projects and progress

With four months and something days left in my peace corps service, things are coming down to the wire. I’m not sure I used that expression correctly, but either way, I’m in the middle of my project to increase health promotion at the primary school level and time is starting to run out!

Let’s back track for a moment. I don’t work at the hospital anymore, by choice and by circumstance. I won’t go into details as to why but things just weren’t going well there so I turned my attention towards what I could do for the kids I taught at the school.

Alright, back to what I was saying about my current project. I started applying for a grant via PC’s Small Grant Program in May. I spent a few months putting it together trying really hard to involve my counterparts in the process. By the end of August, we had submitted our application and waited for PC Guyana and HQ to give us the green light. It took a couple weeks from that point for us to get approved and funded. After that, we waited patiently-ish for the check to arrive in Guyana (only 2 weeks ago) so we could start the implementation process.

My project consists of 3 parts.

PART 1: Starting a health club

Last school year, I taught HFLE alongside two fabulous teachers. Together, we started the health club at the school and so far it’s been great. Unfortunately but understandably, my partners have not been able to participate in many of the meetings. Nonetheless, over 40 students have attended at least one health club meeting! We’ve so far touched on topics such as self-awareness and self-esteem, body image, and friendships.

My favorite one so far has been our meeting about friendship. The goal was to allow the kids to practice getting to know each other and how to give a gift to someone based on the person’s interests… not theirs. I had the kids partner up and interview each other with questions like “What’s your favorite color? number? animal? food? game?” Afterwards, I had them make friendship bracelets for one another based on what they learned about their friend. Inevitably, beads bounced everywhere… but they loved it so I wasn’t that vexed.

Although the health club has been loads of fun, it’s also been really hectic… With little space and limited supplies, my kids are scrunched up and eager to get their hands on what’s there for them to use before it runs out. But even so, they are enjoying themselves and it makes me super happy when kids run up to in the middle of the week asking “Is there health club today?”

Sadly, I don’t know that this club will continue after I leave.. but at least for now, the kids are getting to experience it.

 

PART 2: Developing the Kid’s Learning Center

The purpose of this room is to connect education to technology. We currently have 4 computers with no practical benefit to the 700+ students at the school. With the new renovations and the addition of a projector, we’re hoping that more students will be able to experience the use of technology in their lessons.

I’ve run into a quite a few bumps in the road getting this room together. Starting off with the construction of the furniture. Alongside the local carpenter I hired for the project, we collected the prices and the materials to build the new furniture. The furniture is meant to maximize the space within the room. He constructed 3 long and thin benches with matching desks and a computer shelf  to fit in the back of the class. With this furniture, we are able to fit a maximum of 20 students comfortably at a time. That’s almost 3x’s more than before. The furniture was built in two days and painted in three, thanks to the local carpenter and my amazingly generous friends.

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We’ve worked almost 2 weeks straight on this part of the project and hopefully by the end of this weekend, it will be completely finished. Initially, two men volunteered to paint the room… but after much thought, I decided to give the task to women.

Even though it is typical for a male to do this kind of labor, I felt like it was an opportunity to show young girls AND young boys that women can do a man’s job. Maybe it will prove that these tasks aren’t limited to a single gender or maybe help break some of the stereotypes that restrict girls from learning specific skills.

At least, that’s the hope. I’m also prepared for the criticism and critique of close-minded individuals who will turn their heads and say they could’ve done better. But I’m also confident that this opens up an opportunity for girls to see themselves not only capable one day, but equal too.

PART 3: Teacher Development

My project is centered around helping the primary school support health promotion and equipping the staff to empower the youth, specifically girls, to take ownership of their health.

This portion of the project has also been challenging. Today, a workshop my colleagues and I have been working hard to put together fell through. That’s just how it goes sometimes–things don’t work out and you have to move on. However, my headmaster and I quickly came up with a solution and I think it will work out for the best. Cross my fingers.

Using the newly developed Kid’s Learning Center, I will hold a workshop series on gender equity. For three days, there will be an hour set aside when school gets out to work with the teachers. I’ve hired a private contractor for the Ministry of Social Cohesion to facilitate a session to help bring awareness to teachers on gender inequity in Guyana. The following two days, my fierce friend and I will continue the conversation on gender stereotypes/norms, how it impacts the health of the student, and how teachers can implement gender equitable practices into their classroom.


 

On paper, this all looks perfect.

But in reality, nothing up to this point has gone smoothly or according to plan. Which, at times, has left me feeling deeply disappointed and hopeless with volunteer guilt. It doesn’t always feel like these projects matter when you look at the greater needs of a developing country or when you’re not sure if your project will be carried on after you leave. That’s just the truth. But I’m taking a shot at it anyway, hoping that my aim towards sustainability is a step forward somewhere for this little corner of Guyana.

Love always,
Mel

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