ASU SolarSPELL Peace Corps training in Micronesia: Three Years in FSM!

The ASU SolarSPELL team traveled to Pohnpei, in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), in July 2017, to carry out a training on the solar digital libraries with a new cohort of Peace Corps volunteers. This training represents the third (annual) training with FSM volunteers, launching SolarSPELL’s third year of use in the field.

This particular training was quite special, as our team comprised a librarian from ASU Libraries, who offered a training on how to set up a library in a school, as well as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) who had served in Pohnpei some twenty years earlier, who had returned to the island for the first time since her service. We also had some special guest visitors attend the training from SolarSPELL project partner PREL, Pacific Resources for Education and Learning, with whom we look forward to collaborating even more closely in the (near) future!

The training kicked off with a background and overview of the SolarSPELL project, explaining not only where the idea for a solar digital library sprang from, but also some of the challenges and successes that the project has faced over the years. This presentation concluded by welcoming this new group of volunteers into the SolarSPELL family.

We continued the training by distributing both tablets and the SolarSPELL digital libraries, so that the volunteers could figure out how to operate the libraries, and could begin to surf and explore the library’s content, as well as pose any questions about the content, functionality, etc.

Subsequently, we held a scavenger hunt for the volunteers, to help familiarize them with the content on the library. Since there were prizes involved, the scavenger hunt became quite competitive!

The winning team members were quite pleased with the prizes!

After lunch, the training segued into a workshop on “How to Set Up a Library in Your School,” led by Lorrie McAllister, Associate University Librarian at ASU.

The volunteers played a game to familiarize them with challenges associated establishing a library in resource-constrained conditions.

Discussion continued on relevant topics such as obtaining books, keeping the library as free as possible of bugs, mold, and other potential environmental threats, as well as topics like setting up a book check-out system, and incentivizing reading.

Finally, Jessica Hirshorn, Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Interdisciplinary Studies at ASU, and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) who had served in Pohnpei, FSM approximately 20 year prior, gave some valuable advice and insights to this incoming class of volunteers.

Jessica had the benefit of 20 years of hindsight, to see the impact her service had had, and she shared this with the incoming volunteers, which was quite a motivating force! The new volunteers had plenty of questions for Jessica.

The day ended in the traditional SolarSPELL way: with a group photo.

And some nice SolarSPELL team pictures, too!

Pictures taken by Brooks McAllister.