Monday, March 24, 2014

Literacy Project in Vanuatu

       The church is very concerned about literacy.  Consequently, they have been working on various programs throughout the world.  This week a Bro. MacDonald came from Auckland to present the proposal for Vanuatu.  We had an excellent meeting and discussion with our education committee members.  Hopefully, this will start in just a month from now!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Living at the Blue Lagoon Bungalows

      We have wonderful neighbors.  There are ten units altogether.  Our landlord's are in number one.  Duncan is from Australia and his wife, Lindsay, is from Ireland.  They are great.  They are very responsive to our needs.  Lindsay is an attorney.  Duncan is a contractor.  We have held potluck dinners for everyone about once a month.

      Lindsay is on the right - the blonde, then Duncan, Sister Wallace, Elder Wallace, and John Bennion.  We gather and eat and visit for the evening.  Now Kulu Bennion is on the right.  Dr. and Sister Roth were visiting with us for two weeks to do dental work.  Sister Call is in red.

        Our dinners vary each time.  Originally, Duncan always did the main dish.  Then I was elevated.  I was the first person that he let cook the meat.  I did a pork roast in the barbeque oven.  Duncan cooks everything on the grill or in the grill. He bakes bread, cake, and pies.  He makes soup and stews.  He really is a good cook.
      This is another dinner with the Call's and the Wallace's.  The Bennion's provided a Fijian tablecloth.
      These two couples have joined us at the Lagoon.  This is David and Grace - a couple but they have separate units.  The Chinese couple got married last month.  They operate a restaurant called KFC.  Yes, they serve chicken.  No, it does not taste like Kentucky fried.  There logo is the same KFC sign.  There does not seem to be any such thing as copy right infringement here.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Geology in Vanuatu

      These islands are all volcanic or coral.  It is pretty hard stuff.  When they excavate for a new project, they never build any retaining walls.  The structure of the ground is enough.  Currently, they are digging out a big hill of land.  Here it is more than a hill.  The part that is so interesting to us is that the earth strata are so evident.  And - the shifting of the earth's crust when there have been earthquakes.  See what we mean!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

VIT Hospitality School Humanitarian Service Project

      One of the things that we do is work at building good relations between schools and the church.  We visit the schools and get to know the officials.  We are concerned about good feelings with everyone.  Of course, we want our students to get into the right school for them.  Each one has different goals or ambitions. We have explained before that there are not enough schools for everyone.  So - locating a place within the desired school is a great concern.
      Tourism is the number one industry in Vanuatu.  Last week the newspaper had an article about just that.  It said that by 2016 there will be one million visitors in Vanuatu each year.  Consequently, the Hospitality and Tourism School is highly requested.  We know many of the people there.  We proposed a humanitarian project to assist the school.  We met with the school director and his boss, the Principal of the Vanuatu Institute of Technology.

      We brainstormed together over several sessions.  We finally concluded that the school really needed to update the computer capabilities for the students and the staff..  Of course any humanitarian project must have a service component as well.  We agreed to provide two desktop computers, six laptop computers, and three printers.  Along with this our YSA kids would spend a day working with those at the school cleaning up the grounds, repairing whiteboards, and painting the classrooms.  In addition we would jointly build some shade huts on the grounds of the school.  There has been no place for the students to study or eat lunch out of the sun.
      The benefit for our members has been great.  Of course, the humanitarian service was not directly linked to any rewards on our part.  However, the school saw fit to save some positions at the school for our members.  Originally this was to be four positions.  The number grew to seven during the selection process.  There are well over 500 applications each year for the 100 positions available at the school.  Then the first week of class there were three more positions available to be filled immediately.  They called us and said if we could get three more applications to them that day, they were ours.  We really scrambled.  By 4 PM we had six more applications.  They selected three and we got them registered. 

     Here is a picture of eight of our ten students.  The front row is Fredline, Sabrina, and Netty.  The back row is Leah, Rosemary, Rosina, Dima, and Madeleine.  They are all good friends of ours now.  Please notice that the age varies greatly.  The youngest is 22 and the oldest is 51.  This is a wonderful new development in the PEF program of the church.  The age used to be restricted to those 18 to 30 years of age.  Now the ceiling is 65 years of age.  These students are studying housekeeping, restaurant service, culinary, and tourism management.  All ten of our students are attending the school on a PEF loan.  This group represents five of the branches in the Port Vila District.  Hooray!!!

      Last week we held a ceremony to present the computers to the school.  Pres. Basil, the District President, made the presentation.  The Principal of VIT accepted the gift.  The service component is to follow later this month.  Our course our students were present at the ceremony.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Church College in Vaiola, Samoa

      One of our very exciting projects this year has been getting some of our Vanuatu students to school at the church college in Samoa.  When Elder Pearson of the area presidency was here in October, he suggested that maybe some of our kids could go to Vaiola College.  This was wonderful news.  There is not adequate education in Vanuatu.  Of course, we jumped on the opportunity.  It has been an involved operation.  First we got the applications out to the various branch presidents here in Port Vila. Because of the time crunch, we simply could not make this available to more of the islands.
     We were looking for students that were completing year ten.  The church college likes to have the students for the last two years of secondary school.  (Remember, in many parts of the world college is what we refer to as high school.)  Part of the application then included an interview with their branch presidents.  In only eleven days we had nineteen completed applications to send on to Auckland.  We always scan and send everything.  Mail is absolutely too slow. 

      Auckland replied with a tentative approval for fourteen of the nineteen.  Now the work really began.  First of all, we needed to administer an English test to all fourteen students.  We arranged to have a practice session on an old test.  This was partially a listening test and partly from a workbook.  Very few of these kids had ever taken any kind of test like this.  The practice and exposure to such a process was necessary.  Then we administered the actual test.  It took several sessions to get everyone done.  These were all sent to Auckland and thirteen students qualified.  Of course, I really didn't like having to tell the one young man that he did not make it.
      Now we had to rush like crazy.  All of the students needed to have a medical examination that included a chest x-ray.  They all needed to have a police background check.  They all needed to get a VISA for Samoa.  They all needed plane tickets to Samoa.  They all needed to get a transcript from their current school.  We tried to hold several group meetings with all of the parents and the kids.  However, usually it was us running all over town getting everything done.

      These are some of the students that tested.  We saw them at church on Sunday.  These are great kids.  They are all very polite and respectful.  It was really nice getting to know them so well.
      Getting all of the forms completed and all of the steps completed seemed to take a great deal of time.  Finally, everything was properly submitted for all of the kids.  We had to send everything to Auckland.  The VISA things had to go to Samoa.  In the end, the students and their families paid for the tuition, the passports, the chest x-ray, the police clearance, and the school uniforms.  The church paid all of the travel, the medical exams, the VISA fees, and all of the room and board while they will be in Samoa at school.  The students and the families were thrilled.

       This is the group that finally were all approved and got everything done to go to Samoa.  We held a family fireside with the entire group.  We wished them well.  We gave the parents and last minute items of business.  Then Pres. Basil, the District President, spoke to them about the huge responsibility they have,  These kids are the pilot group.  If they behave themselves and study hard, other students will follow in subsequent years.  This was a very rewarding event.  Some of the branches had separate farewells for the kids.  In Branch 1 the held a special "Family House Night" at the church.  Clyde and I were the speakers.  The kids formed a reception line and everyone wished them well. Afterwards the mothers had prepared a dinner for everyone.  Yes, we ate.  We are getting better at this.  We stick with small portions.

        The airport was another big farewell.  The families and many other branch leaders all went to the airport.  The rule is to be there two hours early.  There was a great deal of time to visit and hug.  When it was finally time to board the plane, everyone formed a long, long reception line.  Everyone of the kids was congratulated and hugged by everyone there.  Some of the regular passengers were confused and thought that they needed to go through the line as well.