Kayleigh Morein made a point to travel abroad last semester, but she didn’t do it to study. Instead, the 2012 East Meadow High School graduate gained real-life experience that no textbook could offer. Morein, 20, spent 16 days in Guyana last month, and in her brief time there she brought energy and smiles to a place where few Americans would ever consider vacationing.
Morein, who will be a junior at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa., this fall, traveled with five other students and two chaperones to orphanages, charity centers and hospitals, spending time with children and the elderly. Her experience there made her aware of how much Americans take for granted in the U.S., such as our technologically advanced hospitals. Hospitals in Guyana offer stark contrast. She also noted a general lack of life’s simplest possessions among the Guyanese people.
“For the most part, [they] have nothing,” Morein said. “… [B]ut they are the friendliest people, and they will give whatever it is that they do have, even if it’s just offering a smile.”
Morein spent most of her time in the country giving swimming lessons and tutoring children. But, she said, the learning went both ways. One of her fondest memories is of an exchange she had with a 13-year-old boy. “One day I overheard one of the boys speaking French,” she recounted. “I know a little French, so I asked him how he learned. He responded, ‘I taught myself. I also know German, Spanish, Portuguese and a little Chinese.’
“I asked him if he had any interest going to these countries,” Morein continued. “He said, ‘No, but if I’m going to be representing the Guyanese people as a diplomat, I need to be able to communicate with other countries.’ He’s 13 years old and that’s the way he thinks.”
Morein said that many of the problems in Guyana were beyond the volunteers’ capacity to remedy — for instance, a lack of garbage cans. But, she said, they succeeded in their mission to improve medical conditions and raise spirits.