Sunday, 23 June 2013

June Letter

I have typed up a few paragraphs from a recent letter from Mark:

At Easter we went to a Rodeo at Letham, and then another one at Sand Creek. Nice to catch up with the other volunteers and also meet American Peace Corps and World teach volunteers. I entered the eating race & won my second eating race in Guyana. Woop! I also entered the tug of War. At Sand Creek, for some crazy reason, hungover, sleep deprived me entered a long distance running race & came 3rd. Spent a day or two in Sand Creek - the volunteers there are so lucky - their school is so well equipped! We then visited Dadanawa, a big ranch, run by a white Guyanese man. He’s a cool guy! Has family in N Ireland and even has an ex Project Trust N Irish girlfriend. While there we had to work to earn our keep. Then a very lengthy journey back to Chenapou.

The rain has been ridiculous. The flooding is amazing. The river triples in width and rises about 8m. All the tracks flood, so we have to close school. It’s too dangerous to canoe in this water - the water flows strong, strong, strong! I said to Mrs Dru (headmistress) that I’d buy fuel for the boat, so we can collect children by power boat. Mrs Dru has used her her fuel to transport children to keep school open. Hopefully I won’t have to spend too much, but we’ll see. Last week the education boss for Region 8 visited to check up. She seemed happy with the school, she also explained how to get funding for the school. 

Next week the people in charge of Amailia Falls Hydroproject are coming to Chenapou. Amelia Falls is a massive electricity Dam, that they are building to supply 80% of the country with electricity. It’s a big thing, but no-one in Chenapou seems to realise just how big it is. The boss man is coming as the people from Chenapou are basically the only people to use the land. It’s a two day walk to Amailia Falls area, some people hunt & fish there.

We have also been to Icherak. A mining place that produces the purest metal in the world. (98-99%, Mark doesn’t say what metal!)

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Some Photos

 Teachers day
 4 classes are in the building
 Kaiteur Falls
 Canoe trips
 Liming or Gaffing
 Fishing, the villagers mash up roots, which add toxins to the water and the fish are easily caught.
 Flying in on a 2 seater plane
Mark sank his canoe during canoe races on sports day
 Kaiteur Falls
 Clearing in the forest for a farm
 carrying Cassava roots back to the village
 Cooking dinner
 Chenapou Primary School
Making a clearing

Saturday, 10 November 2012

First letter from Chenapou

Mark asked me to update his blog when we heard from him. First letter today!(Heather, his Mum) Letter was posted 23/10/12

We've settled down nicely here.  We've just got a good routine set in and are exploring the area and culture.  On weekdays we wake up at 6.30am and cook breakfast (seems the entire region knows we cook monkey ears, a kind of pancake for breakfast.  We then wash and swim at 8am and go to school at 8.40.  School is extremely challenging but I am loving it!  I'm teaching grade 4 (P5) which is the largest in the school.  I have 17 pupils in the class with a very very extreme variation of standard (and 2 slightly disabled children I think).  This makes teaching very hard as I have to cater for children from about P1 standard right up to P6 standard even though they are all the same age.  I have had to teach one child the alphabet while giving one child Robert Louis Stevenson books to read.  Most of the children speak creolese English which means they don't know how to spell small words (I thought I was bad) like 'the' 'sand' or 'play'.  So when I set work I have to give about 3 different standards.  I have also had to try and teach them to think for themselves.  For example when I tell them we're doing maths, some of them couldn't work out which book to write in.  They are improving all the time though.  A lot of my teaching has been implying good attitudes, right and wrong, respect for other people.  I've realised that if they are going to learn at all they need to actually have the right attitude.  That is the difference between the good and okay in the class.  The good do their work, read over it and ask questions.  The okay just do it and the rest I have to sit beside them to make them do it (which is impossible to do often).  Despite these problems I am really enjoying it.  The pupils are all really interesting and funny.

When the pupils go home I then stay in school and do lesson plans or help to teach a girl who is repeating the equivalent of GCSE maths which she failed last year.  I normally head home before 5, sometimes at 4 or earlier, then go for a swim.  After that I play football, read or walk around the village with Ben.  The villagers are very keen footballers and there are a few very very good ones.  If we haven't been given a meal (which happens at least once a week like tonight) we cook dinner.  We have surprised ourselves with cooking, we aren't actually too bad!! (I didn't say good)

Ben and I are having to train some pupils so that they can compete at the national swimming competition.  As Chenapou has a wide river the children are generally the best in the region so Chenapou children represent the region.  So in late November Mrs Dru and I are taking them to George Town to compete (Ben and I tossed a coin for it).  But as I just mentioned Mrs Dru I'll talk about her.  She is the headmistress and a very nice person but almost quit her job and disappeared from the school for 2 weeks (only reappeared yesterday) leaving us and the other teachers very disrupted.  She did come back yesterday and decided she was staying till the end of the year thankfully.
Oh, and one thing on teaching I'm having to teach Spanish!!! Very interesting!

We've had so many good times so far, it's been brilliant. Some examples being:

  • Flying to Kaiteur on a 3 person plane (smaller than the volvo);
  • Kaiteur itself (a phenomenal waterfall);
  • Sports day during which we had a canoe race and I sank my boat.  It was described like the Titanic and also became a famous story around the region (This was my first experience with their canoe and I was paddling too hard and lifting water into the boat, I am much better at it now!);
  • We decided to borrow a canoe and canoe upriver for an hour to these rapids we'd heard of.  It was a nice canoe to just relax on.  There is a sandy beach and some rapids and what must be the most beautiful, tranquil house in the world.  
  • I must mention the butterflies here, there are hundreds and hundreds and you see a constant stream of them all flying up and down the river.  The most numerous are green ones.  Literally they surround you and are all you can see.  When I'm washing my clothes if I stick my hand out at least 20 butterflies will settle on it.  Anyways there was a massive gathering of butterflies on the beach which partially blocked the sun.
  • Finally last Sunday we helped at a farm and I agreed to carry a Warahi (locally made equivalent of a bag) back to the village.  It was a 40 minute walk but it was the heaviest thing I've ever carried and roasting sun.  I made it! Thankfully! Had to convince myself that I was narrowock and not an endopac (I'll explain this when I get home).  I was carrying Cassava sticks back.  

We've done lots of other stuff but that will do for now. Ben and I had decided not to go to Tobago for Christmas with the others but to visit other villages near by.  But our message took so long to reach George Town that we were booked anyway (and we only discovered this on Saturday) so we're going to Tobago now for Christmas 21st - 26th I think then Suriname for New Years, then back home in January.
The village is a very closed community.  Apart from the odd person from PK (Paramakatoi - the next village along) we have no outside world contact or news.  We have absolutely no idea what is happening out there but I suppose that's what's nice about this place.  It's just so relaxed.
As I have paper left I'll maybe write about Uncle Mac who I think must be the most interesting person in the world.  He is extremely intelligent and 80 years old (set on reaching 140 when he says he'll die happily).  A very happy man who has lived a decent life.  At one stage he was the only teacher in the school but he was originally from Bartica on the Essiquebo.  He has been on MP in Guyana, walked the entire country and has family around the world.  He is very very patriotic towards the British and loves them.  You would have to meet him to know what I mean.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Nearly Time to Go

      Right, it's nearly time to go. As I am writing this it is about 298 hours and 30 minutes till I board the plane at Gatwick. I just can't get it straight in my head, I am leaving for a YEAR, the full monty, 12 months!

     This isn't a nice wee holiday where I go to an exotic destination and relax, do a bit of sight seeing and drink a lot. This is me going to teach for a year. When I'm explaining what I'm doing to people they always think that I'm going to be an assistant or something, I have to clarify that I am the teacher. I will be fully responsible for the children's education. No biggee ehh?

    A common question I've been asked is what makes me qualified to be a teacher? Well, in all honesty me having (hopefully) A-levels makes me more qualified the the Head-Mistress at Chenapou primary school, let alone all the teachers! (I get my A-level results on thursday! AHHHH!!) I am a wee bit scared of the teaching, I am sure that by the end of the year I will have relaxed and be a lot better. At the start of the year, however, I'll be sweating like crazy (well, I'll be sweating anyways from the hot, humid weather). I have had a weeks training to try and prepare me a bit! I spent a week on the Isle of Coll where Project Trust's centre is based. During the week I: got to know my fellow 22 Guyanese volunteers and most importantly my partner in crime for the year, Ben (ho's a good lad to my relief!); learnt a lot more about the Guyanese culture; had a few mock lessons and finally partied a lot!

    Incase you haven't read any of my other blogs, or have forgotten I'll do a quick wee recap. I am going to Guyana, South America (not Ghana) for a year to teach in a remote Primary School. I am going with the organisation 'Project Trust', who send around 240 gap year volunteers abroad every year to do everything from teach, running an outdoor pursuit centre to carer projects. If anyone reading this is thinking of a gap year, and fancies doing something more than just traveling or working give Project Trust a google!

     I am teaching in Chenapou (or Chenapowu) primary school, with fellow Project Trust volunteer Ben Cooper from the Midlands in England. Chenapou is a remote village of roughly 500 inhabitants in the middle of the Guyanese rainforest. It has no internet, no roads, no phone lines, no postal service, irregular electricity, and very little outside communication. Basically everything viewed as a necessity for western life is missing. The nearest village, Paramakatoi is a hard, two day trek through the rainforest. To get there I have to take one of those small, rickety planes from Georgetown (capitol of Guyana) to Kaiteur falls, then a 3 hour boat journey up the Potora river.

       Anyways I've rambled on, I only meant this to be a short one or two paragraph post basically to say that it will be near impossible for me to make any sort of posts during the year. As I have no internet to do it myself, no postal service to send it to mum to type it and can think of no other way to keep you guys update it! Expect maybe a post during Christmas, Easter and Summer holidays when I have time off school and get to travel a bit!

    I may post something in the next couple of days before I leave or a week or so after when I'll be based in Georgetown (capitol of Guyana) for a wee bit. This, however, is probably it for a while! Good luck to all my mates on Thursday! Enjoy Uni! Bye everyone else! Will miss a lot of you guys! I'm in for a sad week or so.

Saturday, 5 May 2012


Dear All

   So I got a letter from Project Trust the yesterday with more information. I had been waiting impatiently for it for about a month as you could imagine. I now know I am going to teach in Chenapou Primary School. I had been expecting to go to a High School, but I am equally excited, if not more to be going to a Primary School. I feel that teaching the children at such a young age gives me a better chance on having a positive and big impact on their lives!
   The timing of the letter actually could not have been at a more appropriate time. I received it just after I had returned from my last EVER day of school (scary stuff :S). I feel it is fitting that as soon as one period of my life is finished I should find out more about the next period of my life (albeit a slightly shorter one). It actually has been a very big weekend for me in terms of my whole life, not only have I finished school and my next year confirmed in writing, but as of an hour ago my University choices have been made (Loughborough is my firm choice and Queens' Belfast my insurance to do Chemical Engineering, in case anyone is wondering). This weekend will probably stick out in my memory for long time as it will have such an important affect on my life.

   So more about my Project. There is very limited information on it so sorry if your curiosity is not fulfilled, trust me, mine isn't. All I'm about to tell you was either in my letter from 'Project Trust' (1 side of an A4 about it), a website ( or vague references found on the internet.
   As the name suggest, Chenapou Primary School (I have no idea how to pronounce it, so make it up for yourself) is based in the village of Chenapou. It is one of the remotest schools in Guyana as very few qualified Guyanese teachers are prepared to live in such a remote area. It is a small primary school of 170 pupils, very similar to the primary school I was in, Ballycarrickmaddy and the School is in one building close to the heart of the village.
   Chenapou is deep in Guyana's interior, in a region of Guyana called Potaro-Siparuni, or Region 8. I read somewhere that Chenapou had 500 people in the village, and the region has 10,000 people. I feel, however, I need to put this in perspective, the regions total area is 20,051(km^2) compared to Northern Ireland's 13,843 (km^2) area and a population of roughly 1,800,000 people. Thats around 180 times the population in 70% of the area, and Northern Ireland isn't even considered densely populated by western standards. I also read that Chenapou is a 2 day trek from the nearest village, Paramakotoi (where there are some other Project Trust volunteers are based, and I also have no idea how to pronounce it, use your imagination). 
   The village, Chenapou, is based on the Potaro river, and is an hour and half by speed boat up river from magnificent Kaieteur Falls ( Kaieteur Falls is one of the most dramatic waterfalls in the world, and is apparently named after a great chief who sacrificed himself by canoeing over the waterfall to appease the Gods. 
  I will be living in a semi-detached house on stilts with 2 bedrooms, a bathroom and kitchen/living area. The house has electricity via solar panels, and a "flushing toilet". Apparently need I also to bring all my food in for a whole term at the start from Georgetown. 

A photo of the Primary School
This house is like, or is my house for next year

Kaieteur Falls
Kaieteur Falls
Possibly the Village (not 100% sure, as soon as I am sure I'll change this)

Thank you for reading 

Mark Fair

ps Don't expect another post till mid July. See you then

Thursday, 12 April 2012

My first blog

Dear All

    Hopefully this is the first of many blogs I will write. I am hoping to use this as my main method of keeping everyone back home updated with the comings and going ons while I'm on my 'Gap yaahh' (please watch this video -

    At the minute it looks like I will be heading to Guyana ( in South America for a year (yes I said Guyana not Ghana!!). In Guyana I will be teaching Maths and Science in a high school for a year, and hopefully exploring South America during my holidays!! I particularly fancy the idea of spending christmas on a Caribbean Island!! The organisation sending me away and hopefully bringing me home is called 'Project Trust' ( It is a charity based on the Hebridean isle of Coll. They send around 250 teenagers around the world every year to do what they feel are genuinely good projects that help the community in the best possible way! I feel extremely privileged to be able to partake in this exciting year, an experience that will hopefully live with me for the rest of my life.

   One purpose of this blog is for me. I want to be able to read back and see what happened when, what I felt when, and to see how much I have changed by the end of it. Another purpose is for you. I want to be able to share with you my experiences, the good and bad as the year progresses.

   I just hope that the internet in Guyana will be in a fit enough state for blogging, you are warned! I just don't know if I will be able to blog all year round. :S

   However, I am way ahead of myself. I am not leaving for 5 months and I have the small task of raising £5100 before I leave. So far I have actually managed to raise about £4000! So not too far to go thankfully. To raise this I have had: a Night at the Races where I got £1500; a bun sale, £100; a pub quiz, £661; done a few car boot sales, roughly £300; had a party, £300 and had lots of other nice wee donations!! Ohhh and my sister had a pudding sale, I think that got just about a £100. I have been impressed so far with the generosity of everybody! It has been made so much easier getting this daunting figure by having such nice people around to help (mention also must go to my mum for helping!)

   A wee bit about myself. I am an 18 year old student in Northern Ireland studying at Friends' School Lisburn ( - I can be seen at 4:56 in the blue Judo suit). At A-levels I am studying Maths, Physics and Chemistry and hope to do Chemical Engineering at University once I return from South America. I enjoy sports, and compete in several different sports round Ireland, including: Water-skiing, hockey, judo and skiing. 

   Right now, however, I must concentrate on my A-levels. So I shall say bye for now! Expect my next blog to be after my training in early July, or when I hear more details about my project!


My leaflet and some setting up at the Night at the Races