and including it in their School Improvement Plans.
The following day we met the Regional Executive Officer (the big chief of Region 7), had a follow up with the Education Office Staff and I appraised them of the new regulations relating to monitoring and evaluation in schools and Senior Leadership Teams (my work related to the proposed Education Act. Another school visit followed and a workshop with staff (on my own this time, followed by Banga Mary and plantain chips at the local chippy (nothing like an English chippy!).
My work was done and Bharat and Peter were to stay for a few more days to do follow ups in schools and I set off at 5am on the speedboat back to Parika and then Georgetown for a days work.

To see all of the pictures in a slideshow, click on the picture below.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Coming Soon

Watch this space for my report on the three day trip to Bartica, Region 7 with the Diaspora Volunteers followed by the four day trip to the North West of the country in Mabaruma, Region One. The former is only accesible by boat and the latter by plane and boat but no roads.

Arriving in Bartica

Bartica Village Square

Arriving by speedboat in Bartica

Children of the North West Secondary School Mabaruma

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Wow! One year completed!

Now with pitures of our meal at the
New Thriving

It's incredible but today we celebrate one year in Guyana. That's quite an achievement. Last night we went out with our good friends Meg (who came with us a year ago), Celia and Mira (who were celebrating their 6 months in the country). We went to the New Thriving Restaurant in Kitty. It's a Chinese and is much more "up market" than the rest. In fact it's much better than the average Chinese in England - good food, service and you can see the food being cooked. That's really interesting. It's clean, skillful and exciting - lots of flame!

Celebrating One Year and 6 Months respectively

at the New Thriving Restaurant

Stephen, Mary and Meg one year later

They tell us that the second year goes really fast. Not too fast please as there is a lot to do and we're enjoying ourselves.

We're back to work today.

Here's to the next year!

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Georgetown Guyana

Just to keep you updated about what this place we have been living in looks like. I took a few photos this morning of the Bourda Market. (Cricket fans will recognise the name). It's cheaper than the Farmers' Market that I've shown you before.

Well, it's basic and some people try to scratch a living out of selling a few herbs at GY$40 -that's 10p and you can't grow them for that. They all sell the same things and you hear the same cry from everyone.......

"You shoppin', uncle"

It's sad but they must make something or they wouldn't do it. Personally, I buy from those who display the prices and call me "Babes" rather than "Uncle"!!!!!

Tomatoes - GY$220 - 55p a lb

Potatoes - GY$80 - 20p a lb

Cucumber - 3 for GY100 - 8p each

Lettuce - from GY$100 to GY$500 (in the rainy season) 25p to £1.25 each

Pineapple - GY$260 - 60p

These are the staples, but how can they afford it when they might only earn GY$40,000 a month and pensioners get only GY$6,000 a month?

Well. rice is just being sold for GY$360 a gallon to help out. It keeps you alive.

They seem to survive but at what cost?

Go into the supermarket and the exported goods are available but who can afford them? They are more expensive than England and the salary for a teacher is only 1/20th of an English teacher's salary.
You can look at a few more photos of the market by clicking on the following link:

A secret garden in the heart of Georgetown

You know how I like my garden and we have a beautiful one here. It's very rare and maybe only one in 500 in Georgetown has a garden like ours. We're very lucky but I have no control over it, so I have made my own garden at the front and back of the house on the verandahs - have a look and enjoy!

Hindu Wedding

Station St in Kitty is where most of the volunteers live and also where a Hindu wedding was to take place last week. The traditions are the same as they might have been at home except for the fact that they are in Guyana and not in India and that it is an urban environment and not a village affair.

I was going to go but I decided to bow out of it because I knew that it would be very noisy and I don't find that easy to cope with these days. Mary went along with some of the others volunteers and, thanks to Meg for her photos, we are able to give you a full pictorial account. The bride and groom started off in different houses in traditional dress and eventially, after the Hindu ceremony, had a traditional ceremony much the same as anywhere in the world with white dress (complete with pom poms and a white suit).

May they have a happy life together!

Incidentally, the celebrations went on for five days and the drumming was heard in my bedroom 2 miles away. But you only get married once!

Mary and Meg and Educare Number 8 in Bartica

One of the great meeting of minds was when Mary and Meg met up with Ed Denham (ex VSO) and in charge of Educare - an NGO responsible for after school clubs, feeding programmes and all sorts of other good stuff that helps the children of Guyana - a child centred organisation which has the needs of the child at its heart.

Before we came home in August, Mary had prepared a template for a whole load of workshops for after school clubs to be run in the different regions. Basically, they were to help children to read whilst at the same time ensuring that their physical needs were met, thus encouraging them to attend. This is where our friend Meg took over after a three month stint in England for personal reasons. She took over and did the first half dozen or so workshops on her own. Wow!, what a challenge!

When we returned, Mary joined her and now another wave has come into being and they've been in Bartica with the same programme. It's sterling work and they're to be congratulated for their perseverance.

Meg and Mary are really a great team!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

New School in Diamond

There are not often new schools in Guyana and, when there are, they are generally much the same as the old ones, but the new school in Diamond on the East Bank of the Demerara was different. In fact, when it opened, many families took their children out of the private schools, kitted them up with school uniforms and sent them in on the first day. The new school was built to accomodate the children from the primary tops in the area - 5 or 6 schools which were much like the elementary system in England in the 1950s, except that the children didn't quite make it in the grade six exams and couldn't get a place in the general secondary schools.

What struck me about the children when I went along with a team to assist in management issues was how bright eyed and intelligent and willing to learn they were. Any English teacher would think they had died and gone to heaven to teach these children. Guyana may have its problems but the children are certainly not one of them; they are delightful, without exception in every region!!!!! They are the future and the new generation and the adults need to realise how important they are and in some cases stop giving them "short change".

Best wishes for the future to Diamond secondary school.