While Chris Cannito is Primary Literacy volunteer serving in the Eastern Caribbean, his service is more than empowering students to read. After class, he puts down the books and laces up his cleats, to help coach the national rugby team. Listen to Chris’s Peace Corps story, as he finishes his second year of service and prepares to extend for a third and final year in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
On this Episode:
- Chris connect’s to his community through a sport he loves
- His reason for extending for a third year
- Why Chris worries more about his friends and community than himself
Photos from Chris’s Story
Chris’s Peace Corps Story
Where and when did you serve? What did you do?
I am currently serving as part of the Eastern Caribbean 87 Group under the Primary Literacy Project. I am living in a small rural river valley community of South Rivers in the island St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Part of my project is co-teaching within the local school, create and manage the library, run literacy events for the grades, school, and community, as well as coaching teachers, working with community members to promote literacy for Primary School Age Students. I also partner with teachers on other subjects such as science, art, games, and sit on a few committees such as the Child-Friendly, Literacy and Athletic Committees. Along with my primary project, I host a PCV radio show monthly with fellow PCV’s and interview local community members connected to our various projects. I am also a member of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Rugby Union and have helped coach the national team in terms of fitness, coaching certifications, and run Get Into Rugby Youth Clinics within my community and throughout the island. Being involved with rugby also allows me to play on a local team, and connect to various outlying communities and athletic leaders. Lastly, I sit on as a Peace Corps representative on the Special Olympics of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Board and help with Kick It! unified soccer clinics, as well as partner with their Peace Corps response volunteer need be with connections within my region of the island.
What is one of your favorite Peace Corps memories?
It is extremely hard to pinpoint it, but finding a secret local waterfall with some PCV friends, and my neighbors for my birthday was a great time. We ended the day with a small “lime” at my house which is basically a get together with some food and beverages. Was great to finally find a spot that I had only heard through word of mouth, and can now take other friends and family who visit. Extremely hard to pinpoint, but truly just being part of a small community with its ups and downs and being able to learn about what it means to be present and in the moment.
What is one of your least favorite Peace Corps memories?
Getting Zika. Also not having any food at my house which forced me to buy some local fish from a drive by salesman forcing me to learn on the fly how to clean and gut a fish whilst in the hot sun and still having Zika. Probably that and the handful of times I had extremely bad stomach poisoning leading me to question if I need to invest in diapers or some sort of option.
What will you miss about the Peace Corps?
Being part of a community, but also being immensely present with my time here. Be it the freedom that comes when you don’t have wifi, the time you have to learn local customs, or explore tracks and trails in the wilderness, or explore doors that open within myself. Treating it as a human experience and not a “grind” or job is a lucky privilege I wish not to squander.
Do you have a favorite quote or local saying that you’d like to share?
“Mi dey,” is a local Vincentian Dialect term that is simply just, “I am good,” or “All Good,” and is a simple friendly greeting. “Irie” is a similar term, but more akin to Jamaican patois, which is very similar to Vincentian of Vincy Dialect. Vincy Dialect is a mix of Caribbean patois, that can sound like a totally different language, but living in the local village it is the foundation of what folks grow up around since they often live with the elder generations. Not necessarily a saying, but in Vincy Dialect is big on repeating words to enunciate their importance such as “Nice, Nice” when agreeing with someone, or “Mornin’, Mornin'” when seeing folks in the early hours. Lastly, my walk to school is probably 8 minutes, but if I didn’t say hi to folks, mingle, and chit chat it would seem extremely rude, since if you’re rushing it may make your time seem more important than someone’s own. So saying “Mornin’, Mornin'” and keeping your head on a swivel to wave and speak can make an 8-minute walk 20-30 minutes easily.
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