Thursday, July 25, 2013

Truly a sight to behold

Tomorrow is our last day at the school. We were able to work with the children for about an hour today then the K-3 watched a movie and the 4-6 planted plants and did other landscaping projects around the school. It was a truly a sight to behold - the children working so hard and one even wielding a machete. It’s great to see them take pride and have a sense of ownership about their school. We left a little early to go to a career expo at one of the high schools. It was a long walk on the back road, but the expo was interesting. Barb spoke to a nurse there who said that in 2008 the nursing program stopped, but that this year it is being restarted. Also, she said that to volunteer here as a nurse one only needs proof of current license in their home country. After our long walk, we took a taxi home. We were very grateful for that. In the evening we partook of an island progressive dinner. We were picked up by a bus and proceeded to the other hotels to get the rest of our group – twelve in all. We started out with sparkling wine and appetizers at Danny’s home. He showed us their lovely garden and told us about the fruits and vegetables growing there and about the history of the land and the family. We were entertained by him and two other musicians and two of his grandsons, one three and the other five years old. We then proceeded to our main course, which was spectacular, then to dessert – again, wonderful. All the while entertained with music and singing. It was a wonderful time and such a treat to see the homes of our hosts.

Word of the day: Soursop

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The sun returned to Rarotonga!

The sun returned to Rarotonga! Things are beginning to wind down as our last few days at Takitutumu come to an end. We are both continuing to support the children with their reading and writing skills. We were lucky enough to enjoy the children playing rippa (rugby) and took several pictures and videos. Several of the children are extremely fast runners and it was impressive to see this in action. Steph enjoyed singing with both the preschool children and grade one class today. During one of the songs the children can get up and dance which included both “jumping up and down” and a few who showed off their traditional Maori danced skills. We were lucky to be taken to see a local pearl jeweller and purchase pendants which are made with mabe pearls. Beautiful and unique. We had a yummy dinner at the Rickshaw for a Japanese-inspired meal complete with sticky toffee pudding. A late night for us – 8:37 p.m.! Party animals!

Message of the Day: “If you think you can you can, if you think you can’t you are absolutely right.”

Words of the day: Mabe and pineapple lumps = chocolate-covered pineapple

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Starting the spelling programs

It was a very rainy day today, but luckily we got rides to and from school. Steph continued to read to the children and Barb started the spelling programs on the Nessy program. Engia brought in jackfruit for us to try – sweet and delicious. The kids had fun taking pictures with Barb’s iPhone camera. Tomorrow’s sports competition have been cancelled due to the rainy weather – too bad since we were looking forward to that. Tonight was our last of Napa’s yummy catered dinners. We will really miss the passion fruit! We whiled away the rainy afternoon playing cards in Barb’s room. The forecast says one more day and the sun will return.

Message of the Day: “People may forget what you said, people may forget what you did, but people will always remember how you made them feel.”

Monday, July 22, 2013

Another day in Rarotonga

Another rainy day in Rarotonga. Today at school we had only a half day as the teachers were meeting with the parents and reviewing the children’s portfolios. Barb was able to continue her work on the computer as the keys were returned. She also demonstrated to the children how to make origami boxes which was a huge hit. Steph assisted Engia with formatting the children’s reports and began work on a booklet to support the preschool children’s visit to Captain Tama’s. The grade 4 children also were able to take some pictures using Steph’s camera. After school we went to the printer in Avarua to print a final draft of the 50th invitation. It was wonderful having one of the employees support us with formatting – this would never happen back home. We had a delicious lunch at CafĂ© Salsa and headed back to the KiiKii. A quiet few hours before our dinner. Time is beginning to go by too quickly.

Message of the Day: “Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.”

Words of the day: tiare = flower  puka = book

Friday, July 19, 2013

Lagoon Day at Takitumu school

Today was lagoon day for the fifth and sixth graders at Takitumu school. We accompanied them on the bus to the market in Avarua where it was held. It was very well organized and covered all things relating to keeping the lagoon healthy - everything from proper disposal of light bulbs to worm farming to identifying fish to creating laws to protect the lagoons of the Cook Islands. It was all very informative – I know we volunteers learned a lot. All the school children of Rarotonga had created sea creatures out of rubbish and they were all on display there. It was an amazingly beautiful display. We then had a free afternoon to explore on our own as the children returned to school. We went to a local beach and spent some sun, sand, and sea time. Our evening was a trip to a restaurant in Avarua. Early to bed for our trip tomorrow to Aitutaki.

Word of the day: vegemite sandwich = knuckle sandwich

Thursday, July 18, 2013

More reading time

Today at Takitumu school things began a bit slowly. The keys to the library were misplaced so Barb was not able to continue with the computer program. This allowed more reading time with the children. Steph was able to visit with the preschool centre and was invited to attend a local ECE conference. The attendees graciously allowed her to participate and even translated the workshops for her. Dinner was at High Tide followed by a practice performance at the National Auditorium in the Manuke hostel. As always the dancing and singing was a highlight of the day. We are off to lagoon day on Friday!!

Message of the Day: To understand the culture, study the dance. To understand the dance study the people.”

Words of the day: tamariki – children

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Making paper airplanes

Wednesday at Takitumu school! Steph continued reading with the children in pairs while Barb worked with them on the Nessy computer program. We are nearly ready to move on to spelling in that program. At afternoon playtime the children were very excited to be making paper airplanes and trying to fly them in the wind. Many of them landed on the roof. One can feel the excitement in the air since the school term is about to end. One of the teachers brought in cooked banana for us to try – it was very sweet. Engia baked bread so we got to try that, too. After school we walked back to the KiiKii on the back road. It was a lovely walk past many fields of mango, pawpaw, bell peppers, and other crops. It was very quiet with a beautiful backdrop of palm trees and Rarotonga’s majestic mountains! We even saw and old ceremonial airai-tonga site where the investiture of an airiki chief took place.

Words of the day: biscuit – cookie    rori - sea cucumber

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Your basket and my basket will feed the nation

A rainy day in Rarotonga! We shared our work on the 50th anniversary invitation. Engia was pleased and requested a few changes to ensure the photos included all students and teachers. Positive feedback was also received from the teachers. Steph began the day singing with the grade one class – always a highlight for her. The children are progressing well with the Nessy computer program and Barb noted even the children whose letter-sound recognition is not as strong as others’ are doing well. We managed to miss the bus once again and took the anti-clockwise bus down to the homework center. We supported two young children who are new to the center and have not spoken yet there. We were lucky to receive a ride home from Jane, who shared a bit of the history of Global Volunteers.

Message of the Day: “Your basket and my basket will feed the nation.”

Words of the day: Oroenua – horse

Monday, July 15, 2013

Today's reader, tomorrow's leader

Monday! Today Barb started working with the students on the reading and spelling computer program Nessy. It’s definitely a hit with the children! They are progressing well and will continue to work on this for the remainder of the next two weeks. Steph continued to read to the children in groups of two and read to the fourth- and fifth-grade class. We talked politics and history with the 6th grade teacher, Puti, and were given a lesson in Cook Island political structure and history. Some of the children mentioned that they saw us pedalling around the island on our green bicycles on the weekend.

Message of the Day: “Today’s reader, tomorrow’s leader.”

Friday, July 12, 2013

A spectacular school assembly

Our first week at Takitumu came to an end; the time is flying by too quickly. The school held their assembly in the morning which was a spectacular sight for us to experience. The children sang many traditional songs including our first experience with hearing the Cook Islands national anthem. Their voices and spirit were both inspiring and emotional for us to hear. We continued our reading time with the children and tried our first ice block. Barb will begin to support the children on the Nessy computer program next week and will complete the 50th anniversary invitation for the school. The day ended early as the children would be practicing sports in preparation for the end of term island competition between schools. We took advantage of our free time on the beach by the KiiKii. We enjoyed a fish dinner at a local restaurant where the local beach cat bullied his way into a few bites of fish.

Message of the Day: “The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”

Words of the day: chip butty = French fry sandwich

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A successful day at Takitumu!

A successful day at Takitumu! We are both feeling like we are getting in the groove of the school and the children. Steph had an opportunity to observe the grade one classroom, sing songs with the children, and spend time individually with them. We continue to work with the children in pairs on their reading and to read aloud to them as a class. We joined them in their afternoon break running races across the field, frolicking to and fro in the wop wops! After school we toured the circumference of the island via the bus, pinpointing future excursion destinations. After rest time we were treated by GV to a lovely beachside dinner at a local restaurant where we were so lucky to observe a whale breaching.

Message of the Day: “Don’t judge success by the harvest that you reap but by the seeds that you sow.”

Words of the day: wop wop = boondocks  ice block = popsicle

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Helping children with their reading

Our day at Takitumu began with meeting more children and supporting them with their reading. Barb shared information with Engia about the skin condition the children are experiencing. After lunch we were able to go and read books to two different classes and will continue this over the next few weeks. We identified several children who might benefit from some additional individual reading time and we will begin this over the next few days. Steph will also be observing in one class a few children that the teacher is concerned may have some language comprehension concerns. A few of the children invited us to watch their rugby match at the end of the day and waved goodbye as we left.

Message of the Day: “The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.”

"Hope in the Concept of Peace" - An Interview with Cook Island Country Manager James Puati

James Puati, Country Manager
What is your perspective on the Global Volunteers organization in your community?

Global Volunteers has become an institution in our community. Over the 15 years of service, there have been in excess of 135 teams of volunteers who have assisted with the development of our nation in the areas of Education, Health, Environmental and Social services as well as in many other incidental areas as the need has arisen. It has been, and will continue to be, a sustainable program which the community can rely on.   

How do volunteers make a significant impact on community projects?

One of the main investments a country can do is in the area of education. Our program has contributed significantly to the education of young people in the Cook islands by supporting literacy development as well as other areas in education as volunteers specific skills are utilized in response to the community or schools need. When a team is coming, it becomes a catalyst for projects to carry on, start, or move in another direction. The volunteers coming and providing service somehow produces energy and renews excitement in on-going projects.

Volunteer Abby Rosenthal works with students from Takitumu School.

How is it different from other volunteering opportunities?
Global Volunteers has a history of integrity that's well-known throughout the community!

What do you like volunteers to know about your community?

The Cook Islands is a developing nation, it is not a third-world country. While progress is being made, there is still a lot of room for improvement. For instance, while Maori is the native language of the Cook Islands, English is predominantly spoken - and this creates some unique difficulties as often neither Maori or English are spoken well. Linguists will tell you that to learn a second language well you must first know speak your mother tongue fluently.

Also, our community is heavily dependent on aide from a number of countries. Tourism is the main income earner for the Cook Islands ,and students are encouraged in High School to develop entrepreneurial skills / business development opportunities for their future.

What's unique about the Cook Islands Service Program?

Providing service on a small South Pacific Island offers opportunities to really connect with local people. As the program has been operating for 15 years people know the Global Volunteers well, and often speak to you on the bus, when out for dinner, or during leisure time. Volunteers have mentioned how special they are made to feel when out in the community and being recognized and greeted by a child they have been working with and their family. This happens often in a small community of only around 9,000 people. 

Rarotonga is a very safe place, and we have had many single people feel totally comfortable while in the Cook Islands - you are part of a team, but you are able to do things on your own and feel safe about that.

Free time opportunities are abundant outside of the service program as tourism is our major industry. Some pleasures volunteers have participated in are diving, snorkeling, travelling to the outer islands on the weekend, learning traditional dance, and learning our history.   

What do volunteers most often say they learn about volunteering with local people?

Humility and gratitude for all they have in their lives are characteristic of Cook Islanders. Volunteers say they learn how to laugh and to not make life so difficult.   They admire our belief that you do not need to have a lot of money to be happy.


How does this service opportunity expand volunteers’ perspective of the world?

Gaining perspective on another way of life offers the understanding that we are more alike than different. Families all over the world want the same things for their children, sometimes we just go about things differently. Gaining an insight into the Pacific culture and how Cook Islanders value people first is perhaps a good reminder for some people and a reinforcement of those values for others.

What are your reflections on Global Volunteers’ 30th year of service?

At times Debi and I are flabbergasted at the generosity of volunteers. To comprehend that 135 teams have given of their time, energy, wisdom and finances to our wee slice of heaven is sometimes almost incomprehensible. Then to magnify that by the numbers of teams that have supported other communities in other countries almost defies imagination. Global Volunteers  offers hope in the concept of peace. It offers hope in the concept of cooperation. It offers hope in the concept of togetherness.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A warm welcome at Takitumu school

Well, today was our first day of school and, of course, we forgot our lunches with no mom to bring them! Upon arrival at Takitumu school, we were warmly greeted by Engia, the principal. Our day was spent reading with the children of the 4th and 5th grade class in groups of two. It was impressive how hard they worked at their reading and how much they supported each other’s efforts. After the school day was over we went to the homework centre at St. Paul’s to tutor after-school studies. We each worked one on one with the children on reading and math skills.

Message of the Day: “Strive not to be a success rather to be of value.”

Monday, July 8, 2013

Arriving in the Cook Islands

We were greeted at airport with beautiful flower eis. We spent the day getting oriented to the island, our project, our hotel, and each other. Barbara sorted out her communications and we did some housekeeping. We enjoyed a nice visit to the town and walked back to the hotel. Time was spent relaxing and enjoying the beach for the first time. Barb can scramble over coral rocks easily in her flip flops. No mossie bites to date (that we know of). Enjoyed our first catered dinner together and developed our Vaca goals. James is an amazing leader and a gracious host to us. We are looking forward to our first day at school.

Message of the Day: “Although the black pearl is small, it is a special gem.”

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Practicing patience with joy

When we signed up in for this project, I wondered if three weeks was too long. As Sylvia knows, patience is not one of my virtues and I have never tolerated boredom well. I can truthfully say, with these precious children, I have practiced patience with joy, and I have not experienced one moment of boredom. I would love to stay three more weeks and three more.

This island is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I will never forget the wondrous beauty in these innocent, smiling children. A special meaningful bonus was to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary exactly where we wanted to be.

I am not sure I have left a mark on the world, but I am sure Takitumu Primary School has left a mark on me. So here we are, five of us left, ending our tour of duty, soon to be back on the Air New Zealand flight bound for L.A. then on to Boston, then on to Morehead State and, yes, on to our little island home, perhaps to return some day. You never know!

Entry submitted by: Papa Bob

Message of the Day: “Service is the greatest gift of all.”

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Life moves pretty fast

I missed a couple days of school due to an awful illness. Besides all of that negativity, I am still more than glad I am here with the people I am here with. This has been an experience to say the least and I am so sad I have to leave, though in some ways I can’t wait to get home to my old Kentucky home. This trip has been full of firsts: first plane ride, first time west of Kentucky, first time on the Pacific Ocean, first time hitchhiking, first time drinking Noni jucie (I don’t recommend the taste).

I can only hope as I go into my last day at Titikaveka that I have in some way improved the life of at least one student while I’ve been here because I sure know they have improved mine!
Entry submitted by: Kendra

Message of the Day: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”