Cyclone Donna—a category 5 Cyclone that passed near to Vanuatu on May 8 & 9—effectively canceled our plans to travel to Ambae and Maewo Islands, respectively, to see Peace Corps volunteers in-action, visit their schools and health care centers, and carry out impact evaluations. Nonetheless, we were able to find multiple silver linings: Thanks to the flexibility of the Peace Corps staff and volunteers, our team was able to make three site visits more locally.
We first traveled to the more remote and rural side of Efate island, to visit Frances in the village of Epau, on Friday, May 12. Frances shared with us how she has been using the SolarSPELL library that the previous volunteer, who was stationed at Epau before Frances’s term of service, left with her.
Since her school has no devices of its own, and the families in Epau cannot afford purchasing devices like smartphones or tablets, Frances has been using the SolarSPELL herself to plan lessons for teaching. She also hosts community members at her house who have homework or other specific topics they would like to surf the SolarSPELL library to find out more about.
Frances teaches third grade students, which is when students in Vanuatu begin learning in English. We were excited to share with her all of the new content and resources our team recently added to the SolarSPELL library for absolute beginner-level English language learners.
Frances gave us a fantastic tour through her village. There were various signs posted, attesting to the ferocity of Cyclone Pam, an off-the-charts cyclone that devastated Vanuatu two years ago, so it was quite understandable how seriously everyone had taken Cyclone Donna. Thankfully it was far less destructive than estimates were predicting.
She also took us both to the river (where we ran into another Peace Corps volunteer!).
And then to the beach, where she let us ask lots of questions about the SolarSPELL, as well as about her experience being a Peace Corps volunteer and living in Epau.
It was an amazing day.
As an update, we saw Frances again before we left, in Port Vila. She let us know on that very first evening after we brought her the Raspberry Pi with new-and-improved content, her host family was so excited about it, they kept her up very late into the evening, surfing and exploring all of the new content!