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Young volunteer festival experience life-changing

PRESS RELEASE: Young volunteers' festival experience life-changing

Suva, Fiji Islands, 8 October, 2006 : Aralele Uluilakeba, 19, says being a volunteer at the Third Melanesian Arts and Cultural Festival has changed her life.

“I have had to speak to people and learn to help them, and it has made me much more confident,” says Aralele, a hospitality student.

She was one of 10 young Fijians who worked for the four-day symposium programme, helping visitors, taking notes and doing administration.

“Before this I was not really that confident,” said Aralele. “I was so shy. I wouldn’t talk to anyone. I decided to do this to get me out of my shell.”

The programme, which focused on issues of culture, tradition and identity, also taught Aralele other important things.

“I grew up in the city and I didn’t really know much about my culture and the other cultures in Melanesia,” she says. “I came here to learn.”

Another symposium volunteer, 22-year-old Sikiti Matai, said she made new friends from the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, and it was “quite moving” to learn that Pacific young people faced many of the same issues.

Sikiti, who has just finished business studies, also learned that she had the courage to talk to “important people” when she met Dewe Gorode, the woman who is vice-president of New Caledonia’s territorial government.

Festival organisers advertised for volunteers, and received many more applications than the 200 they needed.

Symposium organiser Lele Nawalowalo said that she noted improvements in the volunteers’ skills, ranging from confidence and teamwork to listening and note-taking. They also learned social skills: “[In Melanesia] we have a culture of silence, but they had to talk to lots of people.”

Tangata Vainerere, youth development adviser at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, said volunteering could improve young people’s lives in many ways.

“To participate in and contribute to their communities, young Pacific Islanders need to develop a range of practical skills that are not available at school,” he said.

“These skills include leadership, project development and management, and lifestyle skills – the sort of things these young volunteers have been learning at the festival.”

Tangata said that such skills helped young people take on leadership and advocacy roles and make informed choices about their lives.

“This is important, because in the Pacific, young people aged between 15 and 24 are a large group – about 20 per cent of the total population. And we are seeing a lot of them here at this festival.”

Note to media : A photograph to accompany this press release is downloadable from


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