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Peace Corps' official publication on Guyana is The Peace Corps Welcomes You to Guyana : A Peace Corps Publication for New Volunteers. This book is mailed to Peace Corps Invitees that have been invited to serve in Guyana . To view this book click here This publication is revised every couple of years with the bulk of the responsibility for editing/updating the content placed on Peace Corps/Guyana Country Director (CD). A problem with the publication is the CD usually has more important things to do so little priority is placed on the publication. Another shortcoming of the book is that the CD leads of very different lifestyle in Guyana than PCV’s do, so the subjective statements in the book can vary greatly from what volunteers actually say.
The solution is this page. It is based on the information in The Peace Corps Welcomes You to Guyana , however, PCV's in Guyana and RPCV’s who served in Guyana actively edit items and add content to this page to keep in updated.
PEACE CORPS / GUYANA HISTORY AND PROGRAMS
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.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Guyana
Volunteers address educational, health, and technical concerns by providing community health education, literacy, life skills and academic training, and information technology in collaboration with relevant ministries and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). They assist existing efforts to facilitate community involvement, train service providers, and introduce new training and teaching methodologies. Today, there are nearly 50 Peace Corps Volunteers serving in Guyana in nine of the country’s 10 regions.
Community Health Education Project
Under serious labor constraints, the Ministry of Health in Guyana is attempting to simultaneously strengthen and decentralize the country’s health delivery system. Depressed wages and salaries, a declining economy, and the flight of skills to more lucrative labor markets have worsened the situation. Therefore, the need for healthcare providers at all levels is acute.
Peace Corps/Guyana’s community health project seeks to support the Ministry of Health’s primary healthcare program.
Health education Volunteers are usually assigned to work with local health centers. In collaboration with local staff, they address primary and preventive healthcare issues such as breastfeeding, diarrhea, worms, coughs and colds, nutrition, sanitation, hygiene, and sexually transmitted illnesses (STIs), including HIV/AIDS. Health education Volunteers also work with community leaders, groups, and organizations to facilitate community health assessments and campaigns, and to design and implement community projects. Volunteers placed in this sector are challenged to develop innovative ways of taking health education outreach programs to schools, community groups, and youth.
Education and Community Development Project
Guyana’s process of nation-building is causing vast political, social, and economic changes. These changes are placing the nation’s youth, which constitute nearly 60 percent of the population, at great risk.
Guyana’s Ministry of Education has recognized an urgent need to refocus the country’s education system by improving the literacy and numeracy of the country’s youth and by enhancing teachers’ skills in providing literacy education. In addition to ongoing projects focusing on training youth in life-skills development, Peace Corps/Guyana’s community education project taps Volunteers to work directly with young students to improve their literacy skills and with teachers to promote literacy education.
Community Information Technology
In March 2000, the Ministry of Education invited Peace Corps/Guyana to play a role in the development of information technology (IT) as a curriculum subject within the school system. This ministry has introduced two educational development projects in some of the country’s schools: the secondary school reform project and the Guyana education access project. It is hoped that the two projects will have a direct impact on promoting IT among the nation’s young people.
Several Volunteers work directly in the schools, and all Volunteers are encouraged to assist informally with these projects in their area if possible. Activities include teaching students and teachers to use the technology, assisting with setting up computer labs, and interacting with the schools and community groups to ensure that the benefits of this technology reach the communities as well.
Future Programming Directions
Guyana is one of the 15 countries benefiting from the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (Emergency Plan) and Peace Corps/Guyana Volunteers are mobilizing the communities in which they live and work to respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It is the hope that this community organizing will lead to the development of community work plans and proposals for small projects that will be submitted to Peace Corps/Guyana for funding. Volunteers also encourage their communities to address other social issues, including orphans and vulnerable children, prevention of mother-tochild transmission, peer education/peer counseling, home-based care, voluntary counseling and testing, behavior change activities, vocational skills training, condom distribution, and community mobilization on HIV/AIDS projects that impact the spread of HIV in Guyana.
COUNTRY OVERVIEW:GUYANA AT A GLANCE
Guyana is a tropical country on the northern shoulder of South America. Its area is about 215,000 square kilometers (83,000 square miles)—the combined size of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. Guyana is bordered by Venezuela, Brazil, Suriname, and the Atlantic Ocean. It has a population of approximately 760,000 , largely confined to a narrow coastal strip. Also located on the coastal strip is the nation’s capital, Georgetown, which lies at the mouth of the Demerara River. The only other sizable population center is the bauxite mining town of Linden, 60 miles upriver from the capital.
Guyana was named by its first people, the Amerindians— semi-nomadic tribes who lived by hunting and fishing. To them, this was a rich land with plenty of water for farming and fishing. They called it Guiana, meaning “land of many waters.” Sir Walter Raleigh was the first European to explore the “wild coast” of Guyana. Guyana itself changed hands several times between the French, Dutch, and British before the British finally held it until independence in 1966.
The early European colonists were planters. At first they relied on Amerindians for their labor force, but over time they replaced them with African slaves, who also worked to construct the coastal drainage system and the city of Georgetown. Following a period of slave uprisings and a campaign to end the slave-labor system, slavery was abolished in 1834. With the end of slavery, indenturing became the new mode of accessing labor. Workers were brought in from the island of Madeira and from China and India (whose people are known in Guyana as East Indians) to work on the estates.
By the early 1900s, a slow transfer of power was underway from the colonial administration to the Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese political groups. Limited self-government was granted in the 1950s, but political conflict and occasional violence between these groups delayed independence. By 1964, though, support began to grow for independence, which was achieved on May 26, 1966. Guyana joined the United Nations later that year, and the country became a charter member of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) in 1968. On February 23, 1970, Guyana was proclaimed a republic. Guyana is a member of the British Commonwealth and of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM). CARICOM’s headquarters is in Georgetown.
Guyana is now governed under the republican constitution of 1980, which is a blend of parliamentary and presidential principles. There are two main political parties, whose support is primarily based upon racial lines: the People’s National Congress (seen to represent the Afro-Guyanese population) and the People’s Progressive Party (perceived as the party of the Indo-Guyanese population). The two main parties are ideologically similar; both support market reforms to increase foreign investments in Guyana. There are also smaller parties that often form coalitions.
Guyana’s autocratic culture and economic problems have led to social polarization, racial distrust, political turmoil, and the suppression of truly representative mass institutions, often referred to as “civil societies.” As such, elections in Guyana are usually disputed. After the keenly contested elections of 1997, members of CARICOM helped arrange an agreement between the two major political parties to end violence and civil strife in Guyana.
President Bharrat Jagdeo was reelected as president in 2001 and again in the August 2006 national elections. He has held the presidency since 1999 after the resignation of President Janet Jagan.
Guyana is making a difficult transition from a state-directed to a more open, free-market economy. An economic turnaround in 1986–87 that included trade liberalization and an open investment climate contributed to a growth rate above regional and world averages. Recently, legislation was introduced to revise the investment codes and provide small business and microenterprise assistance. However, the combined impact of negative population growth during the past 15 years (“brain drain”), a reduced demand for Guyana’s major exports, and a heavy foreign debt burden present serious challenges to Guyana’s economic development.
The traditional pillars of Guyana’s economy have been sugar, rice, gold, and bauxite. Sugar, its byproducts, and rice account for the majority of agricultural exports, which constitute 35 percent of the gross domestic product, and employ 30 percent of the labor force. Adding to the country’s agricultural exports, tropical fruits and vegetables that have traditionally been grown for domestic consumption are now becoming nontraditional exports. Fishing is also important, with shrimp being an especially valuable product.
While Guyana is a major world producer of bauxite, other extractable natural resources in Guyana have yet to be exploited on a large scale. Other extractable resources include petroleum, gold, and gemstones. The country’s petroleum potential is yet to be proven, while gold production has surged with the opening of the Omai mine. All of these economic sectors require major investments in production and infrastructure.
The likely termination of Guyana’s access to preferential market arrangements in Britain for its sugar will negatively affect the economy. The building of a bridge between southern Guyana and northern Brazil and the paving of a 350-mile stretch of dirt road linking Georgetown and the Guyana coast with northern Brazil will undoubtedly boost the economy as well by linking the Amazon with the Caribbean, although environmentalists warn that the costs may be too high.
People and Culture
For a South American country, Guyana presents a unique profile. The country is the only Anglophone nation on the continent, and it is known for sugar, rice, and cricket playing. Similarly, the mixture of British and Dutch legal and other internal systems is a legacy of past colonization, which previously made Guyana economically, historically, and culturally oriented more toward the Caribbean.
Guyana’s culture and people have been influenced by the country’s winding history, which includes occupation, slavery, and indenture. Today, a large variety of racial and ethnic groups coexist in Guyana. People of African descent constitute 35.5 percent of the population, people of East Indian descent constitute 49.5 percent, and people of Portuguese, Chinese, Amerindian, and mixed descent make up the remaining 15 percent. While numerous tribes of Amerindians were the first people of Guyana, today there are only nine: Akawaio, Arawaks, Arecunas, Caribs, Macusi, Patamonas, Wai Wais, Wapishianas, and Warraus.
Guyana’s multifaceted culture is well-represented, as each group has brought its own cultural mores and norms, traditions, and festivals. The country’s main religions are Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. Festivals and holidays surround religious observances and national commemorations.
Guyana’s three major river systems, the Berbice, Demerara and Essequibo, together with innumerable smaller rivers and creeks, drain this “Land of Many Waters” and link Guyana’s vast forested and savannah interior to the coast. Guyana has a wealth of natural resources and high levels of biological diversity. Fortunately, many regions of the country remain virtually pristine and unexplored simply because of national underdevelopment.
Key current environmental issues in Guyana include water pollution stemming from mining operations; agricultural and industrial chemicals and sewage; solid-waste disposal in populated areas; deforestation; and flooding, which occurs during the rainy season and exceptionally high tides. The people of Guyana are becoming more aware of the fragility of their natural environment, which is being sharpened, in part, by coastal flooding.
RESOURCES FOR FURTHER INFROMATION
Following is a list of websites for additional information about the Peace Corps and Guyana and to connect you to returned Volunteers and other invitees. Please keep in mind that although we try to make sure all these links are active and current, we cannot guarantee it.
A note of caution: As you surf the Internet, be aware that you may find bulletin boards and chat rooms in which people are free to express opinions about the Peace Corps based on their own experience, including comments by those who were unhappy with their choice to serve in the Peace Corps. These opinions are not those of the Peace Corps or the U.S. government, and we hope you will keep in mind that no two people experience their service in the same way.
General Information About Guyana
These sites contain general information on countries around the world, look for Guyana and obtain general background notes on history, social, cultural and political background, maps and geographical information.
U.S. State Department website publishes background notes and periodic travel advisories for countries around the world. Guyana and learn more about its social and political history .
Allows you to search for statistical information on United Nations member states.
Source of current and historical information about countries worldwide.
Website providing comprehensive, reliable, and independent travel information
Latin American Network Information Center
The World Wildlife Federation’s Latin America and Caribbean programs
Connect With Returned Volunteers and Other Invitees
This is the site of the National Peace Corps Association, made up of returned Volunteers. On this site you can find links to all the Web pages of the “friends of” groups for most countries of service, made up of former Volunteers who served in those countries. There are also regional groups who frequently get together for social events and local Volunteer activities.
This site is hosted by a group of returned Volunteer writers. It is a monthly online publication of essays and Volunteer accounts of their Peace Corps service.
Peace Corps Volunteers in the field and returned Volunteers who are affiliated with the Master’s International program at Michigan Tech make regular submissions to this site, including synopses of technical projects and links to technical resources that may be helpful to Volunteers in the field.
Travel around Guyana
Online Articles/Current News Sites About Guyana
The site of the Guyanese Embassy in Washington, D.C.
The site of the Guyana Chronicle, a Guyanese newspaper
- Abrams, Ovid. Metegee: The History and Culture of Guyana. NY: Eldorado Publications, 1998.
- Mangru, Basdeo. The Elusive Eldorado: Essays on the Indian Experience in Guyana. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2005.
- Kempadoo, Peter Lauchmonen. Guyana Boy. Yorkshire, UK: Peepal Tree Press, 2nd edition, 2002.
- Watson, Dennis, and Christine Craig (eds.). Guyana at the Crossroads. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 1992.
Books About the History of the Peace Corps
- Hoffman, Elizabeth Cobbs. All You Need is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960’s. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000.
- Rice, Gerald T. The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985.
- Stossel, Scott. Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2004.
Books on the Volunteer Experience
- Dirlam, Sharon. Beyond Siberia: Two Years in a Forgotten Place. Santa Barbara, Calif.: McSeas Books, 2004.
- Casebolt, Marjorie DeMoss. Margarita: A Guatemalan Peace Corps Experience. Gig Harbor, Wash.: Red Apple Publishing, 2000.
- Erdman, Sarah. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village. New York, N.Y.: Picador, 2003.
- Hessler, Peter. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. New York, N.Y.: Perennial, 2001.
- Kennedy, Geraldine ed. From the Center of the Earth: Stories out of the Peace Corps. Santa Monica, Calif.: Clover Park Press, 1991.
- Thompsen, Moritz. Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1997 (reprint).
LIVING CONDITIONS AND VOLUNTEER LIFESTYLE
Mail service between the United States and Guyana is fairly reliable. Airmail letters from home usually take two weeks to arrive in Guyana and four to five weeks to arrive in the United States from Guyana. Surface mail may take months. The further a Volunteer’s site is from a large city, the less dependable and frequent the mail service.
During training, your address in Guyana will be:
“Your Name,” PCT
PO Box 101192
Once you move to your site, you will be responsible for sending your new address to family and friends.
We recommend that you establish a regular writing pattern with friends and relatives in the United States, since they may become concerned if they do not hear from you over an extended period of time. Some Volunteers and their families sequentially number their letters to keep track of how many were sent and received. This is one way of knowing whether someone is just too busy to write or if letters are not arriving. We have found that after trainees have been sworn in and move to their sites, writing habits change as they become more involved in projects and the newness of the lifestyle wears off. A delay in the mail may also be the result of being in a more isolated site.
As for packages, Volunteers are responsible for paying import duties on items mailed to them from outside the country. The customs process for obtaining sent items is often lengthy, although the duty on items is generally minimal. Customs will notify you directly if you have been sent a package. Peace Corps/Guyana cannot help get these packages released from customs. Small padded envelopes are recommended over boxes.
One alternative to shipping packages through regular mail is to send items through a service such as DHL International or Federal Express. Both companies have offices in Georgetown, but their services are expensive. You can have items sent through these companies to the Peace Corps office in Georgetown, but you must provide the street address and phone number. (The street address for the Peace Corps is 33A Barrack Street, Kingston, Georgetown, Guyana. The phone number is 592.225.5073.) Another alternative is a local company, Laparkan, that offers relatively inexpensive air freight service to Guyana from New York, Toronto, and Miami. Surface mail for packages takes four to six weeks.
We do not recommend that family or friends send you money, airline tickets, or other valuables through the mail. Airline tickets can be paid for in the United States and picked up in Guyana using a reference number. There are also several travel agents in Georgetown through which Volunteers can purchase airline tickets.
International phone service to and from Guyana is relatively good. Volunteers can call the United States collect by placing the call via a Guyanese operator (002) or directly by placing it with a U.S. operator (151 or 165). Do not bring prepaid phone cards, as they cannot be used without incurring a second charge for the same call. Likewise, calling cards and credit cards do not work from Guyana. Collect calls are expensive, costing about $7 for the first minute and $1.40 for each subsequent minute. The rate for direct calls to the United States from Guyana, about $1.20 per minute, is often cheaper than the rate from the United States to Guyana. Local phone booths and Internet cafés also offer calls to the U.S. Volunteers are not allowed to place international direct calls or send international faxes from the Peace Corps office. For these services, you must use local facilities in Georgetown.
Some Volunteers will have their own landline telephones or easy access to a neighbor’s. Some Volunteers will be issued a Peace Corps cellphone based upon certain site conditions. It is possible to purchase your own cellphone in Guyana. However, be aware that many cellphones purchased in the United States will not work on Guyana’s cellular phone system. It is possible to buy and activate cellphones in Guyana ranging from a low of about $50 U.S. to $550.
Encourage your family and friends to research local phone companies or look on the Internet to find special deals and offers on international calling.
Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access
There are computers with Internet access and printers for Volunteer use at the Peace Corps office in Georgetown. Volunteers must provide their own paper (which can be purchased in-country). If the computers are being used, access to a staff computer may be arranged (for work-related purposes) through the administrative officer.
There are Internet cafes in all the major towns and many villages that offer services at a reasonable cost. You can use these services to access the Internet or prepare documents. Approximately 80 percent of currently serving Volunteers have Internet access either through an Internet cafe, their work sites, or from home via a landline service.
Upon arriving at site, Volunteers will identify neighbors, coworkers, and leaders in the community who have transportion and communication capabilities since most likely they will not have their own direct access. This process of identification is an integral part of the community entry process. When Volunteers possess personal communications (e.g., cellphones) they are slower to integrate into their community. Other local means of communication include police radios, hospital/health post radios, and privately owned radios. All are considered an important linkage in Volunteer communication support.
If telephone/radio communication of host families and/ or neighbors is not available, and if telephone/radio communication (including public phone) is not within 50 meters from the Volunteer’s residence, then Peace Corps will work with the Volunteer to resolve the communication situation.
Housing and Site Location
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.
Living Allowance and Money Management
During pre-service training, each trainee is given $500 Guyanese dollars (about $2.46) per day, payable for seven days at once. This sum is intended to be used mainly for transportation purposes. Trainees’ daily meals are provided by host families. Nonetheless, you may wish to bring some walk-around cash for training. Former trainees say that $100 is adequate.
As a Volunteer, you will be expected to live at the same economic level as the Guyanese people in your community. You will receive a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance to cover your daily expenses. The monthly stipend will allow you to live modestly by the standards of the people in your community, yet not in a manner that would endanger your health or safety. The total amount of your settling-in allowance will depend on the condition of your house and its furnishings.
The living allowance is not a salary. It is meant to cover food, utilities, household supplies, local transportation, recreation and entertainment, incidental expenses, occasional replacement of clothes, and toiletries. The current monthly living allowance is 41,811 Guyanese dollars, about $200 (U.S.), which will be deposited monthly in a local bank account that you will open at your site. Guyana’s largest bank has recently opened branches throughout the country; thus, you will likely have a bank at your site. For Volunteers placed at sites without a local bank, Peace Corps/Guyana will work with them to arrange an alternative means of accessing the living allowance.
The living allowance is based on an annual Volunteer survey and an independent price survey conducted by Peace Corps staff. The allowance will not change by fluctuations in the exchange rate.
If you plan to travel to the interior of Guyana during your service, you will need some extra cash. For safety factors, though, do not bring large amounts of cash with you to Guyana. Former Volunteers advise using PayPal to receive money. With PayPal the sender and receiver will both need U.S. bank accounts and e-mail addresses. You will also need a check card with a VISA or Mastercard logo. Money can be sent directly to your U.S. bank account and you can then go to Scotia Bank in Guyana and get a cash advance using the check card. (Of course you will be charged a fee but former Volunteers say this is far cheaper than Western Union and much cheaper than wiring money.)
You may wish to bring additional money for travel to other countries. Credit cards or traveler’s checks are recommended for this. If you do bring credit cards, make sure you have a reliable system for making payments on charges incurred while you are away from the United States.
The Guyanese dollar floats against the U.S. dollar, and the exchange rate varies. It has been holding relatively steady since December 2003, at about $200 Guyanese per $1 U.S.
Food and Diet
Pre-service training will provide you with an introduction to the Guyanese diet. During training, meals with your host family will mainly be Guyanese dishes and will represent an important aspect of your cross-cultural experience. Guyanese food varies greatly depending upon locale, religious leaning, and ethnic background.
Guyana has been accurately described as the food basket of the Caribbean. A wide variety of fruits and vegetables similar to those in the United States are available, as are inexpensive exotic fruits and vegetables. In addition, American standards like peanut butter, pasta, and tuna are readily available.
While many Guyanese consume a variety of meat ranging from the ordinary to the extraordinary (e.g., labba and other “wild meat”), there are also many vegetarians in Guyana because of its diverse cultures and religions. Vegetarian Volunteers fare well in Guyana.
Overall, past Volunteers have not experienced major dietary problems. Still, their remarks reflect that there is a much greater variety and availability of foods on the coast than in inland areas. Many fruits and vegetables are seasonal, and you have to adapt to their availability and your access to markets. A recipe book created by previous Volunteers will be made available to you and will help guide your food choices.
The main means of transportation for most Guyanese is the minibus. Trainees and Volunteers also use this mode of transportation. The price for traveling around central Georgetown by minibus is $50 Guyanese (about 24 cents), and special taxi service for the same area costs $300 Guyanese (about $1.47). The cost for traveling longer distances and along the coastland varies according to the distance and the location.
Many communities are accessible only by river. Corials (paddleboats), speedboats, and jet boats are widely used for this purpose. It is mandatory for trainees and Volunteers who live and work in the riverine areas to use life jackets, which Peace Corps/Guyana provides. Travel among counties is also highly dependent upon the rivers. While the Demerara Harbour Bridge links West Demerara to Demerara and Georgetown, ferry service exists for crossing the Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice rivers and for transport to Bartica and other river communities.
Traveling by air is the major form of transportation to areas in the interior of Guyana and to the rest of the world. Approximately six international passenger flights arrive and leave daily. The three major airlines that frequent Guyana are BWIA, North American Airlines, and Liat 1974 Ltd. Airlines. There are also about four daily cargo flights.
Geography and Climate
Guyana is located approximately five degrees north of the equator and is on the northern coast of the South American continent. While Guyana is not an island, it is part of the Caribbean Community and is often described as a West Indian nation.
Guyana’s 214,970 square kilometers (approximately 83,000 square miles) are divided into four ecological zones: the coastal plain (25 kilometers wide); the sand belt (about 150 to 250 kilometers wide); the highland, which consists of the four major mountain ranges of Acarai, Imataka, Kanuku, and Pakaraima; and the interior savanna, making up about 11,655 square kilometers.
Guyana is known for its high temperatures, heavy rainfall, small climatic differences, and high humidity. The daily temperature in Georgetown fluctuates between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, but it varies elsewhere depending on the part of the country. For example, the constant heat and high humidity are mitigated near the coast by the northeast tradewinds. Rainfall is heaviest on the plateau and the coast, where the long wet season is from April to August and the short wet season is from December to early February. Dry seasons fall in between the rainy seasons. In the savanna, however, there is one long dry season from the end of April to the end of September, and the rainy season runs for the remainder of the year.
Social activities in Guyana vary from place to place. A variety of activities, including dramatic productions, concerts, and beauty pageants, are held at the National Cultural Centre, city and town halls, and community centers in villages. Popular social activities include going to the cinema, discos, weddings, religious festivals and celebrations, folk festivals, and heritage-week activities representing the ethnic groups in Guyana. Fairs and barbecues are also popular events.
Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior
Guyanese are fairly traditional and conservative, especially in smaller villages. Appropriate personal appearance and behavior will help establish your credibility and reflect your respect for the customs and expectations of the people with whom you live and work. From the biggest city to the most remote village site, you will be judged, especially initially, on your appearance.
Guyanese dress well and are always neat and clean. While businessmen do not always wear suits and ties, they do typically wear dress shirts and slacks. Women in business or government only occasionally wear slacks; more often, they wear lightweight suits or skirts with blouses.
Casual clothing can be worn in off hours and in nonformal situations. Remember that the Peace Corps office is a place of official business, so you need to dress and behave accordingly when you are there. Dress sandals may be worn at work by women, but shorts are not appropriate work attire for men or women. Public displays of affection are also not appropriate— even between married couples.
During training, you are expected to dress and behave as you would on the job. Shirts and shoes must be worn at all times. Spaghetti-strap or halter tops convey an unprofessional attitude that is inconsistent with a positive Peace Corps image. Although women should not wear shorts, capris are acceptable. For women, loose-fitting skirts are the most practical for getting around and walking.
Use your own discretion within the parameters noted above in choosing what to wear, and remember neatness, cleanliness, and maintaining a professional appearance in work settings are foremost. In coming to Guyana, it is not necessary to change your entire wardrobe. Many trainees and Volunteers wear the same clothing they wore at home. It is inappropriate for trainees or Volunteers to wear military surplus clothing such as pants, boots, jackets, and backpacks. The Peace Corps wants to be distinguished from the U.S. and Guyana militaries and has tried to keep its image as detached as possible.
For women, a small nose piercing or normal ear piercing is acceptable. It is not acceptable for men. Multiple ear piercings or piercing of the tongue, lips, or other parts of the body are generally unacceptable for a professional person in Guyanese culture. Therefore, any such piercings should not be apparent once you arrive in Guyana.
More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents.
The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhance your safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Guyana. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your own safety and well-being.
The crime rate is high in Guyana. While it may be tempting to point to Guyana’s poverty when trying to explain this high crime rate, poverty is only a contributing factor, and it does not explain the situation conclusively.
During pre-service training, you will be introduced to behaviors that, if followed, will minimize your risk. Many of these are the same precautions you would take at home (e.g., living in a secure house, avoiding dangerous neighbors, and taking special precautions when moving around at night). Additional steps specific to being a trainee or Volunteer in Guyana, such as getting to know your community, understanding what constitutes appropriate behavior in Guyanese culture, building relationships with trustworthy individuals, and following the Peace Corps/Guyana housing policy, will be presented.
Rewards and Frustrations
Rewards and frustrations are a reality of life. However, there are some specific frustrations that you are likely to experience while living and working in Guyana. For instance, you may feel that your Guyanese colleagues do not carry out their duties in a manner that reflects an appropriate level of “commitment” to the job. Additionally, there may be long time lapses before decisions on important issues are made. There may also be an absence or shortage of resources that you consider basic to the successful completion of your work. Thus, you may need to slow down your pace and reconsider your expectations for the way business is done in Guyana.
On the other hand, you will have an opportunity to be innovative and work with your counterparts to find alternatives to traditional ways of doing things. You will find the Guyanese to be friendly. People will help you at personal sacrifice. You will experience the change you make in people’s lives by simple things you say and do. You will experience satisfaction from working in the interest of others.
Your main satisfaction will derive from helping local people achieve their development aspirations, while learning about a new culture and about yourself in the process. You will encounter unusual social and cultural situations that require flexibility and understanding on your part. As you communicate honestly and demonstrate your interest in Guyana, you will be able to enjoy your community, its customs and people, and your role as a Volunteer. Just as in any community, your village will have a variety of personalities, some helpful and welcoming, others disinterested or unsure of why you are there.
PEACE CORPS TRAINING
Overview of Pre-Service Training
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.
The second component, technical training, will be tailored to your job requirements. You will learn new skills and how to modify existing skills to work in the Guyanese environment. Much of technical training will be hands-on. The Peace Corps staff, Guyanese experts, and current Volunteers will conduct the technical training, which places great emphasis on learning how to transfer the skills you have to the community in which you will serve as a Volunteer.
As part of your pre-service training, you will live with a Guyanese host family. This experience is designed to ease your transition to life at your site. Families go through an orientation conducted by Peace Corps staff to explain the purpose of pre-service training and to assist them in helping you adapt to living in Guyana. Many trainees form strong and lasting friendships with their host families.
Peace Corps/Guyana expects that you will respect the customs of your host family’s household, such as eating what the family eats without expecting special treatment (with appropriate exceptions for vegetarians and people with food allergies) and adhering to the household’s customary hours. You will be considered a member of the family, not a boarder.
During pre-service training, you will be given basic medical training and information. You will be expected to practice preventive healthcare and to take responsibility for your own health by adhering to all medical policies. Trainees are required to attend all medical sessions. The topics include preventive health measures and minor and major medical issues that you might encounter while in Guyana. Nutrition, mental health, safety and security, setting up a safe living compound, and how to avoid HIV/AIDS and other STIs are also covered.
During the safety training sessions, you will learn how to adopt a lifestyle that reduces your risks at home, at work, and during your travels. You will also learn appropriate, effective strategies for coping with unwanted attention and about your individual responsibility for promoting safety throughout your service.
Additional Trainings During Volunteer Service
In its commitment to institutionalize quality training, the Peace Corps has implemented a training system that provides Volunteers with continual opportunities to examine their commitment to Peace Corps service while increasing their technical and cross-cultural skills. During your service, there are usually two training events. The titles and objectives for those trainings are as follows:
- In-service training: Provides an opportunity for Volunteers to upgrade their technical, language, and project development skills while sharing their experiences and reaffirming their commitment after having served for three to six months.
- Close-of-service conference: Prepares Volunteers for the future after Peace Corps service and reviews their respective projects and personal experiences.
The number, length, and design of these trainings are adapted to country-specific needs and conditions. The key to the training system is that training events are integrated and interrelated, from the pre-departure orientation through the end of your service, and are planned, implemented, and evaluated cooperatively by the training staff, Peace Corps staff, and Volunteers.
YOUR 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.
Health Issues in Guyana
Guyana is a tropical country with a dense population along its coastline and smaller, scattered groups in the more remote interior. As in other tropical countries, there is the risk of exposure to mosquito-, food-, and water-borne diseases. Snake and animal bites pose less of a risk.
Insect-borne diseases: All mosquito-borne parasitic infections exist in Guyana, including malaria, filariasis, and dengue febrile. The interior of the country has the highest incidence of malaria, with fewer cases reported on the coast. Filariasis and dengue fever are increasingly affecting communities on the coast, especially during rainy seasons, while isolated cases of leishmaniasis, a fly-borne disease, occur primarily in the interior and on the Brazilian border. Volunteers in Guyana are required to take malaria prophylaxis throughout their Peace Corps service and are encouraged to protect themselves by using insect repellents, sleeping under treated nets (which Peace Corps/Guyana provides), and wearing appropriate clothing. Mosquitos in Guyana are chloroquine-resistant, hence Volunteers are required to take Larium or other recommended prophylaxis.
Food- and water-borne diseases: The country’s heavy rainfalls and high tides often create floods on the coast and in some remote communities, resulting in outbreaks of water-borne infections. These include amebic and bacillary dysentery, typhoid fever, helminthic infections, hepatitis A, and other diarrheal diseases. To decrease the risk of infection, Volunteers are provided with training on water purification methods and are encouraged to boil their drinking water as an extra safety precaution. Volunteers are also given typhoid vaccines, however this only provides 70 percent protection.
Animal bites and snake bites: Although there is a low risk of being bitten by a poisonous snake in coastal areas, bites can occur inland in jungle areas. There have been no reported cases of rabies among dogs. However, because Volunteers may travel to neighboring countries that do have rabies, they are given rabies pre-exposure vaccines. Volunteers are discouraged from keeping monkeys and snakes as pets for health reasons.
HIV/AIDS: Guyana has the second highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection in South America, and other STIs are also prevalent. Abstinence is the only certain choice for preventing infection with HIV and other STIs. You are taking risks if you choose to be sexually active. To reduce risk, use a condom every time you have sex. You will receive more information from the Peace Corps medical officer about this important issue. The Peace Corps medical unit stocks condoms.
Substance abuse: There has been an increase in illegal drug use in Guyana. The Peace Corps prohibits the use of all illegal drugs, including marijuana, by Volunteers and trainees. Invitees who use illegal substances should not accept an invitation to serve in the Peace Corps. Invitees should disclose prior use of illegal drugs/substances for medical clearance. Although Guyanese social occasions often include alcohol consumption, Volunteers are expected to avoid excessive use of alcohol, which is often a factor in Volunteer safety incidents. You will need to exercise your good judgment under sometimes difficult circumstances, including social pressure to drink in excess. Peace Corps/Guyana’s alcohol policy provides further guidance to Volunteers.
Helping You Stay Healthy
The Peace Corps will provide you with all the necessary inoculations, medications, and information to stay healthy. Upon your arrival in Guyana, you will receive a medical handbook. During training, you will receive a medical kit with supplies to take care of mild illnesses and first-aid needs. The contents of the kit are listed later in this chapter.
During pre-service training, you will have access to basic medical supplies through the medical office. However, during this time, you will be responsible for your own supply of prescription drugs and any other specific medical supplies you require, as the Peace Corps will not order these items during training. Please bring a three-month supply of any prescription drugs you use, since they may not be available in-country, and it may take several weeks for shipments to arrive. Also, please try to switch to generic forms of any medications you take before coming to Guyana as the name-brand may not be available.
You will have physical evaluations at mid-service and at the end of your service. If you develop a serious medical problem during your service, the medical officer in Guyana will consult with the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C. If it is determined that your condition cannot be treated in Guyana, you may be sent out of the country for further evaluation and care.
Maintaining Your Health
As a Volunteer, you must accept considerable responsibility for your own health. Proper precautions will significantly reduce your risk of serious illness or injury. The adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” becomes extremely important in areas where diagnostic and treatment facilities are not up to the standards of the United States. The most important of your responsibilities in Guyana is to take the following preventive measures:
Many diseases that affect Volunteers are entirely preventable if proper food and water precautions are taken. These diseases include food poisoning, parasitic infections, hepatitis A, dysentery, and typhoid fever. Your medical officer will discuss specific recommendations for your site in Guyana during training.
Malaria is endemic in Guyana, so it is extremely important to fully comply with the recommended drug regimen for prevention of malaria, a disease that can be fatal if left untreated. Failure to adhere to the regimen can result in administrative separation.
Check with the Peace Corps medical officer before taking any locally purchased or prescribed medications. Some drugsthat have not been approved for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration are available in developing countries, and many drugs that require a prescription in the United States can be purchased over-the-counter in other countries.
Traveling around Guyana requires water travel. Trainees are encouraged to learn how to swim before arrival and are provided with information during pre-service training on water travel. Volunteers are provided with life jackets and are expected to wear them when traveling by boat.
Volunteers are expected to adhere to an effective means of birth control to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. Your medical officer can help you decide on the most appropriate method to suit your individual needs. Contraceptive methods are available without charge from the Peace Corps medical office. Birth control pills do not prevent the spread of HIV.
It is critical to your health that you promptly report to the medical office or other designated facility for scheduled immunizations, and that you let the medical officer know immediately of significant illnesses and injuries.
Culture shock and adjustment to a new country can be a trigger for a Volunteer who is mentally or emotionally challenged. Volunteers must be aware of the limitations of their medical conditions and understand Guyana will not be able to adjust to their needs, but rather, they will need to adjust to Guyana.
Women’s Health Information
Pregnancy is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions that require medical attention, but also have programmatic ramifications. The Peace Corps is responsible for determining the medical risk and the availability of appropriate medical care if the Volunteer remains in-country.
Given the circumstances under which Volunteers live and work in Peace Corps countries, it is rare that the Peace Corps’ medical and programmatic standards for continued service during pregnancy can be met. Guyana currently cannot provide the required services for pregnant Volunteers in-country.
Feminine hygiene products are available for you to purchase at the local market. The medical unit will provide them only in cases of emergency. If you require a specific feminine hygiene product, please bring a three-month supply with you.
Your Peace Corps Medical Kit
The Peace Corps medical officer provides Volunteers with a medical kit that contains basic items necessary to prevent and treat illnesses that may occur during service. Kit items can be periodically restocked at the medical office.
Medical Kit Contents
American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook
Antifungal cream (Tinactin)
Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner
Diphenhyrdramine HCL 25 mg (Benadryl)
Insect repellent stick
Iodine tablets (for water purification)
Oral rehydration salts
Pseudophedrine HCL 30mg (Sudafed)
Robitussin DM cough lozenges
Sterile gauze pads
Tetrahydrozaline eyedrops (Visine)
Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist
If there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since you submitted your examination reports to the Peace Corps, you must immediately notify the Office of Medical Services. Failure to disclose new illnesses, injuries, allergies, or pregnancy can endanger your health and may jeopardize your eligibility to serve.
If your dental exam was done more than a year ago, or if your physical exam is more than two years old, contact the Office of Medical Services to find out whether you need to update your records. If your dentist or Peace Corps dental consultant has recommended that you undergo dental treatment or repair, you must complete that work and make sure your dentist sends requested confirmation reports or X-rays to the Office of Medical Services.
If you wish to avoid having duplicate vaccinations, contact your physician’s office, obtain a copy of your immunization record, and bring it with you to your pre-departure orientation. If you have any immunizations prior to Peace Corps service, the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for the cost. The Peace Corps will provide all the immunizations necessary for your overseas assignment shortly after you arrive in Guyana. You do not need to begin taking malaria medication prior to departure.
Bring a three-month supply of any prescription or over-thecounter medication you use on a regular basis, including birth control pills. You may want to consider switching from a name brand to generic drugs as your Peace Corps medical officer may not be able to purchase your name brand prescription. As well, please be advised that the medical office does not carry every type of birth control pill. Although the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for this three-month supply, it will order refills during your service. While awaiting shipment— which can take several months—you will be dependent on your own medication supply. The Peace Corps will not pay for herbal or nonprescribed medications, such as St. John’s wort, glucosamine, selenium, or antioxidant supplements.
You are encouraged to bring copies of medical prescriptions signed by your physician. This is not a requirement, but they might come in handy if you are questioned in transit about carrying a three-month supply of prescription drugs.
If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs with you—a pair and a spare. If a pair breaks, the Peace Corps will replace it, using the information your doctor in the United States provided on the eyeglasses form during your examination. The Peace Corps discourages you from using contact lenses during your Peace Corps service to reduce your risk of developing a serious infection or other eye disease. Most Peace Corps countries do not have appropriate water and sanitation to support eye care with the use of contact lenses. The Peace Corps will not supply or replace contact lenses or associated solutions unless an ophthalmologist has recommended their use for a specific medical condition and the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services has given approval.
If you are eligible for Medicare, are over 50 years of age, or have a health condition that may restrict your future participation in healthcare plans, you may wish to consult an insurance specialist about unique coverage needs before your departure. The Peace Corps will provide all necessary healthcare from the time you leave for your pre-departure orientation until you complete your service. When you finish, you will be entitled to the post-service healthcare benefits described in the Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook. You may wish to consider keeping an existing health plan in effect during your service if you think age or preexisting conditions might prevent you from reenrolling in your current plan when you return home.
Safety and Security—Our Partnership
Serving as a Volunteer overseas entails certain safety and security risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, a limited understanding of the local language and culture, and the perception of being a wealthy American are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Property thefts and burglaries are not uncommon. Incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although almost all Volunteers complete their two years of service without serious personal safety problems. In addition, more than 84 percent of Volunteers surveyed in the 2004 Peace Corps Volunteer Survey say they would join the Peace Corps again.
The Peace Corps approaches safety and security as a partnership with you. This Welcome Book contains sections on: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle; Peace Corps Training; and Your Health Care and Safety. All of these sections include important safety and security information.
The Peace Corps makes every effort to give Volunteers the
tools they need to function in the safest and most secure way
possible, because working to maximize the safety and security of Volunteers is our highest priority. Not only do we provide you with training and tools to prepare for the unexpected, but we teach you to identify and manage the risks you may encounter.
Factors that Contribute to Volunteer Risk
There are several factors that can heighten a Volunteer’s risk, many of which are within the Volunteer’s control. Based on information gathered from incident reports worldwide in 2004, the following factors stand out as risk characteristics for assaults. Assaults consist of personal crimes committed against Volunteers, and do not include property crimes (such as vandalism or theft).
- Location: Most crimes occurred when Volunteers were in public areas (e.g., street, park, beach, public buildings). Specifically, 43 percent of assaults took place when Volunteers were away from their sites.
- Time of day: Assaults usually took place on the weekend during the evening between 5:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.— with most assaults occurring around 1:00 a.m.
- Absence of others: Assaults usually occurred when the Volunteer was unaccompanied. In 82 percent of the sexual assaults the Volunteer was unaccompanied and in 55 percent of physical assaults the Volunteer was unaccompanied.
- Relationship to assailant: In most assaults, the Volunteer did not know the assailant.
- Consumption of alcohol: Forty percent of all assaults involved alcohol consumption by Volunteers and/or assailants.
Summary Strategies to Reduce Risk
Before and during service, your training will address these areas of concern so that you can reduce the risks you face.
For example, here are some strategies Volunteers employ:
Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of theft:
- Know the environment and choose safe routes/times for travel
- Avoid high-crime areas per Peace Corps guidance
- Know the vocabulary to get help in an emergency
- Carry valuables in different pockets/places
- Carry a “dummy” wallet as a decoy Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of burglary:
- Live with a local family or on a family compound
- Put strong locks on doors and keep valuables in a lock box or trunk
- Leave irreplaceable objects at home in the U.S.
- Follow Peace Corps guidelines on maintaining home security Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of assault:
- Make local friends
- Make sure your appearance is respectful of local customs; don’t draw negative attention to yourself by wearing inappropriate clothing
- Get to know local officials, police, and neighbors
- Travel with someone whenever possible
- Avoid known high crime areas
- Limit alcohol consumption
Support from Staff
In March 2003, the Peace Corps created the Office of Safety and Security with its mission to “foster improved communication, coordination, oversight, and accountability of all Peace Corps’ safety and security efforts.” The new office is led by an Associate Director for Safety and Security who reports to the Peace Corps Director and includes the following divisions: Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security; Information and Personnel Security; Emergency Preparedness, Plans, Training and Exercise; and Crime Statistics and Analysis.
The major responsibilities of the Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security Division are to coordinate the office’s overseas operations and direct the Peace Corps’ safety and security officers who are located in various regions around the world that have Peace Corps programs. The safety and security officers conduct security assessments; review safety trainings; train trainers and managers; train Volunteer safety wardens, local guards, and staff; develop security incident response procedures; and provide crisis management support.
If a trainee or Volunteer is the victim of a safety incident, Peace Corps staff is prepared to provide support. All Peace Corps posts have procedures in place to respond to incidents of crime committed against Volunteers. The first priority for all posts in the aftermath of an incident is to ensure that the Volunteer is safe and receiving medical treatment as needed.
After assuring the safety of the Volunteer, Peace Corps staff provides support by reassessing the Volunteer’s work site and housing arrangements and making any adjustments, as needed. In some cases, the nature of the incident may necessitate a site or housing transfer. Peace Corps staff will also assist Volunteers with preserving their rights to pursue legal sanctions against the perpetrators of the crime. It is very important that Volunteers report incidents as they occur, not only to protect their peer Volunteers, but also to preserve the future right to prosecute. Should Volunteers decide later in the process that they want to proceed with the prosecution of their assailant, this option may no longer exist if the evidence of the event has not been preserved at the time of the incident.
The country-specific data chart below shows the incidence rates and the average number of incidents of the major types of safety incidents reported by Peace Corps Volunteers/ trainees in Guyana as compared to all other Inter-America and Pacific region programs as a whole, from 2001–2005. It is presented to you in a somewhat technical manner for statistical accuracy.
To fully appreciate the collected data below, an explanation of the graph is provided as follows:
The incidence rate for each type of crime is the number of crime events relative to the Volunteer/trainee population. It is expressed on the chart as a ratio of crime to Volunteer and trainee years (or V/T years, which is a measure of 12 full months of V/T service) to allow for a statistically valid way to compare crime data across countries. An “incident” is a specific offense, per Peace Corps’ classification of offenses, and may involve one or more Volunteer/trainee victims. For example, if two Volunteers are robbed at the same time and place, this is classified as one robbery incident.
The chart is separated into eight crime categories. These include vandalism (malicious defacement or damage of property); theft (taking without force or illegal entry); burglary (forcible entry of a residence); robbery (taking something by force); minor physical assault (attacking without a weapon with minor injuries); minor sexual assault (fondling, groping, etc.); aggravated assault (attacking with a weapon, and/or without a weapon when serious injury results); and rape (sexual intercourse without consent).
When anticipating Peace Corps Volunteer service, you should review all of the safety and security information provided to you, including the strategies to reduce risk. Throughout your training and Volunteer service, you will be expected to successfully complete all training competencies in a variety of areas including safety and security. Once in-country, use the tools and information shared with you to remain as safe and secure as possible.
What if you become a victim of a violent crime?
Few Peace Corps Volunteers are victims of violent crimes. The Peace Corps will give you information and training in how to be safe. But, just as in the U.S., crime happens, and Volunteers can become victims. When this happens, the investigative team of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is charged with helping pursue prosecution of those who perpetrate a violent crime against a Volunteer. If you become a victim of a violent crime, the decision to prosecute or not to prosecute is entirely yours, and one of the tasks of the OIG is to make sure that you are fully informed of your options and help you through the process and procedures involved in going forward with prosecution should you wish to do so. If you decide to prosecute, we are here to assist you in every way we can.
Crimes that occur overseas, of course, are investigated and prosecuted by local authorities in local courts. Our role is to coordinate the investigation and evidence collection with the regional security officers (RSOs) at the U.S. embassy, local police, and local prosecutors and others to ensure that your rights are protected to the fullest extent possible under the laws of the country. OIG investigative staff has extensive experience in criminal investigation, in working sensitively with victims, and as advocates for victims. We also, may, in certain limited circumstances, arrange for the retention of a local lawyer to assist the local public prosecutor in making the case against the individual who perpetrated the violent crime.
If you do become a victim of a violent crime, first, make sure you are in a safe place and with people you trust and second, contact the country director or the Peace Corps medical officer. Immediate reporting is important to the preservation of evidence and the chances of apprehending the suspect.
Country directors and medical officers are required to report
all violent crimes to the Inspector General and the RSO. This information is protected from unauthorized further disclosure by the Privacy Act. Reporting the crime also helps prevent your further victimization and protects your fellow Volunteers.
In conjunction with the RSO, the OIG does a preliminary investigation of all violent crimes against Volunteers regardless of whether the crime has been reported to local authorities or of the decision you may ultimately make to prosecute. If you are a victim of a crime, our staff will work with you through final disposition of the case. OIG staff is available 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week. We may be contacted through our 24-hour violent crime hotline via telephone at 202.692.2911, or by e-mail at violentcrimehotline@peacecorps. gov.
Security Issues in Guyana
When it comes to your safety and security in the Peace Corps, you have to be willing to adapt your behavior and lifestyle to minimize the potential for being a target of crime. As with anywhere in the world, crime exists in Guyana. You can reduce your risk by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by taking precautions. Crime at the village or town level is less frequent than in large cities; people know each other and generally will not steal from their neighbors. Tourist attractions in large towns, for instance, are favorite work sites for pickpockets.
Guyana is considered a low-risk country for terrorist activity, but a high-risk one for petty crimes and aggravated assaults, including the use of weapons. As in the United States, you cannot be too careful. Walking alone at night or simply being alone in an isolated area can put a person at risk of being robbed, harassed, or even physically and sexually assaulted.
In late 2002 and early 2003, there was an upsurge in drive-by killings, shootings, kidnappings, and armed robberies. However, security forces are working hard to bring these crimes to an end, and more recently, there has been a marked decline in criminal activity.
Factors that contribute greatly to Volunteers’ safety under these circumstances are minimizing high-risk behaviors like going out alone late at night and living alone rather than with a family; following community standards for behavior; using “street smart” common sense; and complying with the Peace Corps’ safety and security guidance. Should you become a victim of a physical or sexual assault during your Peace Corps service, Peace Corps staff will be there to assist you. It is important that you involve the medical office to receive appropriate care, including care for your emotional well-being, as well as to address legal issues. Both the medical staff and the safety and security coordinator will keep all information confidential.
The definition of what constitutes sexual harassment differs from culture to culture. What may be considered inappropriate in a professional or social situation in the United States may be considered the norm in Guyana. Female trainees and Volunteers are occasionally subjected to comments with sexual overtones. It is a part of the Guyanese culture for a man to make comments to a woman he finds attractive. Such comments sometimes occur in the workplace, a situation that might constitute sexual harassment in the United States. Male trainees and Volunteers may find themselves in uncomfortable situations as well. For example, a Guyanese man may discuss women in a way that a male trainee or Volunteer finds offensive.
You will have to find ways to cope with such situations. While we encourage you to ignore inappropriate comments or unwanted attention, this does not mean that you are expected to put up with all harassment. As in the United States, each individual needs to decide where to draw the line. Current Volunteers and staff are good resources for dealing with these issues.
Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime
You must be prepared to take on a large degree of responsibility for your own safety. Only you can make yourself less of a target, ensure that your house is secure, and develop relationships in your community that will make you an unlikely victim of crime. In coming to Guyana, do what you would do if you moved to a new city in the United States:
Be cautious, check things out, ask questions, learn about your neighborhood, know where the more risky locations are, use common sense, and be aware. You can reduce your vulnerability to crime by integrating into your community, learning the local language, acting responsibly, and abiding by Peace Corps policies and procedures. Serving safely and effectively in Guyana may require that you accept some restrictions on your current lifestyle.
Volunteers attract unwanted attention both in large cities and at their sites, but they are likely to receive more negative attention in highly populated centers than at their sites, where “family,” friends, and colleagues look out for them. While whistles and exclamations are fairly common on the street, this behavior can be reduced if you dress conservatively, avoid eye contact, and do not respond to unwanted attention. In addition, keep your money out of sight by using an undergarment money pouch, the kind that hangs around your neck and stays hidden under your shirt or inside your coat.
Do not keep your money in outside pockets of backpacks, in coat pockets, or in fanny packs. And always walk with a companion at night.
Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Training and Volunteer Support in Guyana
The Peace Corps’ approach to safety is a five-pronged plan to help you stay safe during your two-year service and includes the following: Information sharing, Volunteer training, site selection criteria, a detailed emergency action plan, and protocols for addressing safety and security incidents. Guyana’s in-country safety program is outlined below.
The Peace Corps/Guyana office will keep you informed of any issues that may impact Volunteer safety through information sharing. Regular updates will be provided in Volunteer newsletters and in memorandums from the country director. In the event of a critical situation or emergency, you will be contacted through the emergency communication network.
Volunteer training will include sessions to prepare you for specific safety and security issues in Guyana. This training will prepare you to adopt a culturally appropriate lifestyle and exercise judgment that promotes safety and reduces risk in your home, at work, and while traveling. Safety training is offered throughout your two-year service and is integrated into the cross-cultural, health, and other components of training.
Certain site selection criteria are used to determine safe housing for Volunteers before their arrival. The Peace Corps staff works closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for a Volunteer’s arrival and to establish expectations of their respective roles in supporting the Volunteer. Each site is inspected before the Volunteer’s arrival to ensure placement in appropriate, safe, and secure housing and work sites. Site selection is based in part on any relevant site history; access to medical, banking, postal, and other essential services; availability of communications, transportation, and markets; housing options and living arrangements; and other support needs.
You will also learn about Peace Corps/Guyana’s detailed emergency action plan, which is implemented in the event of civil or political unrest or a natural disaster. When you arrive at your site, you will complete and submit a site locator form with your address, contact information, and a map to your house. If there is a security threat, you will gather with other Volunteers in Guyana at predetermined locations until the situation is resolved or the Peace Corps decides to evacuate.
Finally, in order for the Peace Corps to be fully responsive to the needs of Volunteers, it is imperative that Volunteers immediately report any security incident to the Peace Corps safety and security coordinator or medical officer. The Peace Corps has established protocols for addressing safety and security incidents in a timely and appropriate manner, and it collects and evaluates safety and security data to track trends and develop strategies to minimize risks to current and future Volunteers.
DIVERSITY AND CROSSCULTURAL ISSUES
In fulfilling its mandate to share the face of America with host countries, the Peace Corps is making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in its Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.
Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. 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.
To ease the transition and adapt to life in Guyana, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual. For example, female trainees and Volunteers may not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions need to be handled with great care; and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limitations. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.
Overview of Diversity in Guyana
The Peace Corps staff in Guyana recognizes the adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female trainees from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations, and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.
The Peace Corps cannot control every host country national’s treatment of Volunteers, and some of you may experience subtle discrimination or even blatant bigotry. Through training, we will try to prepare you, individually and as a group, to cope successfully with these challenges. The country director is responsible for seeing that, within the Peace Corps family, the rights of all Volunteers are respected. No matter what your background, the staff in Guyana is committed to giving you the support that you need to be an effective Volunteer.
What Might a Volunteer Face?
The following information is provided to help you prepare for the challenges you may encounter in Guyana based on your ethnic or racial background, sexual orientation, age, religious beliefs, or disabilities. The text is intended to stimulate thought and discussion and may or may not be applicable to your own Volunteer experience. We want to make all Volunteers aware of issues that one particular group or another may face. As you read, you might ask yourself, “How would I feel if that happened to me?”
Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
Gender roles in Guyana are markedly different from those in the United States, and you will need to understand these gender roles to be effective in your project and satisfied personally. Guyanese women have traditional roles, especially in rural areas, where they run the household, prepare meals, clean, and rear children. In addition, some work in the fields, run small businesses, and care for farm animals. Young, single women generally do not live by themselves. Those who do are often perceived as women who do not live a decent life. Men also have specific roles, and “manliness” is very important. Men are expected to be dominant in almost all aspects of society; they are expected to smoke, drink, pursue women, be strong, and discipline their wives and children.
In Guyana, it is common for women, including Volunteers, to be verbally harassed by men on the streets. Although it is unusual for a man to try to touch a woman, he might whistle, make comments on your looks, or ask you for a date or for sex. North American women are obvious targets because they are so visible and have a reputation of being liberal (sometimes interpreted in the local context as being promiscuous) in male-female relationships. Female Volunteers must learn to handle these situations and may have to accept certain constraints male Volunteers do not have to accept.
Male Volunteers also encounter harassment, but much less frequently. If you do not drink, smoke, or like to pursue women openly, you may be kidded or chided for not being manly enough. Male Volunteers who cook, wash clothes or dishes, and clean the house often seem strange to their neighbors. Pre-service training will orient you to these local customs and gender roles.
Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
Volunteers of color in Guyana may face specific challenges. In Afro-Guyanese communities, for example, African-American Volunteers may be treated according to local social norms because it is assumed they are Afro-Guyanese. This can have both positive and negative outcomes. Within the Volunteer corps, you may be the only minority trainee or Volunteer in a particular project.
Once you move to your site, you may work and live with individuals who have a limited or stereotypical understanding of the United States and its citizens. A Volunteer of color may not be perceived as being North American. A Volunteer with a Hispanic surname may be considered a citizen of a Latin American country rather than the United States. Likewise, a Volunteer of Asian descent is not likely to be perceived as being North American and may be called by ethnic names common in Guyana, such as “Chinese girl.” Out of ignorance or stereotyping, some people in your community may view you as less professionally competent than a white Volunteer. In any community where you are not known, you need to be prepared for staring, pointing, comments, and prejudice. Finally, you should be prepared to hear derogatory terms and racial epithets that would be completely inappropriate in the United States. In some cases, the terms may indeed be used in a derogatory manner, while in other cases the terms may be locally appropriate words that are not intended to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Suggestions for how to respond to these issues will be provided during pre-service training. Both the Peace Corps staff and a peer support network of trained Volunteer counselors are available to provide support.
Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
Maturity and age are generally respected in Guyana, and older Volunteers are likely to find it easier than younger Volunteers to integrate into their communities. Younger Volunteers often have to work harder than their older colleagues to be accepted as professionals in their communities. In addition, older Volunteers tend to be harassed less often.
As the majority of Volunteers are in their 20s, older Volunteers will work and live with individuals in the Peace Corps community who may have little understanding of, or respect for, the lives and experiences of senior Americans. Your interactions with Peace Corps staff may also be different. Staff may not always give you the personal support you expect, while you may be reluctant to share your personal, sexual, or health concerns with staff. You may find that younger Volunteers look to you for advice and support. While some seniors find this a very enjoyable part of their Volunteer experience, others choose not to fill this role.
Training may present its own special challenges. Older trainees may encounter a lack of attention to their specific needs for an effective learning environment. You may need to work with staff to develop an effective individual approach to learning.
Finally, Peace Corps service may present certain social and logistical challenges for senior Volunteers that younger Volunteers do not face, such as handling family emergencies, maintaining lifelong friendships back home, giving someone power of attorney to attend to financial matters, and so forth.
Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
In Guyana, sexual orientation is a closeted issue. The topic is rarely discussed by Guyanese, and it is likely that many consider homosexuality to be immoral. Male homosexuality is illegal. In some instances, basic civil liberties may be ignored, and homosexuals may be hassled in bars or in the streets. There are certainly homosexuals in Guyana, but they are likely to live in the city, away from their home communities.
One of the challenges for both lesbians and gay men is dealing with harassment by people of the opposite sex who are attracted to them. Lesbians have to deal with constant questions about boyfriends, marriage, and sex (as do all women). Gay men must deal with machismo, talk of conquests, girl watching, and dirty jokes.
Acceptable U.S. styles for hair, earrings on men, extensive body piercing, and certain mannerisms or clothes may be viewed with suspicion or disfavor in your community. Also, it is important to note that AIDS is a critical issue in Guyana, and gay Americans are sometimes blamed for supposedly bringing the disease into South America.
Gay, lesbian, and bisexual Volunteers should be aware that they will not encounter the level of openness and acceptance that they may be accustomed to in the United States. They will need to be circumspect with Guyanese colleagues and community members about their sexual orientation. Volunteers who decide to reveal their sexual orientation often confide in the medical officer who has been a source of support for Volunteers. Peer support plays a critical role to Volunteers of diverse sexuality. An additional resource is the lesbian, gay, and bisexual returned Peace Corps affiliate group of the National Peace Corps Association.
Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
The three major religions in Guyana are Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity. Christian Volunteers may find it difficult to accept and work within the boundaries placed on personal behavior by non-Christian religions. For instance, a Hindu or Muslim woman’s tendency to be submissive or her unwillingness to be away from home for long periods can be hard to accept by Westerners. This situation may also pose challenges for Volunteers who want to organize women’s groups.
Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
As part of the medical clearance process, the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services determined that you were physically and emotionally capable, with or without reasonable accommodations, to perform a full tour of Volunteer service in Guyana without unreasonable risk of harm to yourself or interruption of your service. Peace Corps/Guyana staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations in training, housing, job sites, and other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.
That being said, Guyana is not an easy post for Volunteers with disabilities. Wheelchair ramps at building entrances and handrails along walkways, for example, are almost nonexistent. Elevators are few, and many do not work because of disrepair or lack of reliable electricity. Blind people have few resources upon which to rely.
Possible Issues for Married Volunteers
Our experience has been that when trainees or couples live together during training, they spend most of their time with each other rather than sharing in the rich cross-cultural experience of spending time with new friends and host families. While married couples will stay together with the same host family during training, it is incumbent upon them to take full advantage of the homestay period to engage with the family and community. During training sessions, couples are expected to behave in a professional manner. Overt displays of affection are not considered acceptable behavior in Guyana.
In addition, a request to be absent from training when your spouse is mildly ill, for example, will not be automatically granted.
Couples should consider how varying degrees of enthusiasm about Peace Corps service, different adaptation to the physical or cultural environment, and homesickness will affect their lives. A husband and wife may have to deal with changed marital roles resulting from local societal expectations. A married man may be encouraged to take on a more dominant role in the relationship, or be ridiculed for performing domestic tasks or refusing to have extramarital affairs. A married woman may find herself in a less independent role than she is accustomed to or expected to perform traditional domestic chores instead of working. These expectations can create tensions for a couple at work and at home. Finally, couples need to consider how they will cope with competition (e.g., one spouse learning new skills faster than the other) or differences in job satisfaction.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Guyana?
Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds those limits. The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limits and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limits. The Peace Corps’ allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. The larger piece of checked baggage may not exceed 62 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 80 pounds total with a maximum weight of 50 pounds for any one bag.
Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave receivers, as a source of news in rural areas, are permitted), automobiles, motorcycles, or motor scooters to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution. Please check the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Website for a detailed list of permitted and prohibited items at http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permittedprohibited-items.shtm.
What is the electric current in Guyana?
The electric current is 110 volts in urban areas and 110 volts with some 220-volt outlets in rural areas. The 110-volt outlets use the same type of prongs as in the United States, but the 220-volt outlets have three prongs in the British style. Three-prong adapters are available in Guyana.
When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
Upon being sworn in, each Volunteer accumulates two vacation days per month, but you are not allowed to use your vacation time during training and your first three months as a Volunteer. The first months at your site are important for establishing good relationships with the Guyanese in your community, so you are encouraged to remain at your site. Because adaptation to a new culture occurs over many months, the Peace Corps suggests that you postpone any vacations until at least six months of service and preferably until after one year. During the last three months of service, you are expected to be saying goodbyes and finishing projects, so vacation is not authorized in that period. Given that you will probably want to take your vacation when your family or friends visit, please plan their visits to coincide with your vacation time.
Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects; Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase such insurance before you leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.
Do I need an international driver’s license?
Volunteers in Guyana do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks, boats, and lots of walking.
What should I bring as gifts for Guyanese friends and my host family?
Though this is not a requirement, we encourage you to bring an inexpensive gift for your host family. Some suggestions include knickknacks for the house; bedsheets in American styles; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; photos to give away; decks of cards, coloring books and crayons for children; scented candles or potpourri; perfume; or nail polish. Do not get carried away; a token of friendship is sufficient.
Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until after they have completed pre-service training. This gives Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s technical and cross-cultural skills prior to assigning sites, in addition to finalizing site selections with ministry counterparts. If feasible, you may have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, and living conditions. However, many factors influence the site selection process and the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you would ideally like to be. Most Volunteers live in small towns or in rural villages and are usually within a few hours from another Volunteer. Some sites require a 10- to 12-hour drive from the capital. There is at least one Volunteer based in each of the regional capitals and two to four Volunteers in Georgetown.
How can my family contact me in an emergency?
The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For nonemergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580, extension 2515, 2516, or 2525.
Can I call home from Guyana?
You may receive international phone calls at the Peace Corps office, but placing direct-dial international calls or sending faxes from the office is not allowed (although you can place an international call with an AT&T account or other long-distance credit card with prior approval from the country director). You must use local facilities in Georgetown for these services. Volunteers may place long-distance calls and send faxes within Guyana from the Peace Corps office with the prior approval of a staff member.
Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
It is fine to bring your own cellphone, but be aware that all costs related to, and problems that arise from, your cellular service in Guyana are your responsibility. Peace Corps/Guyana does not require that Volunteers have cellphones. If you are considering bringing a cellphone, it is also important to know that cellular service is fully digital and only some models of U.S.-bought cellphones will be compatible with the service.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
There are computers with Internet access and printers available for Volunteer use in the Peace Corps office. Volunteers must provide their own paper. If the computers are being used, access to a staff computer can be arranged (for work-related purposes) through the administrative officer. All the major towns and many villages have Internet cafés, which offer services at a reasonable cost. Most Volunteers serving in Guyana do not bring their own computers. They can be difficult and expensive to maintain given the dust, heat, humidity, and power surges. Any Volunteer who decides to bring a laptop is strongly encouraged to acquire personal property insurance. The Peace Corps cannot be responsible for loss or theft of personal items such as computers.
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).
If you bring new clothing or equipment, remove price tags to avoid possible taxes at customs. The Peace Corps provides some funds for the purchase of clothing, but it is advisable to take advantage of the greater variety and quality in the United States. There are many good tailors and seamstresses in Guyana who can make many styles of clothing at a reasonable price.
- Sturdy backpack for traveling on three- to four-day trips.
- Pen drive (also called thumb drive or flash drive) holds more data than floppy disks (floppies get destroyed by the humidity).
- Envelopes (the ones that peel off an adhesive strip and stick). The humidity will destroy the adhesive on ordinary envelopes .
- A large bottle of your favorite brand of shampoo or conditioner.
- Regular film (A roll goes for about $5-$10; developing costs are comparable to that in the States)
- Back-up batteries for cameras that require special sizes
- Digital cameras (Make sure you bring your USB cord, CD-ROMs for backups can be purchased in-country. 4 x 6 prints cost 45 cents. Also consider uploading your images to an online developer [e.g., Ofoto, Yahoo! Photos, Shutterfly], having the prints sent to a U.S. address and then shipped back down to you by friends or family. Some Volunteers even have photo printers) Note that Advantix film can be developed at Acme or Galaxy photo shops in Georgetown.
- A few disposable cameras are useful if you don’t want to use your regular or digital camera (e.g., to the river)
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste
- Contact lens solution (very expensive down here— recommended to bring from home; remember Peace Corps discourages the use of contact lenses)
- Pocketknife (be sure to declare it within your checked baggage at the airport)
- Head lamp
- Sturdy water bottle (e.g., Nalgene)
- A hat/cap for protection from the intense sun.
- Sunglasses (avoid bringing expensive sunglasses unless you’re especially good at looking after them)
- Bandannas (to use as sweat rags)
- Long-sleeved shirts (good for sun protection and bug protection), preferably of a breathable material
- Shoes that you will be comfortable in for two years (if you’re hard to size); Tevas or Chacos are highly recommended by many Volunteers. Uness you plan on exercising, athletic socks and sneakers are hot and uncomfortable. If you do exercise, bring tennis/trail running shoes.
- Money belt (key to avoiding losing all your vacation money as you walk through Georgetown)
- Plastic storage bags (e.g., Ziploc bags). Note that these and garbage bags are readily available here.
- If you are a teacher or if you plan on teaching, bring comfortable closed-toe dress shoes. Some headmasters (i.e., principals of schools) are real sticklers about this.
- Bed sheets (should be thin and easy to wash and dry)
- There are plenty of books around amongst other Volunteers and in the Peace Corps Volunteer lounge, but bring a few to add to the mix. Also, a dictionary is always useful.
- Laptops (with the exception of IT Volunteers) : You have the chance of being placed at a site without electricity for two years. About one in every three Volunteers bring laptops. You may also wish to buy a cheap desktop ($100-$150 U.S.) when you get to your site and see your electricity situation. Voltage stabilizers are also helpful if you want to prevent damage to your computer due to power instability. Guyana does not charge customs on computers so shipping after arrival is also possible.
- Don’t bring pots/pans; you can purchase them down here.
- Mattress covers are helpful for keeping the bed bugs away.
- Cellphone: Only GSM services available.
- Photos from home. They’re nice to decorate your house, and your Guyanese friends will love looking at photos of your friends back in the States.
- CDs, CD player, iPod, MP3 player, or other portable music player). Also bring small speakers. If tight on money, purchase a CD player that plays MP3s, and then burn all your MP3s to CD-ROMs. Many songs can fit on one disc.
- Pajama pants are nice to keep the mosquitoes away at night.
- The latest versions of the GRE, GMAT or MCAT study guides. While the Volunteer lounge has copies, they’re rather outdated.
- Bottle/can opener (of the key chain variety)
- Map of U.S. or world can be useful for students or even self
- A board game is nice to bring. Scrabble is popular and readily available amongst several Volunteers.
- Musical instrument (if you play)
- Breathable raincoat (if you can afford it or have it already)
- Dress socks—thin and light (these can protect your feet from mosquitoes in your home)
- Light jacket or long-sleeved shirt
- Thin towels, like the ones from hotels (easier to pack and dry quickly)
- Health Volunteers often benefit from a good medical reference book
- Favorite brand of coffee (if you’re a coffee person). Note that you can get locally grown stuff that is not bad; it can be boiled and then strained.
- IT Volunteers may benefit from small tool kit for computers. Victorinox (Swiss Army) sells a special pocket knife that IT Volunteers have found useful. Depending on your site, you may already have tools there, but a kit is always nice since you can’t really do much to a computer without a screwdriver.
- It is not necessary to purchase and/or bring down a blazer.
- At the most, bring down only two button-down long-sleeve shirts and matching ties. Male Volunteers who are health educators typically wear short-sleeve polo shirts and khakis.
- Showing midriff is unacceptable. Bring belts and shirts that are long in the torso.
- One pair of long shorts
- Two to three dress slacks
- Two summer dresses (if you have them)
- One semi-formal dress (for swearing-in ceremony).
Custom tailoring is readily available and affordable.
- Two to three knee-length skirts
- Three to four long skirts
- Casual tops (tank tops can be worn outside of work, though they stretch out quickly with hand washing, so it’s a good idea to bring some boy’s undershirts or tanks that won’t stretch to put underneath clothes)
- Light cotton button-down shirt
- One to three pairs of pajama pants.
- One to two half slips (e.g., one white and one black).
These are also available cheaply in Guyana.
- Soccer shorts (instead of cotton/spandex shorts)
- Loose-fitting shirts (you will want the breathability during the dry season)
- Casual clothes like jeans, tanks, fun T-shirts for around the house
- Do not bring expensive jewelry; you will make yourself a target for thieves
- If you use make-up, bring your personal supply down— the availability in-country is both expensive and of poor quality. If you have a specific brand of face wash, be sure to bring that down.
- Tampons are readily available, but the variety of brands may be limited. if you have a favorite brand, bring down a three-month supply Shoes
- Sturdy pair of combined running and walking shoes
- Hiking boots, if you plan to hike
- Two pairs of sport sandals (Teva or similar brand)
- One or two pairs of casual sandals
- One pair of dress shoes
- Flip-flops (can be bought in Guyana)
- Due to sweat, hand washing and humidity, your T-shirts and other clothes will slowly get destroyed. The detergents and sun drying are very abrasive on clothes (cotton will go faster than synthetics). So, for example, bring two pairs of jeans instead of just one. Any dryfit or quick-dry stuff is really great, especially for travel.
- Electricity can range between 110-240 volts (in the U.S. everything is 110 volts). You can purchase converters (transformers) in-country. Remember this when bringing down electrical appliances (e.g., laptops, chargers, etc.) Also, sometimes the current is not “clean,” i.e., it fluctuates.
- If you play soccer, it wouldn’t hurt to bring your soccer cleats and ball. Perhaps even a small ball pump.
- Some health Volunteers wear sandals (e.g., Tevas, or Chacos) to work. Cheap shoes can be bought in-country.
- You can buy almost any clothes in-country, but size and quality could be a problem.
- Bring a few favorite recipes. Almost all kitchen items are available in Guyana. Keep in mind you may not have an oven at your site.
- Buy your iron in Guyana
- Drink mixes are not as readily available down here— request that these be sent from home to your address.
- Peace Corps provides you with generic mosquito repellent and sunscreen.
- Note to family and friends: Things trainees like to get in packages include candies, hand sanitizers, magazines, photos from home, drink mixes, coffee, special teas, games, etc.
The following list consists of suggestions for you to consider as you prepare to live outside the United States for two years. Not all items will be relevant to everyone, and the list does not include everything you should make arrangements for.
- Notify your family that they can call the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services at any time if there is a critical illness or death of a family member (telephone number: 800.424.8580, extension 1470; after-hours duty officer: 202.638.2574).
- Give the Peace Corps’ On the Home Front handbook to family and friends.
- Forward to the Peace Corps travel office all paperwork for the Peace Corps passport and visas.
- Verify that luggage meets the size and weight limits for international travel.
- Obtain a personal passport if you plan to travel after your service ends. (Your Peace Corps passport will expire three months after you finish your service, so if you plan to travel longer, you will need a regular passport.)
- Complete any needed dental and medical work.
- If you wear glasses, bring two pairs.
- Arrange to bring a three-month supply of all medications (including birth control pills) you are currently taking.
- Make arrangements to maintain life insurance coverage. . Arrange to maintain supplemental health coverage while you are away. (Even though the Peace Corps is responsible for your healthcare during Peace Corps service overseas, it is advisable for people who have preexisting conditions to arrange for the continuation of their supplemental health coverage. If there is a lapse in coverage, it is often difficult and expensive to be reinstated.)
- Arrange to continue Medicare coverage if applicable.
- Bring a copy of your certificate of marriage or divorce.
- Register to vote in the state of your home of record (Many state universities consider voting and payment of state taxes as evidence of residence in that state). . Obtain a voter registration card and take it with you overseas.
- Arrange to have an absentee ballot forwarded to you overseas.
- Purchase optional personal property insurance to extend from the time you leave your home for service overseas until the time you complete your service and return to the United States.
- Obtain student loan deferment forms from the lender or loan service.
- Execute a power of attorney for the management of your property and business.
- Arrange for deductions from your readjustment allowance to pay alimony, child support, and other debts through the Office of Volunteer Financial Operations at 800.424.8580, extension 1770.
- Place all important papers—mortgages, deeds, stocks, and bonds—in a safe deposit box or with an attorney or other caretaker.