Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Guyana - June

Driving, riding a bike or even walking on the public road never defined the word “vigilance” greater than it has in Guyana. Doing these things may seem a casual, everyday experience, but here it brings out a whole new meaning. The one and only public road is the through way for much more than people and transportation, it is the grazing grounds for herds of cows, sheep, goats, donkey’s, horses, pigs, fowl and the playground for dogs and cats. Life becomes a real life video game that can cause a speeding car or bus to slam on its breaks and weave at 60mph or simply to stop and wait until the herd has “not so speedily” cleared your path on the road. Sun up and sun down brings out owners on horseback, bike or foot shepherding their animals from one location to another.

Just as these animals move about in akin packs, a quiet walk will tantalize your visual illustration of hundreds of beautiful lotus (water lilies) packed together in the canal blooming pink and white. You may then hear a sound that causes you to tip your head up to the rowdy squawk of parrots flying in pairs up in the sky above. For just as animals, plants and the “birds of a feather” stick together, I often wonder if as humans we too move about in our comfortable, similar packs.

So maybe we do tend to migrate towards people, places and things that are familiar and similar to us, but my question remains how we handle diversity and the differences we do share. Purely another observation... it also seems that when we feel we are surrounded by sameness, that we try to then begin to divide or prove how we are “not like someone or something else” and stand out. I mention this as a bit of self-reflection, but mostly in the context of looking at the Guyanese people. On the national seal it says: “One people, one nation, one destiny”…what a beautiful phrase. In observing how it has played out across various cultures, races and religions in the country, I would say that Guyanese are open-minded towards the vast diversity they have in this small land while still many assumptions, inequity and broad perceptions remain.

While the tension of broadmindedness and perceptions does appear to still remain, I have had the privilege to see the aforementioned played out brilliantly in one of my secondary projects. The Roadside Baptist Church Skills Training Center, located in No.68 Village, has provided me with very life-giving opportunities to walk alongside many of those marginalized in this area. Being pushed to the margins are those adults and children infected and affected by HIV & AIDS, the elderly, school drop outs, street children, those struggling with addiction, orphans, the poor and hungry and many more. This center provides a safe place to come, be accepted and provide relief. It also takes those from where they are and empowers them while giving them the chance to change the direction in their lives, be educated, learn a trade or skill and have support. Although it is a Baptist Church, those working and coming to Roadside are from all faiths, all races and all walks of life. For in looking at the name of the organization, it may appear to exclude in want of sameness, but this is one place embracing diversity and differences beautifully. My goal as I work there is to walk with people, meet them on their level, show them respect and then give assistance with education, an ear to listen, a hug, arts/crafts/games and whatever is needed. For even as my job is in various roles as a teacher, counselor, group leader, nutritionist, and more at the center, I feel I receive just as much enrichment from those I’m walking alongside as they may feel I provide.

Although it may be true in some cases that “birds of a feather flock together”, it can play out so amazingly when we stop putting up divisions between us and diversity is genuinely embraced. What a gift it is that I have been able to observe, work within and learn from in this project!

Thank you all for continuing to provide Brian & I with your support, love and prayers. We are so blessed to have you in our lives and give us the strength to continue our walk with the people of Guyana.

Peace and love,

Kristen