The Guyana initiative was the first to be established by QHO in 1989. Beginning in the summer of 1989, Georgetown, Guyana was chosen as a location for a medical outreach program run by medical students. Queen’s Medical Outreach evolved into Queen’s Health Outreach, and a focus on health education rather than medical aid was created. Eventually, a rural location, Berbice, was added as the second initiative in Guyana in 2014. This past year QHO decided to move out of Georgetown, making the 2018-2019 Georgetown initiative the last initiative in Guyana’s capital city for the foreseeable future. The Guyana Initiative, like QHO as a whole, is continually evolving to work towards becoming more sustainable and to create new partnerships to enhance the work of existing groups in Guyana. We are currently attempting to focus on more sustainable opportunities and the growth of the initiative in Berbice and prospective new locations in Guyana.
Peer educators are trained throughout the school year at Queen’s University to be able to facilitate health discussions on a needs-based basis with students from grade 6 to grade 10. After 7 months of training in Kingston, Ontario, PEs depart for Guyana. They spend 7 weeks in Guyana in total, with 6 teaching weeks, and continually work to immerse themselves in Guyanese culture and education systems in primary and secondary schools. The PEs live in accommodations in the community of Letter Kenny in Berbice and travel to schools in the surrounding area.
The initiative aims to promote healthy lifestyle awareness through partnerships with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Youth, Culture, and Sport. In Berbice, peer educators engage with primary and secondary school classrooms, community groups, youth spaces, and training centres throughout the seven-week initiative. The main focuses of the QHO Guyana initiative are to enhance the accessibility of resources for students, start discussions around mental health topics and break down the stigmas surrounding mental health through interactive learning experiences with Guyanese youth. As a secondary focus, PEs work to provide physical and sexual education as well. Evaluation surveys at the beginning and end of initiative are provided to students and teachers to evaluate QHO’s impact in the community. Outreach activities such as providing mental health awareness and suicide prevention lessons at parent-teacher interview sessions have allowed QHO to make an impact outside of the classroom and reaching more of the community.