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By Akola Thompson- From Leroy Hendricks’ earliest memory, Science was always something that he was fascinated by.
“I could be doing so bad in everything else but excelled in that, graduating both primary and secondary school as the best Science student. I have a lot of curiosity surrounding our environment, plants, and the human body and I always thought that medicine was the best option for me to explore all these things.”
After earning a scholarship to complete his studies in Medicine in Cuba, Leon recently became certified as a doctor and is working at the Lethem Hospital. While he is currently a general medical practitioner, he wants to specialise in sports medicine, dealing with athletes. “I am not currently aware of anyone in Guyana that has done this but it is something I want to do to help the medical field but also athletes, particularly in the hinterland area. It would give me a chance to help others to realise their dreams. I can give them that boost.”
One of his major challenges in his journey toward becoming a doctor was having to move from the small community he knew as home towards the busyness of city life. It was a major shift from him knowing everyone around him, to being cooped up in the house all the time surrounded by people who were unfamiliar to him. As he adjusted however, he found the challenges imposed to become manageable over time. Another challenge was when he moved to Cuba for his studies, and he along with his fellow Guyanese students had trouble accessing food due to the political shifts in 2018 that contributed towards food insecurity. “When I arrived in Cuba in 2015, there was abundant food but in 2018 there was a political change that changed the situation in Cuba and I started to see scarcity like flour, sugar, oil and things became different. The food was the main issue for us. Many days we just had to laugh, we couldn’t get pholourie or channa on the road as you just won’t find that,” said Leroy.
The main highlight of his experience in Cuba was meeting so many people that led him to get more in touch with his indigenous identity and language. “I saw people speaking their languages along with English and it made me ask myself why I wasn’t able to speak my Indigenous language. It really helped me to connect more with my identity as an Indigenous person.” In 2020, Leroy along with friend Romario Hastings founded a small business, Lethem Exclusive Apparel that aims to promote the Rupununi, Guyana and its indigenous identity in a contemporary way.
As a doctor in a remote community however, he continues to worry about his people’s access to services. “In Guyana our geography is a problem, we don’t have the infrastructure to support medicine in the way that is needed. Many remote residents have to go to Georgetown to access certain services, why can’t we have these same facilities at Lethem instead of them travelling and putting themselves at risk? We have not bridged the gap between the coastal and hinterland communities. Certain services are not even available in Georgetown, and if we don’t have it there, how are we going to have it in Kato, or Paramakatoi?”
Leroy hopes that communities such as Lethem and other hinterland communities can also have access to technical institutes that would provide them with more skills and job options. While he was able to overcome the barriers of being from a remote community based on the support of family and friends, he does not want his story to be an outlier. “I am one that got through but I don’t want to be the only one, I want to see it happening for others. I want others to have the choice to choose to study or not. It’s about time.” (Loop News)