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Guyana - Spring Break 2012
Waking up at 4 a.m. and hopping in a crowded van is hardly the way most college students expect to start their spring break. Yet, anticipation of travel to a fairly unknown country coursed through the veins of fifteen open-minded Eckerd students and our witty leader, Elliott McDaniel. The reality of the experience ahead was not fully realized until the blanket of humidity quite literally took our breaths away as we took our first steps off Caribbean Airways. A dark, quiet, hardly-tropical airport humbly spoke, “Welcome to Guyana”.
The bustling streets of Georgetown were filled with everything from taxis blaring the Backstreet Boys to countless street vendors. Markets could be found around the central clock tower, selling the most delicious fruits: everything from papaya to pineapple. Not to mention one of the world’s hottest peppers, the Scotch Bonnet, which a few members in our group eagerly decided to consume. Each night consisted of cooking everything from Indian to Chinese food with the locals. We even got to take an amazing day-trip into the jungles of Guyana to explore a waterfall and learn about some of the original Dutch colonies that occupied the country.
The sites were amazing, yet the real purpose of our trip could be seen on nearly every street and alley: starving and mistreated animals. None of us had seen such a horrifying display of animals-- countless stray cows, dead dogs, starving goats, overworked and underfed horses. It was hard to travel more than a few blocks without seeing something of this sort. “It seems like an impossible task,” explained Soraya (our main contact in Guyana), “How do we get people to care?” Soraya is a strong, passionate woman, who has dedicated her life to getting animals the rights they deserve through her organization Animal Welfare of Guyana (www.animalwelfaregy.com). She brought us all to the zoo to work for a day and to explain about the corruption Guyana suffers from. The little funding that the zoo gets just ends up in the pockets of the owners instead of caring for the animals. We all became instantly infuriated after hearing this and seeing the poor condition these animals were kept in.
Even though we were exposed to a tremendous amount of sadness on the trip, we assisted in many projects with the Guyana Livestock Development Strategy. Cleaning out animals pens, building and painting fences, herding sheep, and delivering grain to local farmers were only a few of successes we achieved on the trip. Not only did we help the severely understaffed farm, but also we gave the animals a more comfortable living environment. After all, that was what the trip was about: the animals.
Our experience in Guyana was both unexpected and rewarding. As each of us boarded our flight home we all had the sense that we were slightly different people and perhaps we had succeeded in making a positive change in the world around us.