Many honorary consuls have to learn diplomacy on the fly, but for Marva Jacobs, the new volunteer job is a return to a field she joined more than 30 years ago.
The new honorary consul to Georgia from the South American nation of Guyana was officially appointed in February and has been working to make connections her community, which she estimates to be about 10,000-strong in the state.
That’s a lot for the Anglophone nation of about 800,000 people, which identifies more with Caribbean countries than with its two large, Latin neighbors, Brazil and Venezuela.
Ms. Jacobs, now a middle school teacher, in the 1970s left a customs job to work at the Guyanese consulate in New York as a secretary, just a few blocks from the United Nations building. She remembers being part of the team welcoming the first nonstop Guyana Airways flight from her country to the U.S.
She once worked for the consul general — now she will be addressing the community’s needs directly.
That’s no problem for Ms. Jacobs, whose experience as the oldest of nine children and later training in counseling have given her a strong sense of empathy. At 21 and just divorced herself, Marva faced the death of her 42-year-old mother. She took on the task of raising some four of her younger siblings along with her own two kids, ensuring they made it to school and succeeded there.
“I remember saying to myself, ‘How am I going to make it?’” she told Global Atlanta of the moment that became her “springboard” into counseling.
“I think we must all have some bit of practical experience to merge with theory to help your clients,” who in her case are sometimes-troubled middle-school kids. “If you don’t have any experience, how can you help someone? If you never lost a parent, how can you empathize with that?”
Guyana and Georgia have little trade to speak of, but recently one of the state’s best-known native sons linked the two locales together in recent days.
Former President Jimmy Carter helped lead an international team of 50 people from 24 countries who traveled to Guyana to observe the May 11 elections, though an illness forced the 90-year-old leader to return home early. The 100th-ever mission was a major milestone in the center’s work promoting democracy around the world.
The center had been concerned over polarization between the two major political parties, which respectively represent descendants of Indian indentured servants and African slaves in the former British territory. This was the fourth time the Carter Center had observed Guyana’s elections since 2001.
In a May 13 statement, Mr. Carter urged calm among voters and called for the Guyana Elections Commission to release results that had been delayed four days. Later that same day, the commission announced that the opposition coalition, A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance for Change, had won by a razor-thin margin of 5,400 votes over the People’s Progressive Party Civic, whose leftist president had been in power for 25 years.
Meanwhile, Ms. Jacobs has been working on other issues back in Atlanta. Calling herself the “first step to the embassy” in Washington, she has been letting Guyanese know that their government will no longer issue emergency travel documents. She’s also working with the Guyana Association of Georgia Inc. to promote Guyana Family Fun Day, a celebration of Guyana culture on May 23.
Learn more about the association and family fun day at www.gaog.org.