Ahh.. that familiar tarmac. The steam rising up from it, brought on by the morning rain and the hot sun that soon follows. Its 8am. I just killed an hour at the Piarco airport in Trinidad after flying through the night. That red eye never gets easy, even if it is my seventh time doing it. I’m in Guyana – where it all began 8 years ago. But I’m getting ahead of myself – lets skip back four months where this latest burst of adventure began….
When February of this year rolled around I started to mentally prepare for the intense months ahead. Four YCI trips in four months. All for different reasons, all to present different challenges and rewards.
First came Guyana in March. Purpose: The annual YCI alliance meeting. Every year representatives from five of YCI’s oldest partners come together to review lessons learned over the year and discuss new opportunities within our networks. This was my third alliance meeting and I revel in the opportunity to get everyone together. I see many of these faces independently throughout the year, but it is only on this occasion that they are all in the same room. Australia, Vanuatu, Costa Rica, Guyana and Canada…..it’s YCI’s own little world summit.
Following this trip, April brought Grenada. Well….Carriacou to be more specific. We have been running a YCI program here on this beautiful tiny island for a few years now and this is my third trip. I’m greeted by an old friend – Mrs. Rosemary Ballen, the head of Carriacou’s ‘Adolescent Development Agency’ and a fantastic partner of ours. Purpose: I’m here to help close out YCI’s one-year project and discuss moving forward together with CIDA internships and new program directions. In the midst of all of this I get taken out to a ‘maroon’ in a tiny town called Mt. Pleasant. A maroon is essentially a celebration of harvest; appreciation of the current and well wishes for the future. Its roots are entrenched in African traditions, with big drum and regional dance being a huge part of the whole thing. I’m reminded of why I love this little island so much.
After a week and a half back home, I hop on another plane – this one headed for Accra, Ghana. A significantly longer journey then the previous two trips to the Caribbean, I find a hidden gem in the Amsterdam airport at the halfway point. It’s a lounge upstairs…with reclining chairs and images of the city tossed onto a large screen. Those of you who have spent any time traveling to and from Africa may have found it. If you haven’t – I recommend you do. It brings tranquility to even the weariest of travelers.
As I touch down in Accra I am greeted by the friendly face of our new Ghana program officer, Robyn Agoston. Following two successful pilot projects in Ghana, YCI is now moving forward with an extensive 2-year program. Purpose of this trip: to get Robyn up to speed with YCI, her role and the program. Together we comb through countless resources, develop new risk management systems, work through budgets, reporting requirements and meet with new potential program partners. The excitement of starting something new and promising is in the air.
Back in Canada and doing a load of wash before another trip back down to Guyana. It’s June and it’s the last of this four-legged journey. It feels appropriate to begin and end this adventure with Guyana – it iswhere YCI began for me. In 2000 I was a YCI volunteer in Guyana. After that a GL and later HIV program coordinator here. It’s my home away from home. I have some great friends here and am lucky to be able to visit as often as I do. Purpose of this trip: to assist where necessary in the CIDA-commissioned evaluation of YCG’s programming, as well as a few reporting projects on the go. It is also the last time I will see my former boss, Eve Patrick, in her role as Executive Director at YCG. She’s moving on and as I walk off the runway and condensation from the ‘Welcome’ sign at the airport drips onto the back of my neck I think about how many adventures I have had in this country. How many times I’ve grown here and how full of life I feel every time I walk off of this particular plane. I think I’ll share that thought with Eve when we go out to dinner this week.
-Ryan Tucker, International Programs Director