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Nicholas S.

“The Peace Corps asked me to join the Environment sector in Guyana, where I saw so much potential to pursue both my passions in the environment and community development.”

Nicholas S headshot

1. What got you interested in the Peace Corps?

In high school, I got involved in an explorer program run by the sheriff’s office in my Colorado hometown. This program taught me how to be a leader in my community and focus my life on community development. From there, I found myself participating in different volunteer opportunities, such as student government, LeaderTrek (a community-based leadership program), and environment clubs.

In my freshman year at college two professors shared their Peace Corps experiences with me. I was so inspired that, as I was preparing to graduate, I applied to serve in Tonga. I learned a lot of life lessons during my first service; I gained a much deeper understanding of who I am as a person and how wide my community really is.

When the pandemic forced us to evacuate, I knew my service wasn’t quite over. When the Peace Corps began sending Volunteers back to service, I signed up right away. For my second service, the Peace Corps asked me to join the Environment sector in Guyana, where I saw so much potential to pursue both my passions in the environment and community development.

2. What projects are you working on?

My primary assignment is to collaborate with grade 3-6 teachers to strengthen capacity in teaching science, with a focus on environmental science. This involves both lesson planning and co-teaching lessons for 200 kids.

To meet my conservation goal, there was a strong need to discuss solid waste disposal at my school. We were able to transition from open burning to using the local municipality for waste disposal. For sustainability purposes, we are now focused on teaching proper waste disposal to the younger generation.

In addition to my primary project, I offer environmental science activities at the community library as a way of serving kids in the surrounding communities.

Nicholas S - water treatment plant
Walking to the local water treatment plant, where community members will learn how clean water is produced.

3. What strategies have you used to integrate into your community?

I am an introvert, and because of this, integration is something I found terrifying during both of my Peace Corps services.

When I arrived at my site in Guyana, I quickly connected with the local community library, which is on the same street that I live on. The library offers a free class to kids on Sundays and reaches over 100 children over the course of the year. Classes are tailored to a specific age group and usually consist of reading, literacy arts, as well as science.

The library was a great way to meet the parents and the children in my community before starting school projects. Simply being myself and welcoming conversations was the best way to integrate. Before I knew it, I was being invited to events and activities that were happening in my community.

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

In early 2023, a community member and a teacher asked for my support to mentor a group of four children, ages 9 or 10, for a science project. This project was submitted to the regional science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics (STEAM) fair. The children’s project won first place in the science category for the fair, which gave the kids a chance to take their project to the national STEAM fair.

Mentoring the students through this project, I got to see first-hand how my own interest in science can spark the interest of others. It has really motivated me in the lessons I prepare for all my students. The STEAM fair focused on technology use and utilizing sensors in cellphone devices to allow children to engage and explore their environment. The sensors really help me explain and elaborate on ideas, such as light, sound, and speed, to the children.

Nicholas S helps students with an engineering project
In an engineering lesson, Guyanese students learn to make toy catapults.

5. What have you enjoyed most about the community where you are serving?

My site is close to the ocean, so we get a nice ocean breeze. The community is quiet and community members are friendly. The community is diverse, so I can experience and appreciate the different cultural traditions of the Indo-Guyanese, Afro-Guyanese and Amerindians.

My community is about 30 minutes away from two major shopping areas. It has a large community field, which hosts many sports events. During cricket season, games happen throughout the week, and it’s a good way to hang out with the community. Because there are so many and such a variety of events, I find it difficult to leave for holiday breaks.

My favorite local event so far is the Diwali celebration hosted by the local Hindu temple. Diwali is also known as the festival of light, which is a celebration of good over evil. Hindus will light diyas (oil-type candle) in front of their homes. The community will also host Hindu dances, music, and prayer. Guyana is also known for its Diwali motorcade—a huge light parade showcasing Hindu gods and scenery.

Guyana’s three major religions (Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam) are represented in my community. You can find multiple places of worship for all three religions. With the diversity of religion, all the religious holidays are celebrated in my community.

Nicholas S enjoys the Holi festival of colors
Nicholas takes part in the Phagwah festival (or Holi, festival of colors), where participants throw paint powder on each other.

6. What are some of the most important things you’ve learned from your community?

Most men in my community work at the state-owned sugar company. Some community members will commute to the capital, Georgetown, for work. A lot of families work on the same schedule as the U.S. During the off season, the men who work for the state have a lot of free time, and this is usually when you see more activities in the community.

The library is a community-driven project run by parents and teachers. I believe the library has helped me pursue the goals that the Peace Corps laid out for me to accomplish.

7. How do you spend time when you are not working on a project?

I am currently tutoring children in my community. During holiday breaks, there’s always an event happening. Two huge markets near my home are open on the weekends, one on Saturday and the other on Sunday, so it’s a great time to stock up on food. If it’s a quieter weekend, I find a lot of joy in baking. I bake different treats, such as cinnamon rolls and peanut butter cookies. I also try to pick up other skills. Currently, I am taking online courses on integral calculus and learning Spanish through a popular language app. When I’m trying to unwind for the day, I like to read or watch TV.

8. What are you looking forward to in your remaining time as a Volunteer?

In terms of my school projects, I am looking forward to the arrival of common entrance exam test scores. This exam determines grade 6 student placement in secondary school. The teachers and students have worked so hard preparing! It’s going to be a rewarding moment to celebrate with the kids.

I’m really looking forward completing my projects. My service in Guyana finishes at the end of this year. I’m planning on sightseeing around Guyana, especially the beautiful nature areas. I’m going to make the most of the tropical weather before I head back to the States in the middle of winter.

9. Once you finish your service, what will you do differently when you return to the U.S.?

I have grown so used to life here in Guyana. I have a new enjoyment for sitting outside late into the evening, talking to the neighbors. It’s funny how much more I communicate with my neighbors here compared to in the States.

I really want to continue baking things from scratch when I move back. It feels nice knowing exactly what ingredients I’ve used. It almost feels silly to buy a box that has only some basic ingredients in it when almost everything I need is in my kitchen.