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.

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