UVU Students Provide Children In Fiji With Reading Opportunities And Improve Community Health Conditions
June 8, 2011
For Immediate Release
University Marketing & Communications: Mike Rigert (801) 863-6807
Written by: Cheryl Kamenski (801) 863-6351
Elizabeth Jarema, a student at Utah Valley University, is returning to her elementary school in Fiji this summer, along with 22 fellow UVU students to help build a better library to improve the student literacy rate and to install septic tanks and outhouses to improve health conditions.
“It is my goal that one day students from the province where I grew up will apply to UVU,” said Jarema, who is currently studying behavioral science and social work. “There is very little right now to help kids improve. I am so excited to help change that.”
UVU students and three advisers will be in the province of Bua in Vanua Levu, the second-largest island of Fiji, June 12-26 to take part in an initiative set up and sponsored by UVU Volunteer & Service-Learning Center.
“This UVU initiative enhances the students’ academic studies and shows them firsthand the importance of being a part of a community effort,” said Mike Moon, UVU Volunteer & Service-Learning Center program coordinator. “These students will gain a broader education through this experience and hopefully become more active in their local community upon their return.”
Some students majoring in community health will be applying what they’ve learned in the classroom to improve health conditions. UVU has worked with the community to enable students to assist in the installation of septic tanks and outhouses in outlying villages where typhoid has been a persistent problem.
Other students majoring in education are utilizing this service as an internship for graduation. Students worked with elementary schools in the Nebo School District in Utah County earlier in the year to set up a pen pal program. UVU program participants visited schools to talk about Fiji and its culture and then the elementary students wrote letters to children in Fiji. UVU service-learning volunteers will hand deliver those letters to the students in Fiji who will then write letters in return. Not only will children in Fiji get to practice English, but all students will make friends and learn about things half a world apart.
Upon arrival in Fiji, UVU students will assist in building out a school library and stocking it with usable books. Currently, the school library is not used since it is small and the books are out-of-date or are not at the kids’ reading level.
“When I was growing up and attending school, we had no library books. As a result, my English and comprehension was so limited,” said Jarema. “From that experience, I knew something had to change.”
Volunteers have already shipped donated computers and books, with the help of Pacific Shipping and several organizations in California. UVU hoped to provide two computers and 3,000 books for the school, but was able to work with NuSkin, Ragpicker, a service network, and Thrift Books to supply 10 computers and 6,000 books. American companies like AMT Security have provided financial support and several companies and organizations in Fiji have also assisted in supplying storage, transportation, fees and drinking water.
This is the first international service project in the province, which is the poorest in Fiji. This service has brought together the people of six neighboring villages working toward common goals.
“Volunteers will be living with families in the different villages to encourage the families to become more involved in improving education opportunities for their children,” said Jarema. “It also allows UVU students to learn about the culture and lifestyle in Fiji.”
In 2009, Jarema won the Wolverine Distinguished Volunteer Service Award and used the money she received to return to her village in Fiji. It was at that time she saw a lack of community involvement and a pressing need for a library and relevant books at Vuya District School.
“Ninety-five percent of the kids attending the school today will stay in the area and have children who will attend the same school – it is a continual cycle,” said Jarema. “I do not want the kids in school now to experience the same lack of confidence in their reading and English-speaking abilities that I did.”
UVU plans to return every other year to Bua to continue strengthening education and community resources. “It is exciting for me to help things improve,” said Jarema. “And I look forward to one day seeing students from my province on campus at UVU.”
Utah Valley University is located in Orem, Utah, and is home to nearly 33,000 students. UVU began as a vocational school during World War II, and in the seven decades since has evolved into a technical school, community college, state college and, finally, a comprehensive regional teaching university. UVU is one of Utah’s largest institutions of higher learning and offers programs ranging from career training to high-demand master degrees, with emphasis on undergraduate education.