A little over a year ago, Susan Carter arrived in Fiji on our first ever intake of volunteers. As an experienced teacher working at the Singapore American School, Susan was moved by the challenges faced by the island schools and the lack of resources. Susan thoroughly enjoyed her time volunteering at Ratu Meli School and formed a close connection with the local students while gaining first hand experience as to the everyday challenges that the children face in the islands. After returning to Singapore, Susan gave presentations on her experience and linked in these experiences to 6th grade student's study of water issues and disease. Susan and GVI Fiji project leaders exchanged information and photos as the water unit studies continued. Susan explained the challenges effected RMMS school, water shortages, lack of clean drinking water, no working toilets, cracked water tanks, and the resulting impact on daily life. The students of the Singapore American school, motivated by the their teacher's experiences, set out to raise funds to help improve the water facilities at Ratu Meli School. The response and success of the student's individual fundraising initiatives was amazing.
The GVI Charitable Trust received $7681 Fijian Dollars from the Singapore American School water fundraising project. To date, using roughly half the funds made available by SAS, the GVI construction team have installed 8 working toilets and 2 showers in a toilet block that has been unusable for almost two years. The children now have a place to wash and shower and access to flushing toilets. The solar powered water pump has been repaired and a steady flow of water now supplies the water holding tank, also purchased by SAS funds that feeds the plumbing. With the remaining funds GVI will carry out more improvements to the toilet block and to the rainwater harvesting systems at the school.
Thank you SAS!
On Saturday morning a mini bus of 6 GVI volunteers left Nadi headed for the Silana Village, in Eastern Viti Levu, to begin working with a new community and primary school. When we arrived in Silana on Saturday evening we were welcomed by a chorus of villagers and their guitars. With the help of some Fijian muscle we moved into our new home which is a beautiful, traditional Fijian bure constructed by the village youth for our arrival.
We then made our way down to the village hall for a traditional Sevu Sevu ceremony where we presented a waka of Kava to the head men. We were officially accepted into Silana village by the elders and would now be treated as members of their community. We all celebrated together with a Fijian feast, followed by a few bowls of kava and a dance lesson. Then on Sunday we were introduced to the whole community during the morning church service.
On Monday morning we were very excited to meet the teachers and pupils of Silana District School for the first time. SDS is a locally run school attended by pupils from Silana and the surrounding villages. At the school there are 7 teachers for 6 classes and a kindergarten. The whole school community was very welcoming and appreciative of our support in the classrooms. They were particularly delighted with the few books we managed to bring with us as there is no library at the school and hardly any books for the pupils to read.
The volunteers have spent the week assisting in class and, with the guidance of their teachers, leading lessons themselves. Our books have already seen a lot of use during story time in class 1-3 and also when listening to the older pupils read individually. The classrooms are looking noticeably more colorful as volunteers have been testing out the creative skills of their pupils during arts and crafts lessons. On Thursday the Class 5 and 6 teacher had to attend a meeting in a nearby town and one of our volunteers, Georgie, was able to step in and teach the 35 pupils that would have otherwise been left unattended.
On Friday we were invited as guests of honor to judge a talent contest at the local secondary school. This involved an elaborate display of drama, music and dancing performed by pupils aged 14-18. It was tremendously entertaining, all the pupils were extremely talented and it was refreshing to see them participating in creative arts subjects at school. The raucous laughter from the mothers for the duration of the show also added to the entertainment.
We have all had an excellent first week living with the villagers of Silana and they have made us feel extremely welcome. During the days we have been getting to know the pupils and teachers of SDS and our evenings have been spent cooking with the women, eating delicious food, dancing to Fijian music, learning the local language and having a go at traditional mat weaving. We were lucky enough to end our week by visiting the local pod of dolphins then returning to Silana where the villagers had prepared us a lovo (underground bbq) filled with chicken and fresh fish.
In the last few months we have converted a room previously used for storing broken chairs and desks into a work and storage space for GVI volunteers at RMMS.
With the help of the construction team we began by emptying the storeroom, which as you can see in the photograph above was no mean feat. We were able to salvage and repair a number of desks and chairs that are now back in the classrooms. After a coat of paint and a thorough clean the room was unrecognizable. The construction leader Ben and his team of volunteers then tiled the floor and constructed shelves and a desk.
This new space is now used for storing all the school resources we have accumulated over the last year, including art and crafts materials, books, sports equipment, musical instruments and stationary.
Not only does this room offer a secure storage space but it has also enabled us to make the resources more accessible for the volunteers to use with their pupils on a daily basis. Previously all resources were stored back on our base but now volunteers no longer need to transport materials backwards and forwards by boat each day. Volunteers and staff will also be using the room as a workspace for lesson planning, writing student reports, providing one-on-one tuition and teaching computer studies.
It’s fair to say that the education team is delighted with their new room and it is already making a huge difference to our daily operations at RMMS
At the end of the 2011 academic year we began evaluating the individual needs of the pupils at Ratu Meli Memorial School in preparation for implementing a one-on-one tuition programme. The aim was to improve the literacy levels and confidence of those pupils who needed additional support.
RMMS is a government run school on the island of Nacula in the Yasawa island chain with 116 pupils between the ages of 5-14 years old. The school has poor literacy pass rates and previously insufficient resources to offer individual support. As of March 2012 the one-on-one programme introduced by GVI is now successfully integrated into the daily routine at RMMS. In addition to classroom assistance, volunteers are now providing 20-30 minute tuition sessions which are tailor-made to meet the individual needs of the pupils.
The programme currently offers daily support to 22 pupils at RMMS, which is almost one fifth of the school. Additionally, the Fijian teachers are following our example and have initiated one-on-one sessions of their own. For the Infant classes (age 5-9) sessions have focused on improving phonics, as well as enhancing reading confidence and English vocabulary. In 2011 only 55% of the junior classes (age 10-14) passed English comprehension therefore, with a little help from Roald Dahl, we have been targeting this area in their one-on-one sessions.
We are able to closely evaluate the progress of individuals and in the last month we have seen two pupils moved off the programme as their English aptitude has improved to the point that they no longer require additional support. One of these pupils, Sela, joined Grade 1 in January 2012, however due to long absences during Kindergarten he was less prepared than his peers. He was unable to complete basic pen control tasks and could not trace any letters of the alphabet. After 6 weeks of daily sessions focusing on these core skills Sela is now able to transcribe the entire alphabet in upper and lower case. The one-on-one sessions have enabled Sela to catch up with the rest of his class early on in the academic year and he will no longer have a disadvantage moving forward.
The second pupil of note is Susanna, she is a Grade 5 pupil who initially lacked confidence in English reading and as a result she was extremely shy in class. During one-on-one sessions the volunteer working with Susanna began with intensive reading practice and then moved onto creative writing. As a result of the one-on-one sessions Susanna is now confident reading aloud to volunteers and in front of the class which means she has become more interactive during lessons.
The improvement observed across the programme as a whole, has demonstrated that the one-on-one programme has been a valuable addition to Ratu Meli School’s education program. Overall the feedback from teachers and volunteers suggests that all pupils on the programme have unquestionably benefited from one-on-one tuition. Moving forward we hope to build on this early success, continuing to expand and develop the programme with the support of the teachers and volunteers at RMMS.
We would like to share the most recent trustee report from the GVI Charitable Trust. This report covers the six month period from July to December 2011.
We are delighted to share that this has been by far our most successful period, raising in six months nearly as much as we did the whole of the previous year. This increase in funding has brought a corresponding increase in the impact we have been able to create on our programs around the world.
During this period we have invested in sustainable education across Latin America including support for the elderly in Guatemala and income generation schemes to support education in Honduras and Ecuador. In Mexico we have worked with a community to establish a recycling centre and in Kenya our partners in Mombasa will now realise their goal of seeing impoverished students through to completion of the primary education earning recognised qualifications for the first time.
These are just a few highlights of an amazing, productive and rewarding six months. Thank you to everyone who has supported us and played a crucial role in these achievements.
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