By Feona Morrison
For 27-year-old Nakasi Fortune, volunteer work has played a major role in her life, and if not for that, she would not have realized her passion.
Fortune, who left Guyana a few months ago to pursue a Bachelors of Arts in Environmental Education at Sterling College, Kansas, USA, grabbed her first volunteer position at the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital where she did patient evaluations.
This task challenged the 2014 youth volunteer awardee to interact with persons—something she was never fond of.
“I never liked speaking to people and so that pushed me beyond my comfort zone… and I enjoyed it. After doing that for a number of months I wanted more. I started seeing things in Guyana that I felt weren’t what they should have been, and I figured that I would have to change it. In my opinion not enough was being done.”
Having started volunteerism at the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) in Guyana in 2013, she has since joined a few other organizations that have similar core beliefs like her. Among those organizations, Fortune listed the U.S. Embassy’s Youth Action Network and the Caribbean Farmers Network.
“My volunteer work allows me the creative freedom to effect change my way with enthusiasm and exuberance. Had it not been for volunteerism I would not have had half of the opportunities I’ve gotten. I get to travel locally, regionally and internationally, I was able to secure tremendous scholarships from my college and that made the cost of attending manageable.”
Thus far, her journey has gained her a sense of personal satisfaction having created, planned and executed projects/initiatives she is incredibly proud of.
According to Fortune, one such project is Earth Hour in Guyana, which is an annual event that seeks to raise awareness about climate change.
She revealed that this event is organized by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Guiana, CYEN and several other agencies like CYEN’s “Shaping Young Eco-Changemakers” Environmental Day Camp that targets children six to 14 years old and introduces them to basic environmental topics.
“I encourage everyone to volunteer, but only if you have the right intentions. Volunteering should not be a chore or hardship and as such, choosing the right organization/cause shapes the kind of experience you have.”
Saying goodbye to your mother is heartbreaking and we all must face it.
Fortune had to endure this tragic loss last year. She described her mother, a teacher, as being very supportive towards her endeavours.
She recalled, “I dropped out of the University of Guyana years ago because I didn’t want to do what I was doing, and so it was a hardship for me. It didn’t make me happy or cause me to feel fulfilled. When I told my mother that I left, I was scared of what her reaction would be. But instead of scolding me, like I was prepared for, she told me to “do what you need to do and I will support you every step of the way.”
Fortune added, “When my mother died, my foundation crumbled, and as part of the rebuilding process I knew that it was time for me to take the plunge and return to school. I began my application with no idea as to how I would actually pay for this, because not only did I lose my mother last year, I lost my job two months after.”
“When I left the University of Guyana I made a promise to myself that I was not returning until I was sure I was doing it for me,” Fortune reflected.
She further explained, “The main reason for leaving Guyana to study in the USA was so that I could attend a college that catered to my learning style. My preference is a healthy balance of classroom teaching and hands-on learning, and I get that at Sterling College. The education that I receive at Sterling sates my curiosity and makes me excited about learning and further, sharing that knowledge.”
According to her, she only considered acquiring an overseas education about three years ago when she stumbled across her current college’s website.
When quizzed about her advice to anyone who is contemplating studying overseas, Fortune stated that studying in a foreign country has its own unique set of challenges and opportunities. She also stated that leaving home is never easy, so one has to develop an open mind and willingness to see each challenge as an opportunity to learn something.
“Additionally, start researching schools early and know what your options are, the financial aid/scholarships that are available for international students and the total cost of attendance.”
She disclosed, “Scholarships and needs-based grants from Sterling College gave me the start that I needed and my family, friends and network provided additional support. The journey is far from finished and I still don’t have everything figured out, but this was a necessary risk, one that I will never regret taking.”
DEFINITELY RETURNING HOME
Fortune stressed that she is eager about contributing towards the development of her homeland.
And as such, after she graduates she will definitely be returning home.
She said, “For me, not returning has never been an option. I love Guyana with my entire heart. I am committed to its development and I see myself playing a role in its development.”
This young woman considers herself an environmental educator, since she has been doing youth and community developments work over the past years.
“I like to encourage understanding of natural and social systems and the role of humans in these systems. Ideally, I want to create an environmentally literate citizenry who see themselves as part and parcel of the environment, as opposed to separate from it. And who can advocate for and meet the environmental challenges of our time. My brand of environmental education revolves around hands-on experiential learning and giving life to stories that need to be told,” said Fortune.
Nakasi Fortune was born in Linden, Region 10 and lived there up until she was age 13. She reflected that her childhood was strict yet exciting as she grew up in a single-parent household with her mother. She attended Watooka Day School in Linden and was awarded a place at President’s College after writing Common Entrance. She was then transferred to the St. Stanislaus College for the commencement of Grade 10.
“Attending President’s College was one of the best experiences in my life. It was there that I saw self-sufficiency and developed as much independence as an 11 year-old could. I was very fortunate to grow up around women who were strong and soft at the same time. And who ensured that my cousins and I had the best opportunities available. “
Fortune continued, “For me, the best opportunities involved a sound education, unconditional love and support, going on tours to national monuments and places of importance during school breaks. Now that I reflect, it birthed my desire to explore and learn as much about Guyana as I possibly can.”
In her spare time, she enjoys learning about life hacks, writing, brainstorming potential project ideas and interacting with friends and family back home. Recently, she has been doing a lot of research in preparation for her winter hiking expedition.
Earlier last month, Fortune was interviewed by the U.S. Embassy in Guyana in observance of International Education Week (November 13-17) during which she spoke of her experience studying in the USA. That article can be viewed at https://gy.usembassy.gov/education-culture/study-usa/international-education-week/
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