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.
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.
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.
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’
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
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.