…for such a time as this

Stories about the adventure that is Peace Corps Tonga

A New Job….with 3 months to go

Since I live on a remote island away from the capitol, the Peace Corps office and therefore my Peace Corps Program manager aren’t intimately involved in my day to day work. I like it. I have the freedom to choose what I do, the projects I take on and don’t have to worry about the bureaucracy that sometimes comes with living down the street from the main office.

But this week, Peace Corps did a good thing.

I have been teaching for two long years and spending my afternoons finding projects and work that better fits me. I started by working for a lower level government official and found very quickly that finishing what is started is not a priority. I tried to build a play-ground, but there was no money to sustain it. I worked with a woman’s group to sell their handicrafts overseas; they didn’t see the earning potential. I tried to have an afterschool girls’ program but sports schedules were too sporadic to allow for it. I did plan for and direct a very successful Camp Glow with another volunteer (!), but that was a one-time event. And most recently, I tried to work with the woman’s branch of the Ministry of Agriculture but the woman I was suppose to work with never showed up to work.

One thing that has been consistent this year is my work with the Governor’s Office of Ha’apai and specifically with Kepu, the Governor’s Secretary. Since the Governors are also Parliamentarians, I have never actually met ours. Kepu essentially runs Ha’apai. He would call me about once a week to come edit a project proposal. This went on for a few months until our 1 or 2 hour meetings turned into 3 or 4 hour ones. One week we wrote the Annual Management Plan for the island group. We poured over disaster management and training plans, talked about effective governance and wrote a recommendation to the prime minister. After that whirlwind of a week, Kepu asked me to come work for him on a more permanent basis.

When my PM from Peace Corps came on Monday, I didn’t take her to my school. We came to the governor’s office instead. Kepu talked about the grants we had written and won, the disaster plans we’d talked about and wrote over weekends, and law opinions we had written. He stressed his need for a volunteer, mentioning that he had worked with many in the past and had learned so much. Those were the magic words, he had learned something from volunteers, Peace Corps’ favorite thing….capacity building.

After the meeting, my PM asked if I wanted to come work full time with the Governor’s Office. I figure since I’d been teaching for 2 years, with only 9 weeks to go, I should finish it out. Then she asked if I’d wanted to work afternoons in the office until I leave in 3 months. Yes, I would.

In the last two days at the office, I’ve been put in charge of writing a training program for Town Officers to improve the core competencies of governance in Ha’apai, develop and implement a document control system, update the centralization plan, and write a few recommendations for visa applications. I’ve learned about the complicated ins and outs of land matters and heard a couple people whine about this and that.

The days go faster as I learn about small government and politics. Who knows, maybe this will be a jumping off point for some California political work soon.

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3 Comments»

  Natalie Newell wrote @

Girlfriend, you are KILLING IT! Way to go! So proud of your efforts. Where’s my “Team Juleigh” t-shirt?

  Gretchen Stevens wrote @

So exciting to finally be in your niche!!

  Kathy/Kefi Beck wrote @

Well done, Miss Suli; your tenacity, vivacity, and expertise have finally paid off!


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