A Day in the Life of a Guyanese Volunteer

The morning begins at 6:30am when frantic packing for my visit to Bartica begins. Bug spray, camera, notepad and change of clothes in a bag – I’m good to go.

Today’s Job

As a VSO volunteer working at Youth Challenge Guyana, part of my job involves setting up tools to monitor the impact of the National Volunteering Teachers Programme on the Community. This Programme recruits, trains and assigns volunteers to schools in remote regions hoping to improve the quality of education across Guyana. The purpose of my visit is to understand the current system used to monitor the impact of this programme so that efficient monitoring systems can be developed and put in place.

Meet G-man

Germaine has the responsibility of babysitting me on this trip. As a programme manager at Youth Challenge Guyana, Germaine is responsible for the National Volunteers Teachers’ Programme. He cheerfully puts up with my meaningless banter, patiently explaining how things work on his programme as well as in Guyana.

Getting there – 3 hours

30 mins – Boat across the Demerara. The first 10-minute boat ride takes me across the Demerara. However, the wait for the boat to fill up takes 30 mins. No boat leaves the dock until every life jacket houses a man/woman/child who fervently hope that the little orange piece of foam will save their lives (if it comes to that). Under no such false impression, I discard the life vest and find myself admonished for this behavior. The life vest is then thrown back at me and I’m forced to comply. Boatman 1 – Jason 0.

45 mins – Taxi to Parika. Too easy.

1 hour– Boat across the Essequibo to Bartica. Having received a lesson in boat etiquette on the earlier ride and with G-man for protection, this one’s a breeze.

15 mins– Boat from Bartica to Karrau Creek Primary School

30 mins – Delays due to modes of transport departing ‘just now’

The School Visit

Interviews with the Regional Education Officer, Head Teachers and National Volunteers helped paint a better picture of how the programme operated. National volunteers staffed at schools in the interior face numerous challenges

  • Lack of infrastructure – With roads being constantly washed away by rain, accessibility is a huge problem. Added to this is the lack of cellphone signal in some places (never mind the internet), causing problems with communication.
  • Heavy workload – Many schools are staffed with 1-2 teachers which means that National Volunteers sometime teach several grades in the school.
  • Acceptance by the community – Some communities question the necessity of education and schooling, preferring to send their kids to the fields instead. A lot of friction in these communities makes life difficult for the volunteers.

Added to these challenges is the critical and essential (but boring) task of filling up monitoring forms to provide accountability to donors. Based on the insights from this visit, we hope to make this task painless.


Located at the confluence of the Essequibo and Mazaruni rivers, Bartica is a gold town famous for its annual Easter Regatta (boat races). Beautiful views of a blue sky over the river can change in an instant as storms creep up and turn the entire landscape grey. Spending a night out in the town, you’re bound to meet a miner or in my case, the owner of a gold mine. Money flows as freely as the rum and a good time is guaranteed.

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13 Comments on “A Day in the Life of a Guyanese Volunteer

  1. Good post, as always. Loved the name of the boat (Miss Jayram) .. 🙂 …

    • Haha – didn’t notice the name of the boat until you pointed it out..

    • Thanks Ruth…stay tuned for a few more posts on Guyana. Happy reading 🙂

  2. Good work Jason, if i wasn’t there i would have been convinced to go lol!

    • Thanks. Might have been a different story if you weren’t around.

    • Thanks Mikey. Got some good ones of Kaieteur. Will put them up soon.

  3. I am glad you had such a nice learning experience. If you needed baby sitting

  4. I mean if you needed babysitting in Bartica I wonder how it went with your next expedition.

    • The next expedition – I had a 24 hour babysitter…and in case you’re wondering there weren’t 2 people riding on my cycle this morning 🙂

    • Thanks Raquel. Unfortunately my alphabet isn’t very good – so I have to resort to short posts 😀

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