For me, it was encouraging to see these folks coming together with the common goal of supporting their deaf children; and also to see their excitement in taking part in planning this event.
The group decided to put on a lovo. Lovo is the typical Fijian meal for any celebratory event. Food is wrapped in palm leaves and slow cooked underground on hot rocks. One parent volunteered to supply fish for the lovo, another offered chickens, and another the vegetables. It was decided that students would provide the entertainment by performing dances known as ‘mekes’ here in Fiji.
There was a wonderful spirit of cooperation and fun in the room, as plans unfolded. Parents also expressed a desire to learn sign language, so Mela, one of our hostel staff workers, taught the group some family signs. The group agreed that they would like to have a formal parent organization, to support both school and hostels.
After the meeting, parents enjoyed some delicious refreshments, including home made cakes and pies made by Mere, leader of our main hostel, who loves to bake. You might recall a former blog I wrote on Mere. She is the aunty of Apenisa, one of our junior boys. Mere brought him to live in the hostel several years ago, and planned to stay with him for a few days until he was settled in. But she enjoyed helping out so much in the hostel, that she never left, and we hired her! She has learned sign language now, and is in charge of the main hostel, doing a fantastic job!
The children, of course, were thrilled by an unexpected visit from family. However, as the meeting came to a close, and parents once again had to say good bye to their children, the tears began to flow. How difficult it is for these parents to give up their young children for the school year, in order for them to receive an education. The sacrifice is tremendous! But Mere, in her timely wisdom, brought out the remaining treats from the meeting, and one by one, those famous Fijian smiles began to reappear on the faces of the children!
Kendra is a volunteer from Rhode Island. She is active in working with youth in her church, and she loves kids. She heard about the deaf ministry from a former volunteer, Lindsey Drew, and wanted to come. She even learned a bit of sign language before making the trip. Jim and I met up with her in the LA airport, and traveled the rest of the way together.
Kendra will be working in the main hostel for the rest of the term, helping out with meals and homework, and playing with the children after school. She’s spent her first few days adjusting to time changes, cold showers, foods with a few unfamiliar spices, geckos on the ceilings, and mosquitoes that love the taste of foreign blood! But, in her own words, “Being with the kids makes it worth it all!” And the kids seem to be enjoying her as well!