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2 years, 3 months
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Up to 12 months
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3-6 months
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Chanel R.

“I feel empowered in my current Peace Corps Response role in Guyana because I know that the goal is improvement and progress, and it is a privilege to work toward these goals alongside so many dedicated Guyanese community members.”

Chanel R headshot

1. What got you interested in the Peace Corps, specifically the Response program?

During my college years, I discovered my love for volunteerism, community engagement, and working in educational spaces. Peace Corps offered an opportunity to live abroad, travel to different destinations around the world, connect with people and learn about different cultures. At the time that I began researching the Peace Corps program, the selection process did not allow for placement by preference, and, honestly, I was a little intimidated by the idea of being assigned to a totally random location for two years. I started filling out the general application for service, but never completed it. Instead, I committed to an AmeriCorps program at Academy Prep Center of Tampa, Florida, and participated in weeklong international health mission trips in Jamaica, while also focusing on gaining professional experience in my field of social work.

Some years later, adjustments were made to the Peace Corps application process, which added the option to choose a country of service. I was also intrigued by the introduction of short term, targeted projects through Peace Corps Response (PCR). I signed up for the newsletter, attended in-person and virtual sessions hosted by recruiters and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, researched Peace Corps Volunteer experiences online, and applied to positions that aligned with my interests and experience. Luckily, I found the perfect, most fitting role for me.

2. What projects are you working on with your community?

The focus of my work in Guyana is to help strengthen and support the relationship among family, school, and community. I work in collaboration with Nadia, the National Parent Teacher Association/School Support Coordinator of Guyana. Our duties involve training parents and school staff, developing tools and strategies to assist with Parent Teacher Association (PTA) tasks, helping to implement effective practices that will enhance student educational experiences, performing monitoring visits, sharing resources, revising PTA policy, engaging in consultation, and providing feedback for improvement to school staff and PTA executive board members. I also serve as a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Support Committee for Peace Corps Guyana.

Chanel trains parents and school staff as part of her collaboration with the Parent Teacher Association of Guyana.
Chanel trains parents and school staff as part of her collaboration with the Parent Teacher Association of Guyana.

3. How have you leveraged your previous professional experience and skills in your service?

The field of social work is broad, flexible, and creative. Working with people of diverse experiences and identities requires openness, understanding, and respect. Social work looks at a person in their environment and assesses how their experiences affect who they are, how they function, and the level of impact these factors have on them over time. While individuals, families, groups, communities, organizations, institutions, and even governments deal with various challenges, social workers can offer a range of supports like counseling, therapy, consultation, training, professional development, conflict resolution, team building, guidance, coping skills, empathy, advocacy, strategic planning, policy, and research.

As a PCR Volunteer, I get to use my brain. I enjoy observing, assessing, and listening to the thoughts of educators, school leaders, community members, learners, and other stakeholders. It allows me to gain more understanding about the lived experiences and needs of students, families, schools, communities, and the country of Guyana as a whole.

Documentation is a huge aspect of my profession. I document each interaction, review my notes, debrief with my counterpart, and use the information to guide my approach to providing support. Therefore, any strategy, tool, or recommendation provided, is based on the expressed needs and feedback of the people who I serve and work alongside.

Chanel spends a lot of time listening to educators, school leaders, community members, and learners in her role as a School Support Officer.
Chanel spends a lot of time listening to educators, community members, and learners in her role as a School Support Officer.

4. What is a highlight of your time in service so far?

I get emotional when I think about finally being chosen to serve in the Peace Corps. As a person of Guyanese heritage, I get to spend time in the place where my parents and many family members were born.

Connecting to the people and the culture has been the highlight of my time in service so far. Serving as a PCR Volunteer is a unique way to integrate into the community, by working and living alongside the people of Guyana. I appreciate the exposure to everyday life in the country. I ask a lot of questions about the things that I see each day. My colleagues, neighbors, and Peace Corps Guyana staff have been instrumental in helping me find my way and get comfortable in my new setting. Going to the market, paying bills, visiting the mall, eating lots of great food, maintaining my living space, indulging in recreational activities, and going to work are all a part of the experience. I’ve had some insightful conversations with store clerks and taxi drivers.

5. What strategies have you used to meet the challenges of a Response Volunteer experience?

I was excited about travelling for service, but a bit nervous about leaving what I considered to be home and entering the unknown. My life in New York City was exciting, busy, eclectic, and fast-paced. I was familiar with my community and knew where to find everything that I needed.

When I first arrived in Guyana, I missed the convenience of living in the city. It was helpful to discuss my feelings and thoughts about the transition with a fellow Volunteer who arrived on the same flight and is from the same state as me. Some of our everyday experiences were similar, but many were different; we can relate to one another and be a source of support to each other. This was especially helpful during our initial phase of service.

Other types of challenges involve managing relationships, being clear with boundaries, and dealing with different types of personalities. I found it useful, although sometimes uncomfortable, to practice direct and assertive communication. It is important for me to take time to decompress and engage in self-reflection, as well as think of positive ways to deal with conflict. Peace Corps staff are also a great resource for reassurance, guidance, and help when I feel overwhelmed.

6. How will the skills you are developing help you in the future?

This unique volunteer opportunity is my introduction to national-level coordination. I’m beginning to understand governmental structure, how policies are developed, and how high-level decisions affect Guyanese society. I have a greater appreciation for being quiet, listening, and using what I hear to influence how I work with my counterpart to develop interventions or responses. In the future, I hope to engage in work that involves advisory, consultation, quality assurance, creativity, community engagement, and coaching/development. I feel empowered in my current Peace Corps Response role in Guyana because I know that the goal is improvement and progress, and it is a privilege to work toward these goals alongside so many dedicated Guyanese community members.

Working and living in Guyana has re-emphasized the importance of slowing down, breathing, and pacing myself. Traveling throughout the country has opened my eyes to the wide diversity of people, culture, and lifestyles. There is still so much more to see and learn. So, I will remain open to receiving new knowledge and gaining a deeper understanding of the world around me. The warmth of my counterpart, neighbors, co-workers, and other Guyanese people show me the power of compassion and respect. I feel embraced and valued by my community. Making connections and building relationships has been the highlight of my Peace Corps journey. I will walk away from this experience with a much stronger connection to my Guyanese heritage.