Thursday, November 10, 2011

Karanambu goes to Rewa!!

Before Robin left us to go back home to the States, she visited Rewa Lodge.  Rewa is a community run Eco-Lodge. She told us that they were expecting 15  people for 7 days!!!  She said she was really worried about her new friends, this was a huge opportunity for this community run Eco-Lodge, but they had little experience hosting such a large group.  The group coming are professional "Catch and Release" fishermen. 

Karanambu is a member of THAG
(Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana), 
and a member of the NRDDB 

So, in our capacity as members of both, we offered to go and visit and see what we could do to help.  We took our head cook, Ms. Yonette Roberts, with us. 

Our boats took us by river the first 1-1/2 hours to Genip Landing where we were picked up in a vehicle and drove us another hour to Kwattaman Landing where the Rewa boats met us and carried us for the next 2-1/2 hours to Rewa Lodge
Rewa Lodge is located where the Rewa River
meets the Rupununi River. 
Our mission was to provide them with as much support as we possibly could in 3 DAYS!!
Our first job was to get things organized so that the staff could function easily.  Looking around the kitchen, we discovered that the stove was in the back corner where there was no light and no window. So we moved it to the other side of the room.
 ROVIN adding an electric outlet for the freezer

Secondly, the freezer was in the middle of the wall, so we requested a new outlet and we moved the freezer out of the way.  Previously, nothing had been kept in sealed containers. Now everything has its own container which will prevent cross contamination.
The supplies were due to arrive in a matter of hours.  In anticipation of their arriving, our next step was to request substantial new shelving in the storeroom.   1,2, 3 it was done!
 The supplies arrived on time.
Then we began to organize the storeroom. 

 To someone who doesn't know the meaning of
"whiskey on the ROCKS"
this shelf is very daunting and bewildering.

Then we asked for new shelving in the kitchen and began to organize everything from pots and pans to the spices.  Everything needed to be within reach and easy to find.
First thing each morning we had a meeting to discuss what we needed to achieve that day and why!

The thought process is not an easy one to learn.
"How to see Rewa Lodge through the eyes of a guest"

 * Anticipate their needs

 * Which cabin is best for which guest and why

 * Planning healthy menus and appropriate quantities

 * The importance of protein and hydration for guests

 * Dividing the responsibilities of all that goes into making a guest happy 

 * Preparing the coolers for the boats, the importance of ALWAYS taking water along in EVERY boat

 * Preparing cabins - each morning and each night 

 * Providing drinks and snacks during the day & why

 * Welcoming the guests back after an activity

 * Preparing meals - timing and quantities

 * Serving and Entertaining

 * How to talk to guests

 * How to prepare the kitchen for the following day

The staff was eager to learn.  Yonette worked with each person individually.  Sometimes in Makushi and sometimes in English.

She would ask questions and invite their comments, ideas and suggestions.
 Yonette would show them something new, and then each person had an opportunity to try it.

Together we discussed what changes would be best for Rewa Lodge.  We decided that a buffet table would be easier for both the guests and the staff when there was a large group visiting. We also requested an additional dining table to seat everyone comfortably.

We practiced using the buffet table
(purpleheart wood)

We also decided that several lounge areas would be good before meals, for drinks and snacks.  A place for guests to have a drink and talk with each other and their guides. 
We also made suggestions on how to prepare the guesthouses; how to make it easier for each guest to hang their clothes and prepare for their activities.  When and how to put down the mosquito nets, change the linens and respond to the needs of the guests.

And then, just as quickly as we arrived, 
it was time  for us to leave.

With hugs and tears and promises to return,
we were on our way back home to Karanambu!

Friday, October 7, 2011

SOLAR - This is Life Changing Stuff!

When we were here in 2009, we visited Kwaimatta Village for the first time.  While we were there we noticed their solar system, which the headmistress explained was to pump water for the school.  At that time they were having some difficulties with it.  It is a new “science”.  There are not many people who understand the maintenance or repair of solar systems.  It was explained to us that those who were trained lived very far away on the coast and it was very expensive to have them come all the way for a repair in one small village.
When we arrived back in 2010, the solar system in Kwaimatta village had still not been repaired.  Dr. Lucy was with us and so the thought process started working.  We brought with us, 13 Solar Panels and a large inverter, which was all given to us by Damian, Salvador’s son.  Damian is one of the few true experts in this field and what he gave us was really professional grade equipment, but it wasn’t a complete system and there wasn’t a Solar engineer in the Rupununi to set it up, even if it were.
Dr. Lucy’s brain is like a Rubik cube. She knows there is an answer; she just has to figure it out.  And so she began.  A few days later, she thought she had a possible solution… and shortly thereafter the Response Program Coordinator for the Peace Corps Guyana arrived at Karanambu to meet with us and discuss an answer to Lucy’s question;

“Is it possible to recruit a Solar Engineer through the Peace Corps; use the Solar Equipment at Karanambu; and use Karanambu as a classroom for the neighboring communities to TEACH them how to set up, maintain and use their Solar equipment effectively.”

The answer was YES!

That was August 2010.  Together we wrote a job description that was posted by the Peace Corps.   
Robin answered the post and SHE arrived in March.  In our communities, it was assumed that a MAN must have been coming, because who had ever heard of a WOMAN ENGINEER! (Solar no less??).  Well, not only is Robin a woman, but as Diane says, “And a really good looking one too!” (ha ha).
Robin riding her bicycle to Massara Village with Susie
She followed procedure to the letter.  She visited all of the neighboring villages.  She started teaching Solar classes every Tuesday. 
Solar Class at Karanambu
Every Tuesday people came from neighboring villages
Everyone was learning about Solar Energy
As Robin began to put together a plan for setting up the system at Karanambu, she stayed in close touch with Damian. In the back of the kitchen garden a solar house was built to store all of the batteries and the inverter…the Solar Panels were placed on top of the roof.
Solar House under construction
Solar House completed
It wasn’t long before we all realized that we needed a great deal of additional funding, without the batteries and other necessary items, there was no way we could set up the system.  Again, Lucy came to the rescue.  She knew of a foundation that supports non-profit work in developing countries. It was a lot of money, but she called them and inquired and they said, “YES!”  The next part of the question was how to make a tax deductible donation to the project?  Lucy wrote to the Peace Corps and asked if a donation could be made to them, earmarked for "The Guyana Community Solar Project" at Karanambu?

Once again the answer was YES!

After what seemed like forever, but only a matter of weeks, Robin went into Georgetown to receive the funds and started purchasing the necessary items to complete the project.
Carlos and Tieche, were two of Robins most dedicated students.  They came to help her, every step of the way.
As the panels were being installed
Everyone was involved and everyone was interested!
FINALLY, after weeks of work,
 Everything checked out!
And the rewiring began. Step by step.
Robin laying the new wire
All the wire was placed underground
 And then one cabin after another, the lights went on and the generator went off!

The very first night we had guests.  It was the following morning that we began to understand the significance.  The gentleman had some serious medical issues.  The wife commented on how nice it was to get up in the middle of the night and be able to flick the switch and SEE what needed to be done. 

For the very first time –ever– the staff was able to turn on the lights in the kitchen at 4:30 in the morning to make coffee and prepare breakfast.  All of these years it has been by candle light.

And Robin’s students who are members of the neighboring communities of Kwaimatta, Massara and Yupakari did all of the work.
Carlos rewires the outlets in the Trust Office
This is life-changing stuff!  Life changing for all of us at Karanambu.  Life changing for the neighboring communities.  Life changing for all of the students who helped Robin step by step and will now go on to help their own communities.

Robin will be leaving us soon and we will miss her so!   We simply cannot imagine life here without her.  But every time we turn on the light, hear the silence of no generator, have a cold cold cold drink, we will think of Robin and thank her for all that she has done for us.  Again, without the Peace Corps and without our very generous donor in the United States and without Damian, none of this would have been possible.

Special thanks from all of us!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Dirt Diggers Donate to Kwaimatta School

When we went up to the States in the rainy season, I of course visited my old "Garden Club" buddies.  So, we got talking about what we were doing and especially about the school in our closest village of Kwaimatta. Kwaimatta has a total of 150 people.  I talked about the saintly headmistress, Iris and all the 57 children from the age of 5 to 14 that were in her one room school. I also told them how we were always looking for ways to help, especially in the coming term when her assistant teacher would be on maternity leave.
 They wanted to help.  Linda volunteered to collect the donations and buy the supplies.  She did a fantastic job.  But how to bring it all down.  We could carry 4 suitcases.  Michele said that she had an old one she did not need.  We met for dinner and packed the suitcase.  
Of course we still had to get it into Karanambu.  You are only allowed 25lbs each on the small plane.  Even weighing with our backpacks on we would have had a big overweight bill, if they could take it at all.  But the Gods were looking down on us.  Gerald Gonsalves, who I have known since we were small boys, was our pilot.  He put up a halfhearted fight, then he checked the weights and said, "take the suitcase in". Thank you TGA! (Trans Guyana Airways). 
As it turned out all of the school children needed new shoes.  Diane and her family came to the rescue.  We collected a list from the Headmistress of all the sizes and 3 bags of shoes were flown in. As it turned out, Gerry was once again the pilot.
The day finally came.  The landrover had to make the trip to Yupakari the night before and did not come back until the next morning.  The driver had gone to sleep.  One of the other boys said, "I will drive!".  Well, he had not driven in over 2 years. Never mind that, or the steering or the gears on the landrover, all in great need of repair!  It took us an hour to drive the seven miles to Kwaimatta.
Half the village was there.
It was worth it!  The children were so excited! .
Everything was greatly appreciated.
But nobody appreciated it more than the Headmistress. Headmistress Iris said that she will carefully ration the supplies as she wants them to last all year!
Thank you Dirt Diggers!