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Case Study Tags Vanuatu

Empowering young people in Vanuatu

An interview with Josh Mitukilena, by Jordan Fox

Josh volunteered with VSA to be a Hip Hop instructor in Vanuatu with partner organisation Wan Smol Bag. His primary focus was supporting their youth program and empowering young people. He began his assignment in 2017 and after two assignments and extensions, he is about to volunteer for his third assignment in Vanuatu as a Hip Hop instructor.

How are you liking Vanuatu?

“I want to be there full time!” Given Josh’s multiple assignments with extensions, the answer to this question seemed rather obvious. However, Josh’s answer not only reflected his work with the people and community, but their impact on him.  He clearly has lots of love for the people of Vanuatu.

What is it about Vanuatu that makes you say this?

Josh drew parallels from Vanuatu’s lifestyle to his own Pacific upbringing, “There are heaps of similarities…like all the little things – the diet, the food is pretty similar, the culture, the way we vibe and joke with each other, the importance of family, also most Islanders respect religion…I don’t really want to come home eh!”

How are the young people that you worked with?

Josh described his work with the young people, “They’re doing good, I started off creating an all-girls crew and then worked with another crew. We took out the national Hip Hop competition”.

While hip hop is teaching them teamwork, focus and commitment,  Josh expressed passion for supporting the youth with gaining other life-skills. “These kids don’t go to school, sometimes because of academic struggles, sometimes because their parents can’t afford it. So for these kids, Wan Smol Bag is school and we have to think of life skills that can be practical and helpful for them when they move on.

“Part of it is teaching them things that they may not necessarily think they need, like how to look for a job and how to put a CV together. It would be good for them to learn things that fit how their future will most probably look, like how to grow and catch their own food, how to cook, how to budget their money, how to save, how to drive. Driving lessons would be great! I think work experience would be awesome.”

Is it harder for young women than boys to get jobs or have opportunities?

“I think it's pretty equal.  It just depends on the job they’re going for.

What do the young people value about their island life?

I would say family, friends, church and freedom.

What are some of the challenges they face?

“One of the most increasing influences for young people in Vanuatu is social media. Managing the impact it all has on young people’s lives - the potentially negative, mental and social impact if not managed well. – this is a real challenge. “All the kids are on their phones and social media! It’s come real quick and I don’t know if the kids are ready to handle all the access to so many platforms.

Josh believes that there needs to be education for youth, engaging in and managing social media as it grows and becomes a normal part of their lives. 

What do you reckon the abus (elder generation) think about kids these days? Do you reckon they are concerned for them or hopeful about their futures? 

I think it’s mixed, they (abus) know the young people have a lot of opportunities that they didn't have. But I think their main concern would be that the youth will lose sight of their traditional roots and culture.

Note about the author: Jordan Fox worked at VSA as an intern in 2019 as part of his Masters in Pacific Studies through Victoria University.  Jordan is a good mate of Josh.