News: Letter from Tarawa, Kiribati

Theresa Murphy, from Brisbane, has been volunteering in Kiribati at a preschool and child care centre.  Here she shares some stories of the importance of childcare for the local women in the community.

Wow! It’s hard to believe I have been here for 7 months.  I have been met with highs and lows that are to be expected with living in a different culture and I am happy to report that it is mostly highs.

The I-Kiribati people are among the most beautiful and kind-hearted people I have met.  They will do anything for you.  Recently I was a little sick – nothing major, but I had a couple of days off from work and the teachers came and were offering to do my cooking and cleaning for me.  I was a little surprised but they said that’s their culture and as I have no family, they are like my family. It was very touching.

A little I-Kiribati girl helps with the chores
The more time I stay here I start to notice little things such as extended families are very big here with some households having 20 people in the one house.  With low employment there is usually only one or two people earning a wage, which is generally around $80 Australian dollars for one person, so they are supporting families on such low wages.  Due to its isolation, food is imported and prices can be very high.

When I first came to Kiribati I thought I would just be a preschool teacher, but I am so much more.  I have started a small childcare room for children aged 1-5 years we have about 25 children, which is enough.  How this came about was Sr Kantarawa approached me after only a few weeks of being in Kiribati and asked me if I had any knowledge of children under 3.  Preschool here is for 3-5 year olds.  I said yes, but little did I know what that answer was getting me into.  She had a request from local women to have a place to leave their children so they could work, so I asked for more time to settle in.  About 4 months after my arrival we started providing childcare.  Many women are grateful as they have a place for their children while they work.  Previously their mothers would care for the children but, as many have explained to me, they have to keep on working as well so they have enough money to survive. It’s small and not up to Australian standards but it is good and the children are so beautiful.  We were able to set it up with help from local businesses and some donations from Australia.

I spend my day mostly with the little ones.  My average hours are from 7.00 in the morning until 6.00 at night.  I do teach English to the 3-5 year olds as well, which I thoroughly enjoy.  We do fun games and singing.  I really love the kids here – they’re so beautiful and cheeky at times. I have introduced the behaviour management technique of the naughty chair, which works well with I-Kiribati children as they don’t like to sit by themselves.  I had a laugh the other day when one of my 2 year olds, who was playing with a teddy, said in English “Stop. Go and sit on the naughty chair.” It was very cute.

Well that’s all from me for now.

All the best, lots of love and God Bless

Theresa

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Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do. - Johann Wolfgang Van Goethe