What's Happening With The Ventriloquists? Students from the University of the South Pacific (USP) and youth from Lautoka and Suva who have trained to be ventriloquist puppeteers are now learning the Five Strategies of The Virtues Project™. They appreciate the uniqueness and effectiveness of using puppets in their educational and artistic presentations. They love The Virtues Project™ and look forward to working with it during their coming University break period in 2017.
The community youth who were trained have been working with their puppets. One of them found that this skill can be used to de-stress his own life as he faces life’s challenges. The puppets work as an alter ego to find the virtues he needs to deal with his problems.
And in The Communities? The citizens of Koriopita Township near Lautoka City, in Ra Province are reaping the benefits of learning the Five Strategies of the Virtues Project™. These new skills are helping them to deal with issues that arise. The culture of the communities has changed from one of bullying to one of peace and harmony through the language of the virtues such as cooperation, compassion, and kindness. The CHILL skills (anti-bullying tools) the children have learned through the puppets enables them to have the courage to stand up and respectfully speak their mind and express their feelings. The climate of the communities is becoming one of greater joy, justice and unity.
In Val Hilliker's puppet shows the kids were engaged with magic, fascination with the puppets, and drama. There was one common problem, however. The shows given by Val were in English and the children did not fully understand what was being said. To help the children better understand, a young woman in Nadi took it upon herself to teach the children English. The children are now doing very well in English at school and the tutoring has improved other subjects as well.
The children at Nanukuloa Village and Koriopita treasure their puppets and use them to talk to one another and to the community about abuse and bullying. They are helping the children to deal with the trauma, and challenges of living in tents with food and water shortages following the devastation from the cyclone.The strength of this puppet project is that everyone, particularly the children, find healing talking through their puppets. Intergenerational engagement occurs. No one can resist a puppet. What was a weakness - the initial puppet presentations were in English which the children did not understand well - became a strength. Children are now learning English, which benefits them all around and Fijians are now trained as puppeteers using The Virtues Project ™.
Puppet presentations in the Fijian language are being prepared. Those who were trained with Val Hilliker will take the puppets to the communities to present the material in the local language. The presentations will not only be in the language the children will understand but the scripts will be addressing the issues in a culturally sensitive manner that explains how to deal with bullying and abuse, and help them heal from the trauma of the recent cyclone.
Virtues Project Fiji is affecting change in the endemic cultural attitudes of bullying, abuse and intimidation. Since 2002 Virtues Project Fiji has provided virtues training for teachers, parents community leaders, and even inmates in every prison in Fiji. For three years they promoted ‘Virtues in the Media’ with radio, newspapers and Television presenting the virtues defined by The Virtues Project™. The media exposure caught the attention of the Commissioner for Prisons who endorsed training for the prisoners and staff for ten years.
We failed to achieve a sustainable application of the project in areas where it was introduced because we were unable to provide the ongoing support and materials necessary to sustain the work. We underestimated the financial resources that a sustained project would require and long-term consequences to funding resources that would occur with the weather disasters we have faced. And probably our biggest failure was the failure to train the community and organizational leaders to use the 5 strategies in their own day to day activities. The strategies have to be modeled, not just talked about by the leaders.
It became clear from the experience of Virtues Project Fiji that to change the culture of bullying and abuse nationally, the change starts in the family. The villages where clusters of families live under the management of their elected councils and chiefs have already indicated that The Virtues Project™ provides the management tools to have a cooperative and peaceful community where it has been trialled. The government plans to provide training in the villages on a number of issues including, Parenting with The Virtues Project™. In the communities where the training was trialled, it was found that without fail, the community members wanted The Virtues Project™ Parent Training before anything else. Virtues Project Fiji is now seeking funds to ensure that this demand is met, and have enlisted the support of Vision Fiji to launch a virtues media campaign in 2017.