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Giving to Guyana

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Last summer, second year St. Thomas student Marylynn Cote spent 6 weeks living in the small South American country of Guyana. During her time there she helped conduct an HIV/ AIDS & abstinence workshop, an environmental workshop and taught English at the Parika Community High School. For most people this would more than qualify as their good deed for the year, but Cote has decided that she wants to do more.

Parika Community High is typical of Guyanese schools. Resources are very limited, dropout rates are high and class sizes shrink with each successive grade. Cote found that most students learn through rote memorization. They are able to recite the facts they have been taught, but comprehension is an issue. Back home Cote can do little about the dropout rate, or the teaching methods, but she feels she can do something about the limited resources.

“I saw there was a need at the school. It was really rare for kids to have paper, or pencils and they were always having to borrow from each other. Their standards and literacy rates are much lower than we’re used to in Canada. I had kids in Grade 7 that didn’t even know their alphabet.”

While Youth Challenge International (YCI), the organization with which Cote travelled to Guyana, encourages volunteer work before and after trips, they do not specifically organize fundraisers outside of their aid missions. This school-supply drive is a personal project for Cote, who is no stranger to fundraising. Last year she raised the $5000 necessary for the trip to Guyana, and is looking for help this time in getting supplies back to the school.

“I’m just getting started now with trying to gauge interest. I will need people to help write letters and do research and deal with the donations and help organize fundraisers and anything you can imagine that might need to be done.”

Tentative plans are for a donation box for people to drop off gently-used school supplies, as well as raffles, concerts, and a letter-writing compaign to local businesses. Cash donations will be used to pay for shipment of the supplies to Guyana, and any additional money will go towards the purchase of additional supplies.

Anyone with further questions on the project, or who is wondering how they might help, can contact Cote at Marylynn@stu.ca. She will be able to provide additional details, as well as a list of materials the headmistress of Parika Community High has said are most needed. Guyana Youth With a Mission is helping co-ordinate the effort on the Guyanese end, and Cote is confident that a difference can be made.

“Sending more resources would give students and teachers the basic tools, which they lack right now, and they would be able to bring up the level of education, even just a bit, and every bit will help.”

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Written by Colin Hodd

April 16, 2010 at 3:53 PM

Posted in Print

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