“Recognize the things you cannot change.” — Earl Brown

Had a chance to catch up on some email and web browsing today now that I’m back in the states. On August 19, 2002, the Guyana Chronicle‘s front page featured a photo of the 23 new Peace Corps Volunteers (including me, although I was not sworn in) and a story reporting on the ceremony. Here is the story:

Peace Corps can help Guyana reclaim excellence in education
–U.S. Ambassador Godard

UNITED States Ambassador to Guyana, Mr. Ronald Godard has said that the Peace Corps can help Guyana reclaim its tradition of excellence in education.

And although technological advances have changed the environment for learning at an unbelievably rapid pace, for Guyana to recognize its human potential it must harness the needed tools to the best of its advantage.

Mr. Godard was speaking at Friday’s swearing in ceremony for 23 new Peace Corps volunteers at the National Cultural Centre. The Ambassador said that like every other country in the world, Guyana needs to adjust and make new innovations if it wants change.

However, he noted that keeping up with any field of endeavor requires constant effort. Peace Corps volunteers can help give Guyanese the skills they need today in order to excel in the information age, the Ambassador added.

The batch of volunteers comprises persons who underwent a ten-week training period designed to prepare them for working in Guyana. They would be deployed within the Ministries of Health and Education, and will also work with various Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Volunteers would be posted to work at institutions within the ten administrative regions of Guyana for a period of two years.

Ambassador Godard noted that in many countries of the developing world there is a profound uneasiness about the forces of change, a sentiment President Bharrat Jagdeo expressed in his recent speech to the Jamacian Parliament.

President Jagdeo had “put in very stark terms” the idea that globalization poses a serious threat to the way of life of people in the Caribbean and in other parts of the developing world, Godard said.

“That expresses the sentiments of most Guyanese, I think, right now…globalization is a bad word right now, and like others in the Caribbean, Guyanese view globalization as a threat to their livelihood. They see changing trade patterns as an introduction of unfair competition — the big guys, who under-sell and drive them out of business.”

Mr. Godard also noted that the increasing free movement between nations has resulted in the loss of the country’s human resources including nurses and teachers. The growth of international entertainment industry and the explosion of telecommunication as well, have caused dramatic changes, he said.

The Ambassador pointed out that in the Caribbean there are small and fragile states, and the changing trends in the world are often very unkind. As a result, the small nation states fear they would get lost on the shuffle.

He noted that these countries are competing on a world stage with others that are many times larger than they are, so they have joined together to better defend their interests by forming a single market and economy to more effectively compete on the world stage.

“This small place that has limited ability to influence the forces of change that are going to inevitably impact people’s personal lives in positive and negative ways for every person in Guyana,” he predicted.

Mr Godard said that, too often, particularly in developing countries, which have many problems to resolve, the response to change is to ignore it and hope that with the benefit of time it will go away.

The Ambassador said that from the beginning, the Peace Corps have been taking a proactive approach towards change. He said the important part of their mission as volunteers is to help the people of Guyana take charge of their destiny rather than become the victims of change.

He pointed out that over the years, political and social changes in Guyana undermined the educational system, which had given the country one of the most literate and cultured populations in the region.

Mr Godard also noted that for many years, the private sector in Guyana languished in a state-controlled economy, and is now still trying to catch up. In the meantime, all professional business pursuits have been changed irreversibly by the tremendous advances in information and other business technologies.

Guyanese can now master the necessary technology and the information technology skills through the Peace Corps volunteers, who will help them to compete on more equal terms with the rest of the world.

Mr. Godard noted that despite other disadvantages, Guyana in one way is very fortunate because it has been spared the great disasters of its Caribbean sister states. But the challenges to good health for a tropical climate are ever changing and keeping the people healthy is one of the country’s, highest priorities.

He also noted that the country is under siege by HIV/AIDS, one of the most relentless killers in human history, with the instance of infections being estimated at five to seven per cent of the population, second only to Haiti. Unfortunately, he said, there are still many people in Guyana who believe that HIV/AIDS has nothing to do with them.

The American envoy said that unless effective measures are being adopted to deal with this scourge and to arrest this disease, Guyana like some parts of Africa would become a wasteland.

Mr. Godard told the volunteers that he hopes they will use their training to help eliminate those remaining centers of ignorance about HIV/AIDS. He said that could be one of their most gratifying contributions to this country.

The Ambassador said that after living here for more than 18 months, he believes that the Guyanese way of life is worth preserving and added that he also believes Guyanese can achieve greater prosperity. The Government of the United States will stand ready to help this country secure its unique place in a world of rapid change, and protect its cultural identity, he stated.

Peace Corps Country Director Mr Earl Browne in his remarks at the ceremony noted that over 40 years more than 165,000 Americans have been working as Peace Corps volunteers in 95 countries. Currently, 72 of those countries are in the developing world.

He said the idea of the Peace Corps has captured the imagination of the entire nation and in taking on the challenge, volunteers will be able to open their talents, energies and commitment to serve the people of Guyana.

Browne told the volunteers that as they begin to accept the challenge of working in a developing country, they should simply look on and observe the community in which they would be placed to work with the people.

He added that they should focus on assisting the people in making incremental and positive changes towards achieving their development efforts.

“Respect the culture, traditions and values of the people you serve. Recognize that you cannot do all things at once and learn to live with whatever limitations you may have. Recognize the things you cannot change and have the wisdom to know the difference,” he charged.

Browne also advised the volunteers that they should learn to grow from every experience and challenge they encounter during the two years, and ensure that there is a positive contribution to change, human understanding and building peace where possible. (Jaime Hall)

Here is an interesting article on Lariam, which I had to take — and still will for the next month — while serving in Guyana.

UPDATE ON LARIAM AND THE PEACE CORPS

Scores of Peace Corps volunteers are coming forward saying that over the past 12 years they suffered crippling paranoia, anxiety, hallucinations, memory loss, suicidal behavior and physical ailments from seizures to vision difficulty because of the drug handed out by government doctors to prevent malaria.

Many of those affected were medically evacuated and some were hospitalized because of problems volunteers said were caused by Lariam, also called mefloquine. Others risked contracting malaria when they secretly violated Peace Corps rules and quit taking the drug because side effects bothered them so much. Some say that debilitating problems that began when they started taking the drug have continued for years after they stopped.

“This has been the big story among Peace Corps volunteers for 12 years,” said Allen Hoppes, a volunteer in Mali, West Africa, in 1992. That was three years after the Peace Corps began using Lariam, which continues to be the Peace Corps’ drug of choice.

“The Peace Corps told us if we did not want to take mefloquine, we did not want to be Peace Corps volunteers,” Hoppes said. Read the story at:

http://PeaceCorpsOnline.org/messages/messages/2629/1008684.html

In a related story, a domestic violence expert who advises the Pentagon said on August 8 that the military should look into whether Lariam, an anti-malaria drug associated with aggression and suicidal thinking, could have triggered any of the recent incidents in which four Fort Bragg soldiers are suspected of killing their wives and, in two of the cases, also killed themselves.

http://PeaceCorpsOnline.org/messages/messages/2629/1008826.html

Read our continuing coverage of the Lariam controversy, decide for yourself if the health concerns of Lariam’s side-effects have been overstated, and leave your opinion at:

http://PeaceCorpsOnline.org/messages/messages/2629/1008129.html