Some of the volunteers who participated in the St. Monica – Karawab Clean Water Project shared their personal experiences:
From Phillip Chan, Jefferson Medical College (MS2)
Awesome trip this year! At first, I was a bit more anxious having a larger group with us, and trying to get everyone out to the village all in one piece. In the end, we ran into the most trouble on our U.S.-based Delta airlines flights, of all places! However, once we got to Guyana the week was an incredible success, and in retrospect it seems to have gone by so amazingly fast. The days were jam packed with teaching, playing with kids, local trips, purchasing construction materials, and paddling around on the river. In the evening, despite the fact that we had nothing but a kerosene lantern and headlamps to light our way, we managed to entertain ourselves with a few infamous nights of “Celebrity” charades more mosquito coil smoke than can possibly be healthy for the human body. At night we slept 6 hammocks in a row up in the old primary school building, falling asleep to the sounds of frogs, crickets, howler monkeys, tropical birds, and what had to be the loudest sounds possible of bats copulating. I’d like to thank the St. Monica and Karawab school faculty and village leaders for all their help and incredible hospitality. A special thanks to my awesome fellow Jefferson med-students, y’all were a blast to hang out with and made this trip more productive, fun, and entertaining than I ever could’ve imagined. My all time favorite highlight of the trip: boat racing with paiwari at the final farewell dinner, Americans vs. Guyanese. It came down to the wire (no thanks to myself) but ended in a dead on tie.
From Devesh Upadhya, Jefferson Medical College (MS2)
This was the best week of my life! There were so many new experiences, so many fun times with my fellow travelers, and the experience of learning something about myself in a totally different environment–not a bad outcome for my first service trip abroad. From the first evening, when we spent some time with Peace Corps volunteers learning about the challenges and rewards of working in the country, to the last day in the village when we futilely paddled our canoe in circles, every day was a learning experience. I found myself waking up every morning around 5 AM, full of energy. I had time to enjoy the quiet mornings, play with the children, eat a quick breakfast, and then dive into teaching math to the students; afterwards us volunteers would gather around the kerosene lantern, play games, and just talk while we inhaled the (possibly mind-altering) combined fumes of mosquito coils, DEET, and our kerosene stove boiling water. I am very thankful for the villagers’ hospitality, and for all the donations that helped make our trip a helpful contribution to the village!
From Kartik Dandu, Jefferson Medical College (MS1)
Spending my spring break in Guyana was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I knew that I would never get another opportunity like this, and I could not pass it up. Having a seasoned peace corps veteran like Phil around was the main reason why our trip went so smoothly (except for the whole Delta airlines debacle). In Georgetown, we were able to get a taste of the local culture which has a surprising number of American influences. Coming from America, Georgetown was a nice transition before we headed up to St. Monica. At the village, I had a lot of fun teaching the kids math/science during the day and playing games in the river with some of the same kids at night. Being able to provide the village with water tanks and a playground equipment was a nice bonus. I can’t say enough about the hospitality of the people in St. Monica. They were always willing to accommodate us and even cooked us three meals a day. In the end, our trip went by way too quickly, and I would definitely like to visit Guyana again in the future.
From Priya Sharma, Jefferson Medical College (MS1)
Spending a week in Guyana and St. Monica was one of the most gratifying experiences that I have ever had! Since this was my first time traveling to a foreign country for a service project, I was extremely apprehensive about the obstacles that I would face. However, I was completely amazed by how easy it was to adapt to the Guyanese life! As soon as we arrived at the village, I was overwhelmed by the gratitude and hospitality of St. Monica, and we were able to interact with the villagers as if we were from St. Monica itself. Everyday was a new learning experience, whether it was learning how to sleep in a hammock comfortably or learning how to balance a flashlight while acting out Yoda in our “Celebrity” game. My all time favorite experience was demonstrating a Grade 8 chemical extraction that required an Erlenmeyer flask filled with distilled ethanol suspended over a Bunsen Burner, but was instead demonstrated with a cup filled with trimethylated spirits suspended in a pot of boiling water. Surprisingly, the experiment worked extremely well! Another amazing experience was paddling downstream on the Pomeroon only to find that it was impossible to paddle back upstream! Needless to say, I quickly realized that paddling was much harder than it appeared! Overall, I had an amazing trip. I want to thank everyone in St. Monica for their unbelievable hospitality and I want to thank the Peace Corps Volunteers who housed us in Georgetown during our transit. But most of all, I want to thank Phil and my fellow Jefferson students for putting together this amazing trip, it was one of the most rewarding experiences that I have ever had! I will have a piece of St. Monica in my heart for years to come!