Sep 12, 2021 News
“If it is within my capacity to help, I help without any conditions attached. I am personally gratified at the end of the day. I know to myself I did my best to help those who needed my help, be it humans or animals.”
By Rehanna Ramsay
Kaieteur News – In 2007, an aspiring veterinarian studying in Cuba was forced to return home to Guyana due to some unforeseen circumstances, which led to the forfeiture of his desire to have a career in animal welfare. The former medical student then spent the following year trying to figure out what he should do next.
It was then that this week’s ‘Special Person,’ Anurama Ramgobin, stumbled upon a vacancy advertisement in the newspaper that opened the door for his next best career option – a job in teaching.
However, the work of an educator can be tedious and demanding, ‘Sir’ Ramgobin, that most of his students call him, still manages to find time to volunteer with animal welfare groups—something he is very passionate about.
He told Kaieteur News that his love for animals dates back to his time as a student of agriculture. Ramgobin said that it was during this period that he became vested in ensuring his school’s farm and animals were cared for.
Since then, Ramgobin’s concern for the welfare of ‘our feathered and furry friends,’ has grown. He is now a vocal animal-rights advocate and executive member of the leading animal welfare and activism body, ARAPS, which has since been renamed Tails of Hope.
The not-for-profit organisation relies solely on donations and volunteers to run the shelter and to fund low-cost campaigns.
Ramgobin, who started as a volunteer at one of the spay and neuter campaigns in Berbice two years ago, finds immense pleasure in being part of the Tails of Hope team.
“I immediately fell in love with what they do and I have been volunteering at almost every campaign since. Today, I am one of the executive members of the Tails of Hope team,” Ramgobin added.
The dedicated activist explained nonetheless that the work could sometimes be gruelling.
He said, “There is no rest. We get calls day and night about animal abuse or animal rescues. My afternoons and weekends are usually taken up with following up on reports of abuse, assisting with transporting sick animals to the vet, walking through villages and educating people about animal welfare and how to properly care for their animals, assisting with vaccination, and spay and neuter campaigns. [But] I don’t ever get tired when it comes to helping out animals or their owners in need.”
He emphasised too “If it is within my capacity to help, I help without any conditions attached. I am personally gratified at the end of the day. I know to myself I did my best to help those who needed my help, be it humans or animals.”
When he is not working to save the animals, the 35-year-old Suddie, Essequibo native is actively involved in his vocation as a foreign language teacher at President’s College (PC) – the Government’s premier boarding school.
Ramgobin is no stranger to the “dorm life,” at PC. He is actually a PC graduate.
According to the teacher, the alma mater is what helped to give him a sound academic foundation and the ‘worldview,’ which was essential to becoming the independent, balanced adult, he is today.
But before he could have enrolled at one of the nation’s top secondary schools, our ‘Special Person’ enjoyed quite a satisfactory childhood, bashing in the simple pleasures of rural lifestyle in the Pomeroon River.
He told Kaieteur News that his mother, Sahodra Ramgobin widely known as ‘Aunty Monica,’ was a housewife, and his father, Ramnarine Ramgobin, was a cook in the interior during his early childhood days.
The senior Mr. Ramgobin wasn’t around much, so a lot of the responsibility of raising three boys and a girl was left on the shoulders of Mrs. Ramgobin.
The teacher explained, “Financially, we weren’t well off, but we never went without a meal. We lived along the shores of the Pomeroon River, so fish was in abundance.”
“Fish,” he said, “was our family’s main source of protein.”
In addition, wherever there was an excess, his brothers and dad, when he was not in the interior, gave it to Mrs. Ramgobin, who would go around in her paddleboat to sell to the neighbours.
“We also had our kitchen garden that provided the seasonings and vegetables which would usually accompany the fish we had caught. We had ducks and chicken, those were sold to supplement the income of the household, and we would only get to enjoy a good duck curry when we had visitors or when it was a birthday or holiday,” he added.
Ramgobin continue, “There were goats and cows too. So, there was an entire farm and so food was never missing from the table.”
The teacher noted too that, “life was simple and because of this, I continue to enjoy the simple things in life.”
To this day, whenever he needs a mini-vacation, Mr. Ramgobin heads to the Pomeroon River and spends the weekend with his family. “There is a serenity in the Pomeroon that I cannot find anywhere else. That is my little getaway,” he said.
When it came to his schooling, the younger Ramgobin attended the Charity Nursery and Primary Schools. However, he noted that his primary school years were marred by two major accidents; one of which caused him to lose vision in his left eye.
Ramgobin recalled, “I was in and out of school for almost a year due to the fact I had to be attending the clinic at the Georgetown Public Hospital.”
Nevertheless, he recalled that he was still promoted to the next class due to his noteworthy academic performances during the previous years. The second accident happened in February of 1997.
Ramgobin said it was a few days before he sat the Common Entrance Examination that a fishing boat accident resulted in him having a fractured right foot.
The young Ramgobin was admitted for about four weeks at the Suddie Public Hospital with a broken leg. He was only discharged in order to write his exams.
He recalled that his father would take him every day to the school, fetch him up the steps and wait for him to finish writing the examination.
When the results came out, Ramgobin related that he could not have believed it; he had topped the school and was awarded a place at St. Rose’s High School.
“I was elated,” he said, adding however, that some of his classmates’ parents were obviously not too happy for him since he missed school so much.
“Some accused me of cheating,” he said. However, the notion of attending the top secondary school in the city was short-lived since Ramgobin only had just one aunt who lived on the West Coast, the closest distance to his new school.
He explained, “It was not economically feasible for me to attend St. Rose’s, so my parents opted to send me to President’s College, since it is a boarding school.”
According to Ramgobin, this was the “best decision ever!” He said, “It was during my years at President’s College I realised my deep passion for agriculture.” Following that passion led him to spend two years at the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA) where he pursued a Diploma in Agriculture.
Ramgobin revealed “after graduating, I had my first job in 2004, as a farm supervisor at President’s College farm.” Then in 2005, the blossoming ‘Agri- student’ was offered a Government of Guyana scholarship to study Veterinary Medicine in Cuba. However, after three years into the programme, he was forced to leave the study and return home.
Nevertheless, Ramgobin said he was determined not to give up.
He related, “I did not return from Cuba as a veterinarian but I did return fluent in Spanish. So, after about a year at home, I decided to use that knowledge to my advantage.” The following year, he saw an advertisement that PC had a vacancy for a Spanish teacher and he applied.
“There weren’t many jobs in Essequibo for me, so I decided to risk it. I received my appointment letter on May 9, 2009… I was not sure if this is what I really wanted to do but I gave it my best shot under the guidance of an experienced language teacher, Ms. Janice Fraser,” he said.
As a result of his commitment to the work, Ramgobin became one of the first batches of teacher trainees selected to pursue studies at Cyril Potter College of Education with the Associate Degree in Education with a specialty in teaching Spanish at the secondary school level.
“I graduated successfully from that programme in 2012, despite the many challenges. I am currently a final year student at the University of Guyana reading for a Bachelor’s Degree in Modern Languages,” he shared.
Besides Spanish, Ramgobin also speaks Portuguese—something he picked up between 2013 and 2015 while attending language classes at the Centro Cultural Brazil-Guiana where he adopted it as his third language.
Today, he teaches Spanish and Portuguese at PC. Over the years, he would have taught Biology, Chemistry and Agriculture Science as well.
While being a teacher is not among the best paying jobs, Ramgobin finds gratification in knowing that he is making a positive impact in the lives of his students.
He noted, “Oftentimes, my former students might not remember the Spanish I taught them but whenever they see me, they are quick to point out something that I would have said to them during their school years that made a positive impact in their lives. I recalled one former student who saw me after many years and he was quick to point out that I made him fall in love with Chemistry. Today, he is pursuing a doctoral degree in Chemistry at UWI.”
Added to this, he said that, “stepping into the classroom knowing whatever you say to the young minds will be remembered sometimes maybe for a lifetime, “brings immense contentment.”
Prior to the pandemic, the language teacher took his Spanish students to Panama, French students to Martinique, and the Portuguese students would travel to Brazil. Each trip would last for about two weeks.
He said, “To be able to take a student from zero and to see them have a functional conversation in the target language was motivational for me. Every year, I take my students on foreign language immersion trips where they get to put into practice all that they would have been learning in the classrooms. I get to see them ordering food or asking for directions at the bus station in the target language and I know that I have made an impact.”
While he loves his job, Ramgobin noted the challenges of teaching are many. He stressed that the education system has become very clerical in nature.
He explained, “There are many redundant records being demanded by the education officials and it can become quite overwhelming for teachers. Coupled with [that]…there is lack of resources/ infrastructure to properly meet the demands of the curriculum.”
Yet, the teacher counts himself fortunate to be at a school where there are not many students with behavioural issues.
Outside of his work, Ramgobin is well known as an animal lover. About eight years ago, he began feeding some stray dogs in PC compound. He explained that during the August vacations when school was closed, the dogs would starve. “I began feeding them and over the years, many of them followed me home, and eventually, I took them in. Today, three of those initial strays are still with me. They are no longer strays but are enjoying the days with me,” Ramgobin, who now has a total of 11 dogs stated.
He says that after a stressful day at work, “coming home to my doggies sometimes is all I need.”
“They are my antidepressants and frankly speaking, mentally I would have been in a terrible place without them. Each of my 11 dogs has their unique personality and they help me as much as I help them,” the teacher said.
Added to this, Ramgobin enjoys cooking. He said, “I even considered becom
ing a chef. I also enjoy travelling both in and out of Guyana. I love learning about other cultures and to appreciate cultural differences. One thing I have learned with all travels is that no matter how different we are, culturally, we still have more similarities.”
Despite having a relatively contented life, Ramgobin believes he still is yet to achieve his maximum potential. He noted, “I have not given up that dream of becoming a veterinarian and someday soon enough, I will fulfill that dream.”
As such, his advice to young people is to explore their potential.
“You may make mistakes, lots of them too, for mistakes are proof that you are trying but find something that you love and go after it. Treat each being with kindness. There is real satisfaction in helping out a soul that can do nothing for you in return. Kindness matters and remember; to be the change you wish to see in the world!” he stressed.
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