Far away from home and loving it
British nationals laying foundations in Guyana Guyana Chronicle
February 29, 2004

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DEVELOPMENT workers John and Sally Stevenson are making new roots in a land a continent away from theirs proving you don’t have to be Guyanese to love and serve the `Land of Many Waters’.

The Stevensons, who are both British nationals, have been living in Guyana for the past nine years, labouring as volunteers and resource persons in Georgetown and on the Soesdyke Linden Highway.

John is a Member of The Institution of Electrical Engineers in the United Kingdom. He also has certification in Teaching Basic Communication Skills (Literacy & Numeracy), Comp TIA A+ Computer Service Technician and CSSA (Certified Sonic Wall System Administrator).

As an electrical engineer, John has worked at Crompton Parkinson Ltd and the Central Electricity Generating Board, now PowerGen, both in England.

The Stevensons came to Guyana in 1995 after John was required to take early retirement from his job at a ‘downsizing’ power company. Together, they have served as volunteer teachers in Hauraruni on the Soesdyke Linden Highway and as members of the Guyana Relief Council assisting in fund-raising activities to help families that suffered loss or tragedy.

`Sally and Sarah reading’: Sally reading to young Sarah at the Georgetown Hospital.
Their encounters with locals have stoked their desire to help with development in Guyana in the long haul.

As professed Christians, the Stevensons first learnt about Guyana in the early 1990s when someone in their church in England circulated a newsletter that invited British nationals to visit. They made two initial stopovers here before deciding to leave their home in Solihull, England, for an extended trip to Guyana.

While serving as volunteers, the Stevensons helped care for a nine-year-old girl stricken with leukemia, spending time with, and living with the child’s single mother both in their own home in Campbellville and at their home in New Amsterdam, Berbice, over a period of six months, until the child passed away in 1999.

The experience motivated Sally to enter into another field of volunteerism working with young children in the Paediatric Ward at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.

Sally remembers glancing through the daily newspaper and noticing that someone had donated books to the Library in the Children’s Ward at the hospital.

Sally Stevenson helping to store toys at the hospital.
“Somebody’s doing something with kids in the hospital,” she thought, emboldened to join the members of Friends of the Hospital who were already pioneering `Play Therapy’, playing games with, and reading stories to children in the hospital. Children are taught pre-reading skills, how to identify colours or objects and are encouraged to draw or doodle to aid in the process of educating them, and keeping the mind stimulated during the weeks or months they are deprived of schooling.

Sally has helped to brighten the aesthetics of the Paediatric Ward placing colourful pictures on the walls of the lunch area, which doubles as the children’s library and play hall.

The sessions are held Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 hrs to 12:00 hrs.

The objective is to use play as a means to encourage sick children to move about physically while they recover. Sally has, thus far, dedicated 18 months to the programme at the hospital.

John and Sally have also been taking referrals from friends whose children need help with research at school. The students get a good dose of advice that aids in best research practices for school assignments.

They often recommend the local telephone directory as an excellent source of information that helps foreigners and persons here learn more about Guyana, its places of interest and national features.

Sally holds a Teaching Certificate from Trent Park College of Education, London University. She has served as a teacher since the 1960s working at Maldon County Primary, Essex; Maldon Wentworth County Primary and Lessness Heath Primary, in Bexleyheath, apart from working part time teaching various courses, including T.E.F.L at the Metropolitan Bough of Solihull.

She was promoted to the position of Second in Charge of a `Preps’ Department at Lessness Heath Primary, where she overlooked at least 200 children while being vested with special responsibility for the library and the development of reading materials.

Sally has completed an In-Service Training Course for Remedial Teachers and a course for the implementation of National Curriculum.

Her original training was to teach infants (Preps A&B) with Geography as her main area of personal study.

In Guyana, Sally has worked as a volunteer teacher at the Hauraruni School on the Soesdyke Linden Highway teaching English and Literature to Forms 1 to 3 students, while her husband taught children Science and Math.

Sally has just started working as volunteer reading stories to children of ages 7 to 11 at the National Library, on Mondays from 15:30 hrs to 16:30hrs. Each

possessing an acute interest in wanting to positively impact lives in Guyana, the Stevensons have both applied for citizenship in Guyana.

They both consider the climate, the agreeable nature of most Guyanese and the plentiful opportunities to impart their knowledge and expertise in social/community development, to be plusses in motivating them to want to remain in a land several thousands of miles away from their country of birth.