Henderson, Solomon Islands, 26 October 2019 -- My name is John Toreng Thang Kom Levion and my cousin’s name is Valentina Reinemyang Leivon. We are volunteers from Imphal, northeast India. We are first cousins. The Salesians of the PGS Vice-Province invited us to the Solomon Islands as volunteers for 6 months in order to train teachers at the learning centre for the children of Ranadi Landfill near Henderson.
I, John, had previously worked as coordinator and teacher, together with my wife, in the learning centre for non-starters and dropouts in the Salesian Parish of Mary Immaculate at Imphal which was started by Fr MC George SDB. Initially I had planned to do volunteer work with my wife. However, the centre in Imphal needed a trainer for the new staff, so my wife decided to stay as trainer as well as take care of our two children. In my wife’s stead I invited my first cousin to come with me to the Solomon Islands.
Although I have left my wife and children in northeast India, my greatest sense of fulfillment is in helping these children learn to read and write, children who would, otherwise, have no possibility to have an education at all.
I, Valentina, am currently doing my MA in English at Imphal University. I prayed over my cousin John’s invitation. Although initially I had my reservations because I was in the middle of my master’s studies, I eventually took the offer of my cousin to work with him as a volunteer and come to the Solomons. “I have been learning all my life,” I said to myself, “by volunteering I will have the opportunity to teach and give instead of being always at the receiving end.” This is why this experience gives me great joy.
Both of us experience communication as a great challenge in order to help these children who, practically, do not speak English or Pidgin. Then, helping them to get used to sit down and learn, is another challenge. But our consolation is that these kids are very friendly as well as open and very eager to learn something from their teachers. We can see the joy in their eyes every time they come to the learning centre. This, in itself, is worth all our sacrifices to come here!