Students are teachers on lengthy Guyana trip
Members of Queen’s Health Outreach (QHO) hosted a Valentine’s Day-themed fundraiser Tuesday to support peer-based health education in Guyana, South America.
QHO is a student-run organization from Queen’s University focused on both local and international health education initiatives. It has a number of programs in Kingston, Guyana, the Canadian North, Belize and more that deliver peer-based education for community needs.
Tuesday’s fundraiser was made up of a booth littered with candy bags, roses and stickers for sale in the Queen’s Athletics and Recreation Centre. The Valentine’s Day-themed products were sold to help raise money for the annual seven-week Guyana trip, which will start this May.
Organizers expect to make about $200 in profits because all of the candy was donated from the Grocery Checkout Fresh Market on campus, said Shannen Rowe, one of the program directors for the Guyana initiative of the QHO.
She said all of the funds will be put towards a budget of around $30,000 to help pay for flights, accommodations, teaching supplies, food and outreach once they are there.
“Guyana has one of the highest suicide rates per capita, so a lot of what we focus on is mental health and suicide, depression, awareness, breaking down the stigma, and we also help provide students with resources in their community,” Megan Butler, another program director for the Guyana initiative, said.
Butler and Rowe are both thirdyear students at Queen’s who became involved in the QHO in their first year of university. They both attended the Guyana trip last year, before becoming program directors.
“The trip was for sure a lot of ups and downs, because you are there for seven weeks, so almost two months with this group of students and you learn a lot from it because it is peer to peer,” Rowe said. “You learn a lot from the students, as much as you are there to talk and teach them about it.”
The Guyana initiative is just one part of the QHO.
According to the QHO webpage, the Outreach trains 42 peer-educators to give a variety students health-based education. The education can be on anything from puberty to self-esteem to specific topics in the communities they are in, like with the Guyana initiative.
“We are of a similar age to a lot of the students that we teach, like they are in Grade 6 up to training college, so they can be like 18, 19, 20 years old, and youth groups that might even be older than that,” Butler said.
“We find it really beneficial that it is much more of a discussionbased education with open conversations, so we can really focus on what the students want to learn, what’s relevant to them and do our lessons based off of that.”
Rowe said students can relate to peer-educators about the health topics more so than their teachers would be able to.
“I know when I was in school and I had peer-educators come in from the university near my school to talk to us about health, it just gave us a different perspective that was honestly really useful,” she said.
According to the webpage, QHO’s peer-educators work throughout the year with nine different schools in the Kingston area.
The local program teaches mostly in elementary schools, but also in some alternative classrooms like youth groups and shelters, Rowe said.
Butler said a lot of the training the peer-educators receive are from professors at Queen’s who specialize in applicable subjects. They also meet every Sunday for other topic-based training.
She said that similar to the trip to Guyana, other QHO initiatives raise funds and apply for grants and school funding to support the outreach programs.
The programs are almost entirely run by students.
“It’s really interesting because basically the entire organization being run by students means you kind of have the power to make the changes that you want without having to go through a big process,” she said. “The NGO can kind of just shape with the year and mould into how the students see fit, based on their experiences.”
Shannen Rowe, from left, Liz Birchart, Britney Baxter, Delaney Randle and Megan Bulter are members of the Queen’s Health Outreach, fundraising for the Guyana initiative.