The first official guests at the 2015 opening of a new ecotourism venture in the Solomons where Jacob Fleming was a volunteer included his parents Tony and Diane.
Jacob says his father’s VSA experience 41 years ago influenced his own decision to volunteer for the one-year tourism adviser assignment. Tony was a volunteer teacher in Tonga in 1974-1975 and Jacob grew up with Tony’s stories of Tonga and maps and photos about the house.
“What Dad did put me on to VSA. I’d always heard about it and kept checking the website to see what was coming up.”
Jacob had also accompanied Tony on a visit to Tonga a decade ago. Over the years Tony twice took materials to the Ha’apai school where he taught. Little had changed, Tony says, although he was pleased to discover a teacher he had worked with was now principal.
He couldn’t resist his son’s invitation to last July’s opening of the Ropiko Beach Resort and the opportunity to sample its facilities and services. “We had a great time and I thought that Jacob was doing a fine job.”
Having seen his son go through VSA, Tony says the entire process appears more rigorous. “We were just a bunch of young people having a great time. We did what we could but today they’re bringing a lot more skills to the positions.”
Tony’s now settling into a newly-built home at Mapua, out of Nelson. Jacob returned there at the end of 2015, to enjoy a summer off and do some local volunteer work with DOC. Tony says his volunteering days are over but, in the family tradition, Jacob’s keeping an eye on what might come up again through VSA.