Goodbye Berbice: Things We Learned!

“If you’re not learning from your students, you are not a teacher”

This quote was brought up over lunch with a head teacher of one of the schools we have been teaching at. The sentiment really resounded with out past 7 weeks here and we would like to take the opportunity to share exactly what it is that we have learned with all of you!

From our Friday morning classes at Lower Corentyne Secondary School we learned to make the most of every opportunity, no matter how short lived. We only had three sessions at Lower Corentyne but that didn’t stop us from engaging with material in a meaningful way- if anything it made us focus more on what the students really wanted to learn. Thank you to the Form 3 and 4 students of Lower Corentyne and especially their teacher, Ms. Odetta for creating such a positive teaching and learning environment.

Eric and our Lower Corentyne class

The remainder of our Fridays were spent with the well organized Smythfield Drop-In Centre and Vryman’s Erven Training Centre in New Amsterdam. The young adults at VETC taught us how to make many of the topics we covered relevant to Guyana, whether it be popular contraceptives or common attitudes towards suicide and mental illness- thank you all for your knowledge and willingness to share!

Ali and our Vryman’s Erven Training Center class

We have also learned the meaning of hospitality from both the Berbice Islamic School and Corentyne Comprehensive. Our interactions with both schools have resulted in wonderful participation from students, and immensely inclusive staff. Last weekend we were invited to the Miss Compri pageant where we were able to watch some of our students compete for the crown- the experience really made us feel a part of the community. Our relationships with both school staff have exceeded expectations and we really appreciate all of the efforts extended our way. 

Ali and Eric with the Head Teacher from Corentyne Comprehensive at the Miss Compri 2014 Pageant

On Wednesdays we spent our day working at Massiah Primary, Tagore Secondary, and 59 Primary. Head Teacher Bhoge at Massiah has been immensely welcoming and helpful- providing us with opportunities like parent sessions and connecting us to local like-minded organizations, we cannot thank him enough. We have loved teaching the primary students both at Massiah and 59, taking advantage of the smaller class sizes to get to know our students’ names and unique personalities!

Our class from 59 Primary after our self esteem activity

Tagore Secondary and Port Mourant Secondary have also been schools we have thoroughly enjoyed teaching in! From condom step demonstrations to discussions about abuse, both have been so engaged and inquisitive; all around pleasures to teach! From them we have learned that questions are the key to knowledge- question box was great with these classes. Thank you to the schools and respective administration and teachers who supported us throughout. 

Half of our Tagore class- the rest were already in exams!
Our Monday morning Port Mourant class


Our largest class all project was hands down the Form 3 J.C. Chandisingh Secondary class. There were between 80-90 students and both of us were always borderline hoarse at the end of a session, but what we learned there was one of the most important lessons: what we had been working towards was worthwhile. Being approached by the Form 4 students and asked to talk to them about the material we were discussing with the Form 3 students really showed that the information and activities we planned were relevant and that the time and effort put into project was absolutely paying off. So thank you for your initiative, eagerness, and constant appreciation.

A few of our Form 3 students and evidence of the beautiful thank you card from some of the other girls in the class!
Some of the Form 4 students we had the pleasure of meeting

Our Form 1+2 Islamic School students after a tiring fitness class

Even though the quote at the beginning of this (extended) entry pertains to students, we also learned invaluable lessons from youths and adults throughout our weeks here that must also be given a mention here. The young women and children at the Camal shelter taught us the skill of flexibility; the amount of participants in activities and lessons was always fluctuating as people moved in and out of their daily responsibilities around the space. We want to thank them for graciously inviting us into their home and loved getting to know some of the wonderful people who live at Camal!

Some of the Camal group!

Some of the people we have gotten to know the best are the Letterkenny kids we saw many afternoons each week. From them we learned the meaning of community. They taught us how to receive people not as guests so much as friends, a lesson we will both take with us forever. Most of our best moments outside of the classroom involve the kids from Letterkenny whether we were playing on our trailer, enjoying a game of soccer, or adventuring out to the beach. Thank you all for being so unbelievably hospitable, warm, and welcoming. 

The Letterkenny gang


Finally we want to thank members of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport for being wonderful partners, and helping us establish our presence across Berbice Region 6.  A special thank you goes out to Geeta, who helped us form contacts with Massiah (71) Primary, 59 Primary and Tagore Memorial Secondary School.  We would also like to thank the Ministry of Education for granting us permission to teach in the public school system in Berbice.  This was an exciting new opportunity for the Berbice project and was a tremendous success.  We hope next year’s project will continue to build on our fruitful experience so far.

A much deserved thank you must also go to Omeshwar, our primary contact throughout our trip.  Without his help we would not have been able to have had such a memorable experience.  He has shown us tremendous hospitality and has helped integrate us into the Berbice community.  His endless hard work continues to amaze us and we look forward to working with him again.  A special shout out is also needed for Shivanie, our 7 week adopted mother, who cared for us as if we were her own.  Thank you Shivanie!

A huge shout out must be given to our wondefrul QHO family, whom supported our efforts for the past 9 months.  We would first like to thank our wonderful, beautiful, talented (sparingly) project directors


– Kate and Janet.  Although Janet was not directly associated with the Berbice project, she provided amazing guidance and always brought a smile to our face during fundraising events and meetings.  Kate, we cannot begin to thank you enough for helping us through the year.  You made our transition to living in Guyana seamless and we cannot wait to share so many wonderful stories with you next year.  Another thank you is needed for the wonderful executive members of QHO, especially our co-directors Liz and Fab.  From our day of hiring to the moment we left for project, we never felt uncomfortable or helpless.  The support we’ve received cannot be understated and we cannot wait to give back to next year’s group of peer educators as members of exec.  We also want to thank our fellow Guyana peer educators, the Georgetown project, consisting of Steve, Marni, Colleen, and Casey.  Although they lacked the good looks and wit of the Berbice project, they were amazing people to work alongside with and we are so proud of what they have accomplished in the past 7 weeks.

A final thank you (finally finishing the blog post, thanks for sticking with us), must be given to our family and friends, who have supported us tirelessly over the past year.  We cannot wait to get back home and share all of our stories from our wonderful experience.

With love,
Eric and Ali

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