Work excursion for the STARS program

On Friday morning we (Dimitri and Juliette, my fellow interns and Mr. and Mrs. Hulsman, our internship mentors) headed to Nason to give a workshop. Stichting TANA heads the STARS project. This project helps students in their final year of primary school prepare for their final exams. These exams determine where they can go to high school. STARS offers both study guidance and social skills training.

On Friday we had to drive to the Surgold basecamp in Bonnidoro. We met up at 8am, piled in a van and first drove from Paramaribo to Moengo. This road was in decent condition, asphalt most of the way. In Moengo we had a brief sanitary stop, with a short history lesson. Moengo used to be a thriving town, but the civil war in the 80’s destroyed it.

Moengo hospital

Moengo hospital

After Moengo the road got quite bad. It was red bauxite all the way. Juliette and I were sitting in the back of the van. Every 200m we would fly of the bench only to be rescued by our seat belts. By the time we arrived in Bonnidoro our yellow van was pretty dirty.

Van

We still had a 45-minute drive left.

The SurGold basecamp was pretty cool, like a little island in the jungle. It also felt very peaceful after Paramaribo. On Friday we went exploring a bit.

Soccer field

The soccer field

Insect

The local wildlife

On Saturday we took the boat to Nason. The teachers from all the local schools would gather here to get a workshop on social skills which they in turn would teach to their students.

Loading the boat

Dimitri loading all our material into the boat

Midway through our boat trip the engine stopped working. The boatsman had to call someone else to come pick us (and our belongings) up. We had to transfer boats in the middle of a river where there are piranhas and anacondas, and the boats were just floating next to each other, not tied together.

Workshop

Workshop in progress

We did some fun games during the workshop, to get to know each other. It was great to see the teachers enthusiastic about this program to help their students get a further education.

During the boat ride back the sun was shining after a heavy rainstorm. It made everything look really beautiful.

French Guyana

French Guyana seen from the boat. The Marowijne river forms the border between Suriname and French Guyana.

On the last day we did a lot of waiting around, because our van didn’t leave until 1pm. We ended up playing some pool in the bar.

Pool

Dimitri and Juliette practicing their pool skills for when they return in a month

Road

The road home

You can see the rest of my photos on Flickr

Heading inland!

I’ve been in Paramaribo for almost 2 weeks now. I think I’ve adjusted reasonably well. My housemates are fun, the house itself seems to have quite a few luxuries (warm water, wifi, washer and dryer).

Work is good as well. I have some amazing coworkers and bosses who make me laugh every day. My project is going well, and my mentor is very happy with the work I’ve done so far.

Today especially was great! One of my coworkers celebrated her birthday, so we all got together for cake and she told us some more about herself. And while we were all enjoying our cake one of the bosses told my fellow interns and me that we are headed inland on March 15 for the weekend! We are going to Bonnidoro (I think that’s what one of my fellow interns, Dimitri, said) to check on the STARS project that is starting there. STARS helps children in the final year of primary school prepare for the GLO-test they have to take. The result from that test will determine where they go to high school, which determines what kind of job they can get later. STARS has helped a lot of children who scored low on the first test at the start of the year score higher than the national average by the end.

To get to our final destination we will have to drive for 6 hours and take a boat for 2 more. It will all be very exciting. Many people have told me that inland is the most beautiful part of Suriname.