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Marshall revisits her Guyanese heritage

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With her husband, sister and cousin, Marshall fulfilled that wish in January, she told a news conference Saturday before a reception at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in East commemorating the 38th anniversary of the creation of her homeland.Guyana gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1966 and formed a republic in 1970. It is an ethnically diverse country due to the influx of indentured servants and slaves from Africa and India who arrived during the 1800s to work on Guyana's sugar plantations."There can be nothing more rewarding than seeking one's heritage," Marshall said, noting that she knew little about her homeland apart from family photo albums and documents from her parents. Her mother died when she was 3 and her father when she was 16..Marshall said she met with President Bharrat Jagdeo and Prime Minister Sam Hinds of the South American country along with the head of the alumni society at St. Rosa's, the school her mother attended.The borough president she was most impressed with the Guyanese educational system. She said although the school buildings were "third world," she observed students there to be attentive, behaved and willing to learn Ð attributes she said are lacking in American schoolchildren."Guyana has an excellent educational system in spite of [its] physical structure," she said.When meeting with the Guyanese president, Marshall said the conversation turned to the economy, environment health and education in the country."He said he didn't have enough school seats and I know all about that because here in Queens we don't have enough school seats," she said.Besides meeting with government officials on the nine-day trip, Marshall said she also got a sense of the country's environment by touring the Guyanese rainforest and meeting with Guyanese natives, known as Amerindians. She said Guyana takes pride in protecting its natural resources, evidenced by its clean air and forest preservation."When you come down on an airplane, all you could see was the tops of trees," she said. "It was just wonderful to see nature in action. It's wonderful to see at least one country that takes care of their environment."The borough president also said there had been a murder near the hotel where she was staying."We actually heard the shots from our hotel," she said, noting that the country's president visited the block where the murder occurred so he could talk to the residents.Marshall said her hectic schedule in Guyana deterred her from one place of relaxation."I was never able to get my foot in the pool," she said. "That was my one regret."She said the Guyanese community in Queens, mainly in Richmond Hill, should think about contributing to their native country."I would say to the Guyanese here in America: Don't forget home," she said. "The country could really use their help."The opportunities are there, [it's] land-rich and [has] a wonderful climate," Marshall said. "Can't beat it."Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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