The Guyana Roots Initiative

The Guyana Roots Initiative-Living, Learning and Working with Arawak Peoples in Northwest Guyana

The Guyana Roots Initiative is a special community project
associated with the 4th year core term in which senior Recreation Management students have the opportunity to live, learn and work with indigenous peoples in remote regions of Guyana. In the winter of 2008, six graduating seniors accompanied Dr. Alan Warner and Ginny Point to the Pomeroon Region of Northwest Guyana where they spent for five weeks in remote rainforest villages. The students lived in pairs with families and worked with the village councils and elders to help them document their traditional activities such as canoe making, pottery, hammock making and cassava processing. The indigenous traditional knowledge is being lost as elders pass away and young people focus on North American lifestyles and on finding jobs outside of their communities. Unfortunately, too often these youthful dreams end in poverty due to a lack of opportunities, skills, education and self-respect.

This project was the first time that these traditional
activities have been documented for the communities, and they were presented in the form of booklets and displays, which are being used in the schools. The schools have very few books and these are the first ones that provide images of their culture and lifestyle.

It was the trip of a lifetime for us and we see the world in a very different way as the result. By learning about another culture and becoming family members in a household, even for a short time, we developed very personal relationships and appreciation of the warmth and generosity of our new family and friends. We also became acutely aware of their daily struggles relative to North American lifestyles and appreciated the challenges of community development in the developing world. In venturing out we ventured in and learned the most about who we are and the privileged roles we have in the world.


Northeast Kings Educational Centre Community Arts Project

 Students developed a project to enable youth from the Northeast Kings Education Centre to reflect on their communities in creative ways. The overall purpose was to explore youth's relationship to their home and school communities. Guiding questions included: To what extent do youth feel connected to their community? What types of things do they like and dislike about their communities? What would they like to change about their communities? To what extent are they willing to be part of this change?

The Projects

  • Grade 7 students created multifaceted collages to express their feelings about their communities.
  • Grade 9 students created a patchwork community quilt based on individual cloth paintings.
  • Grade 11 students used various artistic media including photos, poems, and drawings to reflect on aspect of their community.

The final products were put together to create a public art installation at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts. The Recreation Management and Community Development students gained a wide range of skills through conceptualizing and facilitating the process in the wider community.


The Active & Sustainable Transportation Project

What seemed a reasonable recreation pursuit in the twentieth century is not
necessarily acceptable in the twenty-first century if it disproportionably contributes to global warming, does not enhance population health, and has no demonstrable socio-economic benefit. This project examined the potential for alternative transportation, particularly active and public transportation, to reduce or replace automobile use in the Eastern Kings County, Nova Scotia. Particular attention was given to the perceived barriers to use and the conditions necessary for greater adoption. A series of focus groups provided the main sources of data.

The overarching research methodology was the Rapid Management Assessment (RMA) which capitalizes on the research capacity harnessed over a short period. We employed a literature review; followed by a key document analysis; and a series of six community focus groups conducted in Wolfville (2), Port Williams (1), New Minas (1), and Kentville (2). A short participant questionnaire was also administered. The primary goal was to examine present local transportation behaviour and assess attitudes toward public and active transportation including its relationship to recreation access.

While considerably more data analysis is necessary, the early indications reaffirm initial observations that travel within the corridor is highly  dependent upon the automobile and alternatives are presently unattractive because of convenience, costs, and weather. Considerable attention must be paid to present lifestyles and how that will need to adjust as communities adjust to climate change.