In 2008 I decided to take my university studies one step further and volunteered with Youth Challenge International in Guyana, South America. Not South Africa as my mother was continually telling her friends. Don’t know where Guyana is? Don’t be embarrassed. It’s a small country located on the east coast of South America squished in between Venezuela and Suriname.
During my time in Guyana we lived within the local communities and ran a series of workshops educating on issues such as domestic violence, HIV/AIDS prevention and basic health care. We spoke to local schools, groups of miners and local woman leaders.
Here are some fun facts about Guyana-
- Guyana ranks third among the smallest countries on the South American mainland.
- A former British colony, this is the only state of the “Commonwealth of Nations” located on the South American mainland.
- It is also the only English-speaking country in South America, along with being one of the four non-Spanish speaking regions, and is the only South-American country to have English as its official language.
- The first group of people to settle in Guyana was Amerindians.
- Guyana’s Kaieteur Falls are 741 feet high, which is about five times more than the height of Niagara Falls.
- Mount Romania, with a height of 2,835 meters, marks the highest point in this country.
- The system of Dykes in the coastal areas of Guyana was introduced by the Dutch to prevent flooding
- One of the largest open-pit gold mines in the continent of America, The Omai gold mine, is located in Guyana.
On November 18, 1978, American religious cult leader Jim Jones, along with his 909 followers, committed mass suicide in Jonestown in Guyana which threw the country into sudden attention worldwide. This mass suicide, done for political reasons, was considered the greatest loss of American civil life in a single non-natural event until the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Here are a few photos from my short time in this beautiful country.