25.01.2018 - Wendy Griffin undertook her second VSA assignment from 2014-2017 (her first was in Bhutan in 1993-1994). Working with the Vanuatu Ministry of Education as a pre-school programme adviser, Wendy was a key part of the team that managed the strategic rebuild of preschools and kindergartens after Cyclone Pam in 2015: by the end of her assignment, early childhood education in Vanuatu was officially on the Ministry's agenda, with a suite of policies and resources produced. Several months after her assignment ended, Wendy writes about how the seeds she planted are still flourishing, in unexpected places.


How wonderful Facebook is: in spite of returning to New Zealand, my liked pages keep me up to date. So this week, as the schools and kindergartens that were all part of my VSA world are opening, I saw photos of a new one: Little Learners Centre and Day Care Pre-school and Kindy opening in my neighbor’s garden. "Bingo!" I thought as I remembered how this neighbor had worried about the playing and noise of the little children that attended the kindy in my own garden.

Photo of Little Learners' Centre

Next door to my VSA flat, over the wobbly fence, another kindy springs up

Now not only had my little house become an extension for a daycare, as I left, but children will now be next door and down the road. I can’t take all the glory but I was always talking about early childhood in the area I lived and had slipped the draft Early Childhood Policy we were reviewing into some interested hands at one time.

I was blessed, having an assignment with VSA in Vanuatu for kindy and early childhood, I got the chance to talk about it whereever I went: on boats or buses or planes or trips to the market. In the second term of 2014 a wonderful lady appeared in my garden and said, "Hi, I am your new neighbor in the below flat and just wanted you to know I am starting a kindy and class one in the flat."

Donna's Elite Foundation signage

My seaside flat below Donna's kindy and school

 A dream come true for me, and the next months and beyond I was a frequent visitor, helping share ideas and resources, celebrations and watermelons, story books and advice. I would come home to the sound of children laughing and often see little ones peeping in through my glass doors when I was at home, or running around the small garden. Donna’s Elite Foundation English Grammar School grew faster than we would have believed. It survived cyclone Pam with a few cuts and bruises and the school sign board proudly rose above the shared fence on Rue Du Wales. Now the colorful kindy is kindy to class 6 and extending to a building 30 meters away that we often discussed would look good as a school. It seems children really needed more education facilities in Seaside.

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Mrs Tabilepo the Principal standing next to the Pastor at the end of term one at Donna's seaside Kindy

Over my VSA assignment I often thought this is so amusing, kindy at work and kindy at home and there were some moments when I felt I needed a little peace and quiet but it all jumbled into the delights of contributing to the society we became part of while living on the edge of a culture of unique complexities. Thank you VSA for this amazing opportunity to help spread the importance of early learning to lovely communities of parents and children interested to start young.