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The Peace Corps established a program in Guyana in 1966. From 1966 until 1971, more than 160 Volunteers served in Guyana. In March of 1995, the Peace Corps officially reopened a joint Peace Corps Office for Suriname and Guyana. During 1997, Peace Corps/Guyana and Peace Corps/ Suriname split to form two separate programs.
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Guyana
The Peace Corps first received a formal invitation from Guyana in 1966, the year of the country’s independence. From 1966 until 1971, more than 160 Volunteers served in Guyana with the Peace Corps. At that time, education Volunteers broadened the school curricula to include technical and vocational subjects, including home economics, crafts, and manual arts. Technicians, architects, and engineers also assisted in developing and carrying out plans of Guyana’s Ministry of Works and Hydraulics. The Guyana program was discontinued in 1971, after the government of Guyana requested all overseas voluntary agencies to leave.
In 1993, the Guyanese government, led by President Cheddi Jagan, approached the Peace Corps about the prospects for the Peace Corps to reopen its program in Guyana. In March 1995, the Peace Corps officially reopened a joint Peace Corps office for Suriname and Guyana. The first Volunteers arrived in 1995, serving in the areas of community health and youth development. In 1997, Peace Corps/Guyana and Peace Corps/ Suriname split to form two separate programs. Approximately 30 Volunteers arrive each year to work in the community health project and the education and community development project (which includes information technology). In total, more than 380 Volunteers have served in Guyana with the Peace Corps.
Volunteers serve at sites ranging from the capital city of Georgetown, with a population of 300,000, to small, remote villages with populations fewer than 300. They are affiliated with a variety of schools, nongovernmental agencies, and government health facilities. The work of Peace Corps Volunteers in Guyana is well-received by the people of the communities in which they serve.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle
Main article: Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Guyana
During pre-service training and the first three months of Volunteer service you will live with a Guyanese family. Most homes have electricity and indoor plumbing, and many have televisions and telephones.
Living with a host family allows for your integration into the community and helps ensure that you live safely and securely in the community. Following pre-service training and your first three months of service, Volunteers have three housing options: continue living with a Guyanese family; living in an independent house/flat connected to a family’s house; and living in a separate house that is part of a family’s compound. The Peace Corps strongly prefers that Volunteers live with a Guyanese family in their house or compound as a first option.
In order to encourage integration into the Guyanese culture and to minimize American presence in an area, no more than two Volunteers may live in the same house except in unusual circumstances. Exceptions to this arrangement must be approved by the country director. All Volunteer housing must be scrutinized by the Peace Corps’ medical officer and safety and security officer and be approved by the program director.
Houses in Guyana typically are constructed from wood or cement block and have two to three rooms. Most towns have running water and intermittent electricity. Rivers serve as a main water supply source in many villages.
Main article: Training in Guyana
You will participate in eight weeks of pre-service training, which will take place primarily in communities outside of Georgetown. Training will focus on four interrelated components—cross-cultural understanding, technical training, health, and safety/security issues. Pre-service training also includes opportunities for continuous assessment, by both trainees and training staff, of trainees’ progress in cultural adjustment and adoption of technical skills.
Most of your training—Mondays through Wednesdays—will be done in the villages that serve as training sites. Currently, these sites are on the east bank of Demerara and roughly a half-hour ride by public transport to the city. On a weekly or biweekly basis, trainees will have sessions in Georgetown, giving them the opportunity to become familiar with the city.
A large portion of training deals with broad aspects of cross-cultural understanding, adaptation, and the role of Peace Corps Volunteers in development. This part of training is common to all Volunteers regardless of your technical project. To be effective on the job and have a personally satisfying service, it helps to become less of an outsider to the Guyanese. Trainers will work with you—individually and in groups—to help you adapt to the new culture and be ready for your eventual assignment.
You will also learn to understand Guyanese Creole, or Creolese. The training staff will help you identify words and phrases heard in everyday conversations. You will practice Creolese idioms and gestures and learn the common proverbs and folktales that enrich Creolese communications.
Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health care and safety in Guyana
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps’ medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in Guyana maintains a clinic with one full-time medical officer dedicated to Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Additional medical services are provided by referral to in-country consultants. Testing and basic treatment are also available in Guyana at local, American-standard hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported to a medical facility in either Panama or the United States.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Guyana
In Guyana, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Guyana.
Outside of Guyana’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Guyana are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.
- Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
- Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
- Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
- Possible Issues for Married Volunteers
Frequently Asked Questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in Guyana
- How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Guyana?
- What is the electric current in Guyana?
- When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
- Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
- Do I need an international driver’s license?
- What should I bring as gifts for Guyanese friends and my host family?
- Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
- How can my family contact me in an emergency?
- Can I call home from Guyana?
- Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
- Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Main article: Packing list for Guyana
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Guyana and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight restriction on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Guyana (with the exception of clothes in big and tall sizes).
You are likely to be either teaching in a school or working as an educator in a health center or NGO, so keep that in mind when choosing appropriate professional clothing to bring. The climate is another consideration when packing. We recommend cotton or linen clothing for comfort, but synthetic materials or blends may be easier to wash and they maintain their shape better, especially during travel. Since clothing is generally washed by hand in Guyana, often with a scrub brush, clothing can wear out faster than normal and durability is important. There are a few dry cleaners in Guyana, but they are expensive. Avoid bringing items that are susceptible to mildew and mold (e.g., suede shoes).
- For Men
- For Women
- General Advice
- Volunteers who served in Guyana
- List of resources for Guyana
- Pre-Departure Checklist
- Inspector General Reports