IYIP Blog: Forget What You Might Have Heard About Guyana!

Kendra is enjoying her last few weeks in Guyana, a country far different from the image Google painted for her.

You will never know until you go!

It is hard to believe that I only have 6 weeks left in Georgetown, it feels like just yesterday that I was stepping off that plane. As I sit and analyze the challenges and successes that have shaped my experience in Guyana, I am overwhelmed with emotions.  The multiple encounters, opportunities, experiences, thoughts, emotions (the list goes on and on) have molded my Women’s Entrepreneurship Project and my personal development of living a new life abroad. These experiences and encounters I attribute to the amazing culture, people, landscape and friends that I have made during these past 6 months.

I am grateful to be able to share my expat experience here in Guyana and I hope share a different view than the stereotypes that the country is given. It is easy for these stereotypes to be created, all kinds of biased information is available online  just one Google away. When first researching Guyana during my pre-departure stages, the information I got was negatively skewed, often from newspapers in the country outlining the corruption and politics existing in the society. I would now take this time to share what I have seen in Guyana, and how it relates to the stereotypes that exist.

Guyana- A beautiful country in SOUTH AMERICA (definitely not Africa).

1) Guyana is NOT in Africa.

When preparing for my departure to Guyana, it became very clear that most people were completely unaware that Guyana existed. Many people would respond to me by saying, “WOW, You’re going to Africa?!”. Ugh, no… I think this mistake is a combination of Guyana being a very small, fairly peaceful country that is rarely heard of in the news, and, the fact that people are unaware of the world map.  This is even more astounding when you begin to look at the Guyanese population and how it’s distributed worldwide, which brings me to my next point.

2) You know someone who is Guyanese.

I bet most people know someone who is from Guyana or of Guyanese descent. According to statistics, the population of Guyana is less than 1 million. The population of Guyana living internationally is also around 1 million. When I began to think about it, I realized I knew at least three people who were either born or whose parents were born in Guyana.

A community in Guyana, as seen from the hills.

 3) Underdeveloped- Yes. Uneducated- NO.

Because of the large population of Guyanese living outside Guyana, locals have many opportunities to travel, study and live abroad. Almost every single Guyanese I met had an immediate family member in either Canada or United States and had visited them at least once. Many have studied abroad and are highly educated at some of Canada’s best schools. While Guyana remains one of the most impoverished countries in South America, I was pleasantly surprised to find that many well-educated individuals had returned home to work. Don’t get me wrong though, the “brain drain” phenomenon is still a massive issue for Guyana.

3) Weak Government- Yes, but Strong Nation State

One of Guyana’s major development barriers is the corruption within their political system. Despite efforts to make the government more transparent, there is a long road ahead. On the other hand, the development and charity work that is taking place in Guyana is incredible. During my time in Guyana I attended numerous charity events, including a food fair, rotary club events, Guy Expo, barbeques, fundraisers and my favourite, a weekly quiz night in support of a children’s orphanage.  People here are super involved in the activities around Georgetown, which makes these events more appealing to attend.

A shot of a government building in Georgetown.

4) Is it dangerous?

Wherever you travel, there are dangerous areas that are best avoided even by locals. In developing countries these dangers are obviously more real for people who are perceived to be wealthy or have money and therefore, it is best to exercise caution. Despite all the warnings, I never once felt threatened while roaming around Georgetown. Travel smart and you’ll be fine.

5) Monoculture- NO

Guyana is actually very diverse in terms of ethnic origin and religion. Aside from the obvious Caribbean and Amerindian (native peoples) origins, Guyana was colonized by Britain; hence, English is the predominant language. Additionally, many Guyanese are of Indian and Asian descent and these roots are reflected, most notably, in the range of religions practiced.

-Kendra BorutskiWomen’s Entrepreneurship Program Officer, CIDA International Youth Internship Program, Guyana 2012

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7 thoughts on “IYIP Blog: Forget What You Might Have Heard About Guyana!

  1. Thanks for the overview of Guyana. However Guyana is not made up of indians and Asians, the Indians and Asians came as indenture labours(paid help) the blacks were arrive there on slaves ships in chains. There are six/seven different cultures and its repesented in the Flag and the motto of the country.

    Also Guyana has the highest water falls in the world and the tallest wooden building in the world.
    The country has vast resources, however its being exploited by large foregin companies.

    I could go on and on about the history of Beautiful Guyana, Land of Many waters, but I will stop.

      • Its called St George Cathedral, off Church Street.

        That country is full of history, at one time its was run by the English, Dutch and French, reason why they divided it into three counties(Demerara,Berbice and essequibo.

        I live in Canada now(Richmond Hill) and I used to do Presentations For YCI.

        BlackBerry® Mobilicity

      • Well hello, it is great to hear from you! So many of our volunteers have benefitted from those presentations. ( When I was a volunteer I went to Ghana and remember the presentation I was in from a Ghanaian woman who lives in Toronto now so clearly even though it was years ago.)

        Guyana has such a long and interesting history, it is hard for our volunteers and interns to capture it all in short blog posts. Thank you so much for sharing your comments and all the great facts about Guyana.

  2. Thank you for acknowledging Guyana. When I first moved to Florida, (I currently live in NY) many students asked me where I was from and when I replied Guyana. They would respond saying where is that? I was shocked that no one knew where exactly Guyana is located. I actually gained a habit of saying Guyana, South America so people wouldn’t be totally lost.

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