Serving in Guyana, South America’s Hidden Gem

Volunteer sitting displaying seven curry in lily leaf at local wedding
By Gina Amico
Oct. 29, 2019

When I was younger, I loved hearing my grandparents’ memories of growing up in British Guiana. Those stories always made me nostalgic for a place I had never visited.

Two years ago, as I scrolled through the open volunteer positions on the Peace Corps website, I was so happy to see listings for Guyana. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, Brazil to the south and southwest, Venezuela to the west, and Suriname (Dutch Guiana) to the east, Guyana has a very unique blend of cultures. It is the only English-speaking country in South America, and is culturally part of the Caribbean. It is often referred to as the “land of six peoples,” because of its many majority ethnic groups: Amerindian, African, Indian, Portuguese, Chinese, and European.

Headshot of smiling girl with face covered in colored powder
Gina covered in colored powder while celebrating Holi

My maternal grandparents were born in Guyana back when it was still known as British Guiana. My family lived in Guyana since the 19th century, and has been involved in the country’s development over the years. When I was younger, I loved hearing my grandparents’ memories of growing up in British Guiana. Those stories always made me nostalgic for a place I had never visited. When my mother was a teenager, she painted a beautiful painting of Georgetown’s Stabroek Market, the largest market in the country—where you can buy just about anything you could possibly need. With her use of vibrant colors and attention to detail, I could picture how lively and robust the area could be on Saturdays. My mom’s painting hung in the main hallway of our home for many years. I admired the market scene each time I passed by, and wondered what it would be like to visit.

Fast forward to 2019: I recently completed my first year of teaching as a Literacy Specialist. I was able to connect my students with my alma mater in NY for a letter exchange. My school also connected with a former Peace Corps Guyana Volunteer, and her students in Washington state. I was finally able to visit the infamous Stabroek Market, which also happens to be where I catch my bus to get from town to my site. It is just like I had imagined. I was so happy on site reveal day, when I was placed at a school that is not too far from where my grandfather was born and raised. I have participated in many weddings, birthdays, and religious and cultural events. From Pre-Service Training to now, I have lived with two host families, who both welcomed me into their homes; I adopted a puppy named Charlie, who is such a sweetheart. I also developed and implemented a Health & Wellness Camp, with my teaching counterpart and community. We plan to continue the theme of the camp in the upcoming school year. This past year in Guyana has been so rewarding, and more than I could have hoped for. I look forward to what my next service year has in store.