Empowering the Youth -Finding Your Tribe

Nestled between two large, what looks like lime volcanic rocks, sits a tiny, but neat little church. A huge sign that stretches across the front  entrance, 'The Father's House Campus Centre' was a welcome gesture to invited guests like us. There was another sign that read, 'Advancing the Kingdom with Hope and Purpose.' At first glance at the signs and the building, one can't help but wonder if this is the neighborhood hangout spot for teenagers. The entrance to the building was open, allowing the sound of kids's laughter  from inside and the  sweet meldoies echoing right out towards us as we slowly make our way in to find a room full of very attentive young girls and boys all seated on the tile floor. No heads turned, but only wide eyed and ears completely locked to the voice of a tall, dark bearded man that looks slightly younger for his age. His voice echoed across the small auditorium space within the four corners of the church building. Behind him was the main stage and seated beside us were three adults which presumably were camp assistants. All three men nodded and smiled at us as to say hello and welcome. They intuitively knew what to do as soon as they saw us because all three men got up and offered us each a chair by which we politely declined the offer. We would rather do criss cross applesauce sitting style just like the kids on the cool tile floor. 

The tall, dark bearded man was Pastor Obed Sandie. He heads the congregation at the Father's House Campus Centre and was in the middle of his talk about Hope - a topic he later explained is essential for the youth to hear who have gathered at the campus from 4 different Islands in Vanuatu for a week long Youth Camp. The majority of these youth were of secondary school age kids who have just travelled a long way to the capital of Vanuatu, Port Vila, for days on end on passenger ships coming from 4 different locations throughout Vanuatu.

The focus of the Youth Camp is to elevate, encourage, and empower with an emphasis on finding your tribe. The first session ended with a total of 57 young girls and boys, ages 6-17 years-old being able to identify their tribes and getting accustomed with each other, although for some, it took a while to warm up to each other. 

We were immidately drawn to how attentive and well behaved they were and hanging on to every encouraging word they could get. As the guest speaker, Dr. Mere T. Sovick, founder and director of Melanesian Women Today, was asked to speak about her life story and how she earned a doctorate degree. Dr. Sovick narrated her life story, an infant growing up in the small village of Lavatu on the northern island of Pentecost to the capital city of Vanuatu, Port Vila, to a boarding school in New Zealand, on a Maori Marae, her work as a journalist, Peace Corps Vanuatu language trainer and U.S. student, have lead her to become the first Ni-Vanuatu woman and citizen to hold a doctorate degree from an American University and first of a handful of Ni-Vanuatu women with doctorate degrees.

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Leaning in - the power of a story.

 "Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own." Michelle Obama

Research and Business Education ~ 2019

Melanesian Women Today's core mission is to help improve the well-being and the quality of life of women, girls, and families in Melanesia. To accomplished this mission, every year, the organization carries out a project and networks with other organizations on the ground to help support causes that matches our vision -  'A Pacific region where every Woman, Girl and Child in their respective communities, leads a productive healthy, and fulfilling life.'

For the new year 2019 projects, we have decided to focus our attention on research and entrepreneurship. These projects will be in two fold. A business research study that was conducted by Dr. Mere Sovick in 2017 will be replicated during the month of January on 'Strategies Female Business Owners Use to be Successful in Business' in the urban region of Port Vila, Vanuatu. The second phase of this research study will include the creation of small business course materials in the form of an audio podcast and a text book for use as a self-study workbook 

We realize that the issue of economic empowerment for women in Vanuatu is still a barrier despite an increase  in entrepreurial  participation for small to medium businesses in the urban centres as compared to rural areas according to the Reserve Bank of Vanuatu MSMEs Fiance 2016. Additionally, the study revealed that basic literacy, numeracy, and financial skills are just some of the hindrances that are stopping women from entering the labour market.

A high number of women are engaged in informal than formal Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)

A high number of women are engaged in informal than formal Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)

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High urban female in ownership in business activities such as open market vendors for the tourism industry present in urban settings. 

Growing By Leaps and Bounds!

Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn and renewed hope. As I watched the last sunset of 2017 fade into the horizon; I can’t help but reflect back on the yesteryears of the organization and its humble beginnings. The first couple of years of our establishment we focused on empowering grassroots women with leadership roles in their respective communities and countries. As a result, we were privileged to co-host our very first women conference in Port Vila, Vanuatu in 2014 with other like-minded NGOs. 
Consequently, we were able to expand our work in literacy with Vanuatu Mamas’ English Class, one of our partner organizations in Vanuatu. We are pleased to report an ongoing success with several initiatives as partners in English literacy in Vanuatu. Last year, MWT and VMEC raised funds to build a women's community house in Eratap. To expand the educational aspect and how to solve world problems, we invited the 7th and 8th graders of Odyessy Middle School from Bainbridge Island, Washington State in the U.S to help with fundraising as part of their service-learning projects.

Celebrating Women's Literacy (credit VMEC)

Celebrating Women's Literacy (credit VMEC)

The New Year brings yet more work to be accomplished. The teams are working again this year to expand that program by raising funds to build a VIP toilet, washing station, and also to ship 50 solar flashlights to the village as well. Partnering up with Extend the Day was a wise move we feel on our part to supply us with the 50 solar flashlights to be used by the women and villagers of Eratap village. 
One of the organization's goals for the new year is to conduct research on the results of the Mama's English Class. We have partnered with GLEAM from Australia to collect data and publish our findings on the success of the literacy program. Our hope is to keep doing work that is research-based and share that research with the rest of the world. 

Wishing Everyone A Happy New Year - 2018!