February 7, 2011

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

Pohnpei, FSM-Each week volunteers gather on Thursday afternoons at the Pohnpei Public Library at 3:30 both to entertain and to help instill a love of reading in Pohnpei's young people. The program was begun by U.S. Peace Corps volunteer Amber Ham in September of 2010. Ham is assigned on a part time basis to both the Pohnpei Public Library and also to the Library at Sekere Elementary School in Sekere, Sokehs a library that she helped to create from the ground up.

On the Thursday that we visited four volunteers assisted during the Story Hour. Amy Delyla Ulm, of the World Teach organization delighted the young people with her first public performance on ukulele, an instrument she is just learning to play. She led the 25 or so young people in a rousing rendition of "Shake, Shake, Shake your sillies out." As best we could tell, the young people never noticed her crimson face and she did a respectable job.

After the children's "sillies were thoroughly clapped, stomped, jumped, and yawned" out another volunteer stepped into the foreground. Helen Wheeler a former US Peace Corps Country Director who served in Macedonia and in Russia Far East and who is visiting a friend in Pohnpei read a story about winter to the children. Probably none of the children had ever actually witnessed winter weather themselves. Just the same, all of them seemed completely enthralled by the idea of snow, and sleds, and mittens, and scarves and heavy winter clothing. She read a page from the book and then walked around the room so that at least the occupants of the front two tables could see the pictures before she repeated the process for the next page and the next...

Maureen Curtin another Peace Corps volunteer currently assigned to the College of Micronesia Pohnpei Campus led the children in their art activity for the day. Using sponges the children painted pictures of snowmen.

Tania Saffi cool who also volunteers at the Seventh Day Adventist School, as she often does, assisted throughout the Story Hour.

Since Ham has been a volunteer at the Library it has been her job, among other things, to suggest and implement organizational changes in both the children's library and the larger adult library that help to make the library more accessible to all of its patrons. She has also written grants and has created educational opportunities for all the patrons of the library.

When she started the "story hour" only a few children participated each week. Since that time they've seen as many as 35 children involved on a weekly basis. There is no charge for the "story hour" and all are welcome to attend.

"My favorite part is the kids singing and jumping around and all of the excitement," Ham said.

2011 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United States Peace Corps. It also is the 45th anniversary of the arrival of the first Peace Corps volunteers in the Federated States of Micronesia.