Published on 21st November 2016
The VSA whānau has been saddened by the passing of volunteer and friend Jesse Summers.
Jesse volunteered with the Vanuatu Qualifications Authority (VQA), and she was the first VSA volunteer to be placed with this partner organisation. During her time on assignment, Jesse worked closely with her colleagues, supporting them to strengthen their quality assurance system. Jesse formed strong relationships with her workmates at VQA as well as the other VSA volunteers and VSA's Vanuatu Programme Manager, Clemmie Newton.
At her memorial, VSA CEO Gill Greer and Manager – Programme Operations, Mattie Geary Nichol, shared this tribute from Jesse’s Vanuatu friends and colleagues:
Ka tangi te Tītī
Ka tangi te Kākā
Ka tangi hoki ahau
Tihei Mauri Ora
The Titi is calling
The Kaka is calling
And I wish to call
Behold there is life!
Jesse's role at VQA required a very specific skillset, but not only that, the ability to work closely with and train a wide range of people. We were delighted when Jesse put in her application, and even more so when she came in to be interviewed and we discovered what a positive, open and compassionate person she was.
Jesse became part of Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) whānau in Vanuatu in April this year. And while her time with us may have been short, the impact she made on the country she chose to call home for this brief time, and the legacy she left on her fellow volunteers was anything but small.
Talk to anyone in Vanuatu about Jesse and the two words you will hear are gentle and kind. Jesse drew people to her. Special connections were made quickly because Jesse's gentle presence offered a quiet and welcoming space. In a country where volunteers and expats are a very transient community, which in turn can mean local people often choose to keep their distance, Jesse's colleagues were drawn to her. They loved her in a very special way.
When Jesse was ill, her colleagues came to her small one bedroom apartment laden with food and ready to pray, for, and with her. Not necessarily what the doctor would order for someone laid low with a severe migraine, but just perfect for the Jesse we know. Her head may have still hurt after, but her heart was overflowing with love.
During a small ceremony that we held with Jesse's work colleagues after we learned she would not be returning, her Chief Executive spoke of her important contribution to his team, tears unashamedly rolling down his cheeks. Likewise, with all her colleagues present that day, the tears fell freely.
Some fond memories of Jesse from her time here in Vanuatu that we would like to share with you. The raw egg Jesse would take to work so she could feed a hungry black mama dog (much to her colleague's bemusement) that took up residence, and respite, outside her office during the day. A magical afternoon spent with three elderly sisters at a local village where Jesse was showered with love, stories, and gifts. Exploring their garden, sharing her knowledge of the plants, eating lap lap straight from the hot stones, and napping on the mat under the flowers of mango tree, as the Mamas regaled Jesse with their stories.
Jesse taught us about the greatness which could be found in humility. She taught us how quiet gentleness could be one of the most powerful instigators of change, and that one of the most treasured gifts we can possess is that of kindness. She taught us that each moment is precious and a gift.
If there is one thing we want to share with you all at this memorial for Jesse today, it is this: Jesse was so very loved. Rarely do people like Jesse come into one’s life. We so deeply feel her loss; a gentle, kind soul gone way too soon, and the world is a much poorer place because of this. But at the same time, we are much richer for having known her. And it is this blessing that we wrap around ourselves now. We were blessed to have had Jesse in our lives, and we know her spirit remains close by.
Moe mai ra Jesse.