“Patience, the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.” In other words, the idea that we become more aware to the world around us. Maybe then, we will learn to lead with our hearts.
In the past few months in Guyana, learning to be patient and to re-evaluate whats right in front of me has been my daily challenge. With many minds and ideas coming together, it can be overwhelming and does lead us right back to square one. Constantly, I go back to the term ‘Capacity building’. This is something Peace Corps provided me when I first arrived and am grateful for this piece of knowledge. Every volunteer wants to be successful. The idea of success for us is very different and we have to re-evaluate our own expectations and really see whats around us. I am still adjusting, learning about my new community, different cultures and how things run in this country. Right now, I am reaching out to learn from various different perspectives what needs priority in this community, and what will produce an end result that will encourage this community to continue to grow long after I am gone, rather be dependent on the next volunteer that comes in to take lead.
In Guyana, there are no classes offered in Sign Language. As my primary assignment while volunteering is to teach courses in Sign Language levels 1 and 2. With my counterpart, who is a Native Guyanese and Deaf, to co-teach with me, we integrate both Guyanese Sign Language and American Sign Language. One challenge we faced was this idea that I needed to be teaching strictly ASL. I discussed this with DAG and encouraged my counterpart to participate fully in my courses. We engaged ourselves in a weekly session of language exchange before the courses began to help me familiarize myself with the local sign language. I am confident this is the best decision for their Deaf community and Guyanese culture. It also will be sustainable and allow for this course to continue without a Peace Corps volunteer coming in. A personal goal is to share my knowledge in teaching tools, activities the classroom and a Sign Language curriculum for my counter part to use and continue to use as a teacher.
Already the first few weeks of classes have been a success! My counterpart is present, actively involved and I can see us co- teaching with ease this semester. We have a mutual respect for one another, it will be a great collaboration!
During regular meetings as an organization, there are discussions about future Deaf events and various fundraisers to help bring Deaf/HH youth to Camp Glow and Camp Bro this year as well as other annual events through the year DAG sponsors. My first one with this organization was a BBQ/ Fish Fry Fundraiser. Already, I see many wonderful individuals being pro-active in community meetings, informing the Deaf community of its plans, asking for input, leading in decision making discussions. The BBQ was a success! DAG raised over 100,000 Guyanese dollars (500 US Dollars). There was also many people from the Deaf community that attended who play an important role in the Deaf Community. Last, but not least, it was lead and implemented by Deaf community members as well as DAG. There was even talk about bringing back the Deaf Club in Georgetown.
Spread the word, there are new positions available through Peace Corps Response Guyana! Especially Deaf role models, or experts in Deaf Education. There are very few Deaf role models in Guyana generally. Right now I am the only volunteer currently present in Guyana who is Hard of Hearing. It goes a long way here. Peace Corps has recently adjusted the requirement to allow anyone with years of professional experience to apply.
Response positions are short-term 6, 9, & 12 month assignments. Some positions are focused on Outreach. Travel and work in various villages where there is no Deaf Education at all present or support for Deaf. I am seeing that this is the biggest need. Some classrooms are literally a table on the front patio in the home of one of the students, a father who offered a place for Deaf students to come together and have an opportunity to learn. The teachers here need help. An individual in Deaf or Special Education can also come spend time in various Deaf Schools offering workshops and coach the teachers. Even if you have any advice or want to take a short trip to come offer your time and knowledge. Get in touch with me. The students are starving for any opportunity to learn and understand the world around them.