No. 38 – Assisting with Preschool Classes

Something about being around preschoolers for a while just puts a person in a good mood. Watching their shy little smiles quickly turn into boisterous laughter serves as a reminder of how easy it can be to meet new people and try new things. For our latest service project I helped out with the Mobile Kindy preschool classes by going out to Suva’s surrounding villages with the teachers and setting up the temporary classrooms.

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Without a dedicated kindergarten or preschool facility in these villages, the program uses community meeting rooms or residents’ homes for the classes. The teachers show up faithfully each day, open their bin full of puzzles, toys and books, and then wait for students to arrive. In some communities, parents are dedicated in bringing their youngsters to every class and even stay to watch the afternoon of activities. These struggling families see Fiji’s free education system as the only way to give their children the best possible future, so they take full advantage of the Mobile Kindy program to prepare their kids’ for formal schooling.
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Other communities have been harder to reach. The teachers dutifully show up, but usually have just a few students and sometimes no students at all. Early education and the benefits of the free preschool program haven’t yet been fully embraced by the local community. This was the case in one village we visited. As other young children walked by the small meeting room, Miss Layla led the day’s two participants in songs, stories, and other activities. The program director hopes to organize a community dinner in the future where they can talk with parents about the Mobile Kindy program and help them see the advantages it can give their young children before starting at the public school.

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Organizations like Think Pacific bring full time volunteers to Mobile Kindy and other community programs in Fiji. Students taking a year to volunteer around the world are placed with the program for their time in Suva, and then move on to another program in the Pacific islands. We’ve met a lot of these “gap year” students throughout our travels. In talking with them, it’s clear their service experiences have a tremendous positive impact as they plan their own futures. This gap year concept is something we can definitely see our own daughters doing when they’re older.
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I’ve been so impressed with the Mobile Kindy program and its leaders. They saw a problem, gathered people to help, got assistance from major global organizations and created a program that can be sustained into the future. Their reward will be knowing that some of these kids will be more successful in their education as a result of their efforts.

About the Author

Tracey Carisch

Mom, wife, friend and change agent traveling the world with my family to learn our place in it. After spending a career in organizational change management and community initiative implementation, I put my career on hold for our family's trip around the world. In April of 2014 we sold almost everything we own, put the rest in a storage container, and departed on this journey. While my husband continued his software development work to financially support our trip, I planned and documented our adventure, homeschooled our three daughters, and found volunteer work opportunities for us to do in the communities we visit. Now that we've returned to the U.S., I'm completing book about our family's adventure and our lessons learned.

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4 Comments

    1. Tim, it makes me realize how guarded we adults can sometimes be. Within two minutes of being in the classroom I had two kids sitting in my lap. While not necessarily appropriate behavior for adults, you know what I mean. 😉 So open to the world at that age.

  1. I did a gap year between “high school” and university, working at a school for the blind and a residence for adults with physical or intellectual (or both) disabilities. Both places were in Northumberland (north of England). I highly recommend doing a gap year.

    1. Robin, you’re clearly an example of the influence of the gap year having gone on to become an expert in helping children with disabilities. :-) If you’re ever in Fiji, I know of a program that would love to have your insight. The Little Ones ELC which sponsors the Mobile Kindy program serves several children with special needs. I told them about you and your work at Siskin and they said they are definitely going to be looking up your books. .

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