Friday, September 24, 2010

Academy for Creating Enterprise

There is a very exciting program that has just been launched here in Suva. It is called "ACE" which stands for "Academy for Creating Enterprise".
This is a 12-week course of study to help teach people how to start up and run a business even in places where there seems to be no business opportunities.

I first heard of this program about last June while reading articles online in the Meridian Magazine.
A man named Steve Gibson had introduced this program in the Philippines several years ago and the articles were telling very touching, inspirational stories of how successful it had worked in that country. It is a program for returned missionaries who have come back to their villages and families and are struggling to find jobs or work or anything to support themselves and their families. As I read the stories I kept thinking, I wish there was something like this here in Fiji because our returned missionaries face these same challenges.
(ACE is also being taught in areas of Brazil, Mexico and India)

Meet Frank Stanford!
He is my hero! Though he won't like me calling him that.
He and his wife, Susan, were here in Fiji when we arrived 13 months ago. They had come to Fiji not as missionaries like us but as "full-time Church volunteers". He had just sold his business and they decided to take 8 months off and go somewhere and just volunteer their time and their talents. They choose to come to Fiji and serve in the Temple. While they were here they unexpectedly fell in love with Fiji and more specifically, they fell in love with the young men.
When their time was up last November, they left Fiji and returned home where Frank says that the minute he touched the ground on the other side of the world, he wanted nothing more but to COME BACK TO FIJI!

Long story short: after much praying and searching they discovered that they needed to come back and help the Raising Generation to figure out how to progress in their temporal lives. So many young men are so anxious to do something worthwhile but they just don't have the resources or knowledge of even how to get started.
Frank and Susan are here with a huge amount of FAITH but we all know that faith without works is dead so here is the works part come to life.
After interviewing many, many excited and anxious potential students, this group of 20 (16 men and 4 women) are the first class to get to partake of this hopefully, life-changing experience.

This is week 3. The class is held at the Nausori Ward building each Thursday from 9am to 3 pm. There is no cost for the students except for their time and commitment to take the class seriously. In order to receive a graduation certificate, the students must have a 90% attendance (which means they can only be absent once).
Frank doesn't do all the teaching. Each week he brings in different people to share their experiences in the business world.

This week's guest speaker: Elder Kasteler

Paul thoroughly enjoyed sharing his experiences of why and how he started his own accounting firm and how he got started. It was fun for me to hear him talk about those early days back when he was finishing up his education and trying to figure out what to do next and how to make his dreams come to pass.

I don't think any of these students will be starting an accounting business but the basics of believing in yourself and recognizing opportunities as they pass by and then just hearing that "you can do it" but "keep in mind" are relevant and basic principles. He told how he had no money, a mortgage and a wife expecting their 4th child... but failure just couldn't be an option.

It is really fun to see lights go on in the students faces as something that is said makes an impact on their minds. After he finished his presentation, he had several students ask some thoughtful questions. It was a choice experience to be included in this life-changing project.

This won't be Paul's last time up front in the teaching spot. He has been asked to do two more presentations. One on micro-franchising and one on cash management.
(that seems over MY head!)

We so love these people and want nothing less for them then to succeed
and find JOY in their lives and be able to support their families and grow the Church and Gospel here in Fiji!

Here is another man that is fully involved and committed to this project. His name is Arama Puriri. He is the Finance Manager in the Service Center. He is brilliant when it comes to the business world and taking care of money! He has a strong passion for the success of the youth and young adults and he does an excellent job of getting people to THINK.
The first week of class, he gave a very motivating presentation and I was lucky enough to get to have a small part of it. He had a poem he shared with the class and he asked me if I would read it. It is entitled "The Race" by D. H. Groberg. I don't know if you have ever heard of it but it was new to me. I loved it and thought it was perfect for this class but it applies to all of us and all of the challenges that we face in life. So HERE is the link to it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Senior Missionary seminar

Back a few weeks ago our Mission President and his wife hosted a 3-day Senior Missionary seminar. They brought all the outer island missionaries here to Suva and we got to meet and enjoy each others company and share our unique experiences. We had many activities such as a Temple session, an all-afternoon training from the President and his wife, an evening of sharing photos and experiences about Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. The final day we got to go out on the Navua River for an all-day boat trip to visit an up river village and enjoy the gorgeous scenery that Fiji is known for.
Here we are loading up on our wooden, 25-foot long, 4 feet wide, wooden- planked seated, 30 hp outboard-motorized engine, about 6 or 8 passenger boats that sailed about a foot above the water.

Here is our dear, very competent captain: Maciv

He was really good at bailing out the water and keep us from sinking!

About a mile from our boarding point, we passed the Navua Ward Chapel that sits atop this hillside near the bank of the river. Interesting bit of trivia about this site. Besides being the Church's worshiping location it is also a designated, Government assigned evacuation center for when this river floods. There was a huge flood some months ago and 500 local neighbors spent 2 weeks residing there. The waters that were flooding this area were as tall as half way up that hillside. People had to use boats to even reach the building.

There was a lot of normal, daily life going on along the banks of the river as we traveled upstream.

The terrain along the shores was very lush and beautiful... low in some areas and other areas reminded me of sailing through the canyons at Lake Powell (but a lot more lush in the vegetation category).

There were lots and lots of waterfalls: small, medium and very impressively large.

More of the locals just living life beside the river.

We arrived at the village and climbed up the mountainside. This is a village that earns income by hosting visitors and tourists almost every day except Sundays.

We were greeted by the traditional beating on the wooden truck that has a carved out center. It is very effective in announcing to everyone in the village that the guests have arrived.

Then we were ushered into their village group meeting hall. This was probably one of the nicest meeting halls we have been in anywhere.

They began with the traditional Kava ceremony but they had no idea that our whole group did not drink Kava... no problem, that just left more for the villagers. Notice how beautiful the inside walls, floor and ceiling are. All covered with hand-woven mats and tapa clothes.

After the initial welcoming ceremony, they toured us through a lot of the village. Here we got to visit the preschool kindergarten class. All the older children travel some distance to get to Primary and Secondary (Elementary & High School) schools but the children that are about 3 - 5 stay here and attend this school.
It was just a one-room building. What you see is what all that it was. The children each told us their names and then they sang about 3 songs. One song was a Bula (hello) song and as they sang they walked around to everyone and shook our hands and warmly gave us BULA greetings!
So sweet!

All schools here hang everything from lines scattered long the ceiling. They had lots of stuffed toys hanging along the walls also. Very simple.

Here are list of all the students in this year's class!

Next we were shown how they do their handicrafts. It was fascinating to see how they continue to make these traditional woven mats and painted tapa clothes.

These are the stencils this woman has used for ever... well, at least since they switched from making their stencil sheets out of leaves to sheets of plastic that hold up much better and longer.

Here is one of the finished tapa clothes that depicts traditional symbols of Fiji and includes the name of the village: Koromakawa
From left to right the items are:
bure (Fijan home), kava bowl, the welcome drum, "head basher" from their cannibal days, turtle, another cannibal weapon, woven fan.

Here these women were demonstrating weaving of mats. This is a really arduous project. Notice how EVERYONE sits on the floor! Not all that comfortable. I asked this cute woman how old she was... she is 85! I think she's made a few mats over the years!

Then they did a coconut presentation which included cracking it open and shredding the meat and sharing the milk and squeezing the meat for the lotion. Coconuts are a lifesaver to all the islanders. They use everything from the leaves to the trucks to the fruit; every bit of it is valuable.

Even coconut JEWELERY!

Lunch was included in our visit. They served the traditional lovo which is the meal that is cooked in the ground. It included chicken and vegetables. It was really quite good.

And then as you would expect, they set up LOTS and LOTS of handcraft souveniers. But we enjoyed taking advantage of the accessibility!

This is what I bought... I love it! I reminds me of a quilt! I have it hanging on the wall in our bedroom and I am really enjoying laying in bed and gazing at it!

After we left the village, we stopped at this beautiful, huge waterfall. Our boat captain here told us we could go in the pool right there below and swim around but no one took him up on it!

Here are our dear friends, the Scherns. They are the senior missionaries in Luganville, Vanuatu. They go home the end of September so the next time we get to visit with them will be back in the USA.

For some reason, after the waterfall, they decided to but us all on these bamboo rafts. It was quite the simple version of river transportation. I think they just wanted us to experience how a lot of the local villagers access the river. Glad we didn't have to do the whole outing on these rafts!

This is not part of the SM seminar but I thought I'd show you a few pictures of some of the SM in action. Sister Sewell and Sister Allen are based in Port Vila, Vanuatu. When we were there about 3 weeks ago, I sat in on their English class. They teach this class twice a week and have about 16 students in attendance.

After the class portion of the evening, they spend about a half hour playing games which is a huge it. Here they were playing musical chairs. I don't think they had ever played it before but they caught on really quickly and it was very entertaining to watch.

Here is Sister Lesuma who lives in Taveuni. She has just begun learning how to applique. Some of her stitches were looking more like basting than applique so I asked if she'd like to see how I applique and hide my stitches. After I showed her how, she caught on in no time. Just what I've been looking for... another quilting fan!

These next few pictures show Sister Erickson in action. She has been sewing flannel diapers non stop while she has been here. She is the mission secretary but when she goes home at night, this is how she has spent a lot of her evenings. Not everyone in Fiji can afford disposable diapers so flannel diapers are still a necessity.
This was a Relief Society meeting and she taught about 8 or 9 women and young women how to make them. I was very impressed because all the women knew how to use the sewing machines. They usually can't afford their own machine but at least they do know how to use one.

So there you go... just another small glimpse into our Senior Missionary life! Great! isn't it!!!

(I hope you don't think that this is all we do but pictures of us sitting at our desks doing our normal office work just doesn't seem like much of an interesting blog post subject!)