Islands culture fuels success

Marshall Islands shows the way

USP weavers group...The University of the South Pacific Campus in Majuro built a weavers house where expert weavers teach younger trainees to make the “jaki ed” finely woven mats that were a signature part of the culture of the Marshall Islands-- Karen Earnshaw

What is remarkable in modern urban planning in the Pacific islands—everything from education and health to economic development—is the lack of appreciation for cultural skills and pride as key foundational building blocks for success.

In most urban areas, thousands of youth have dropped out of school and sit idly, with little to do and little hope of a future. Many dropped out because they had neither the modern academic skills to make it, nor the cultural foundation to help them persevere through difficult times. Yet, as community-based programs in the Marshall Islands are demonstrating, these same youth are ripe for cultural learning and life skills development.
It is the islands’ culture that, ultimately, fuels their ability to succeed. “We’re changing the kids’ attitudes towards life,” said Waan Aelon in Majel (Canoes of the Marshall Islands) Director, Alson Kelen, who has managed the outrigger canoe building program since the late 1990s.

“It’s too free (in the urban center) nowadays, there is no control over when they get up or what they do. A lot of kids and adults don’t know what they are going to do next. Many just play ukulele all day or talk story. It’s the same every day.”

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