Some folks are probably wondering why I have decided to stick around Vanuatu for another year, so I will just show you my extension letter. More information about where I am moving to and what I will be doing on my “home leave” to come. ❤
From: Jennifer Blount, PCV
Date: 01 August 2012
Subject: Peace Corps Service Extension
Working in Naviso village on the East side of Maewo Island for the past two years has proven to be both challenging and rewarding. Despite the extremely remote location, lack of communication, or house upon my arrival, I was able to develop a strong relationship with the community and achieve numerous goals while using limited resources. Some of those goals were leading various workshops with the head teacher and teachers including classroom management, phonics, word walls, language games, Learner Centered Instruction, creating miniature books, reading, and giving assessments. I worked extensively with the Class One teacher – co-teaching English and phonics throughout my second year. Because of my art training background, the teachers also asked me to give art lessons in their classrooms, which proved to be a successful way to show the teachers proper techniques in the classroom. The most rewarding feeling is seeing your students create successful work and, what’s more, to see them enjoy doing it. I am pleased to have been able to show my teachers that with effective class management and a well thought out and engaging lesson, this can be done. I would love to be able to give these workshops to more teachers and share my unique skill set with teachers and students in another village setting, just one of the reasons I would like to extend my contract for a year.
Having a health volunteer share my site also proved beneficial, as we cooperated on many projects and found it quite easy to work together towards the good of the community. Some of the projects I worked on alongside Nik Karr included a tooth-brushing and diarrhea talk at the school, leading a community health workshop, PHAST workshop, and several HIV workshops throughout Maewo. I would like to do much of these same talks and workshops in a new school and new villages. I know my experience can prove useful in helping train new volunteers or helping facilitate future health workshops alongside others in a school or village setting.
Although I love Naviso village and know there is work to be done there for a volunteer next year, it is my passion for the work I did towards improving and creating workshop resources that fuels my desire for an extension in a new community. An ideal location would be in or close to Port Vila where I would be able to collaborate with a larger number of volunteers and have access to more resources to effectively achieve my projects. Some of the illustrations I have created with Nik Karr and other health volunteers included 20 instructional male and female condom drawings, modifying old PHAST drawings and creating 25 new illustrations for PHAST, and over 50 drawings to be used in HIV workshops. I am very proud of this work as it will be used by various volunteers throughout Vanuatu. After having helped facilitate various workshops I feel strongly that workshops utilizing illustrations are far more effective at conveying a message clearly to a wider audience. I hope to be a part of developing more workshop materials over the next year. I also see the need in working to add to and improve upon the 20 drawings I created for the Gender and Development VITEL Guide to PACA. In a new village, I will be able to try out these tools and know firsthand what could be changed or improved upon, while helping others to utilize these tools in the future.
Aside from working with a new school, developing workshop resources, and collaborating with more volunteers, I would like the opportunity to do secondary work in or close to Port Vila. I have a surplus of ideas, such as leading another Kamp G.L.O.W./B.I.L.D., working to educate youth in a new village in areas of health and leadership, community health murals, or additional world maps. I’d like to be close to the resource room which will give me the ability to access, organize, and improve some existing educational (VITEL) and workshop resources. I am interested in working with a more developed community and learning more about the needs of Ni-Vanuatu students and communities closer to Port Vila. I think I have a unique perspective coming from a remote village where custom is still strong and little is known about life outside of Maewo.
I feel lucky to have been placed in Naviso and know that by spending an additional year in another site my experience in Vanuatu will be further enriched. I’ll be able to do additional work towards literacy, health, and training. While using art, I also hope to make Vanuatu a slightly brighter and more beautiful place in the process.
Peace Corps Volunteer | Naviso Village, East Maewo, Vanuatu