Sowing seeds of love through service in Guyana

By Emmalee Finn
Feb. 1, 2024

My life is the product of people who have sown diverse seeds into me.

My Peace Corps journey started many years ago in Haiti, in the densely populated capital city of Port-Au-Prince, where I was born. I faced extreme poverty but thankfully the local orphanage was a place of refuge. It was also a place of hope, with a chance to pursue a life in the United States of America.

The U.S. offered me an opportunity to prosper. At age three, I was fortunate to adopt a Midwestern American lifestyle in a small Minnesota town along the Mississippi River. It’s where I encountered the kindness of people who embraced me as their own. My adoption started me down the path of becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer, where I am able to serve America and my community in Guyana.

In April 2016, I officially became an American citizen in the city of St. Paul, Minnesota, and U.S. citizenship ignited a spark in me. I wanted to use my new privileges as an American citizen to support others. I felt compelled to serve, share my knowledge, and learn from others, and the Peace Corps provided a path to do that, and more.

As a primary literacy promoter, I support students as they advance their literacy skills through group and individualized approaches. I also work with teachers to share techniques and teaching strategies through co-planning, co-teaching, and designing suitable learning materials to meet the needs of learners. Additionally, I work with parents to promote involvement and participation in their children's educational journey. I am surrounded by the warmth of the community of people I live and work with and it echoes the sense of belonging I found when I was welcomed into a community in America.

A teacher leads a classroom in Guyana
Emmalee Finn, a primary literacy promoter serving in Guyana, leads a class through a lesson.

Every day that I serve, I am reminded that I once was a child who acquired literacy skills through an environmental change. I too desired a learning environment that would help me rise above many of the challenges I faced. The supportive American community that laid a strong educational groundwork for me is the driving force behind my journey as a Peace Corps Volunteer today, and it fuels my passion for ensuring quality education for all.

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I've realized that aspects of assimilating into Guyanese culture resonate with past experiences. This journey has allowed me to immerse myself in Caribbean cultural nuances — through music, language, cuisine, or tradition — nurturing a deeper connection to my roots.

I have discovered the fusion of Caribbean and South Asian influences with aspects of reggae, soca, and chutney music. I have indulged in popular dishes including cook-up rice, pepperpot and seven curry, a dish of seven stews served with rice on a leaf. I have interacted with various religions that appeared to be different from my own, but in some ways are the same.

Through these experiences, I have gained insights into aspects of my Caribbean roots in addition to the cultures, norms and customs of the people who share similar histories with my Haitian roots. My experience in Guyana has awakened my urge to connect with the country of my birth. Even though my adoption led me to the U.S. and gave me the opportunity to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer, my Haitian identity is a profound part of who I am.

My commitment to Peace Corps service is rooted in the benevolence and love that others have graciously shared with me. As I work to support parents, teachers, and students in my community in Guyana, my aim is to plant seeds of positive change. I hope these seeds will grow into transformative experiences, allowing them to, like me, share stories about how the kindness of others positively impacted their lives.

PCV Emalee Finn portrait