March 10, 2014

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

March 3, 2014 Kahmar, Pohnpei - Sokhamar (Chief) Inos Ponapart of Kahmar hosted an official welcome for volunteers who arrived over the weekend for a Service Civil International workcamp this morning. The group of volunteers came from Finland, China, Japan, and Sri Lanka by way of Hong Kong.

While in Pohnpei the volunteers will assist the people of Kahmar in building a traditional hut in the mornings. In the afternoons they will organize programs to enjoy with villagers, especially for the children after school. Their introductory materials for the SCI Workcamp say that there will be supervisors from the village for each task and locals will work alongside the volunteers.

This afternoon's ceremony included a traditional sakau ceremony, a first time experience for the volunteers. Lt. Governor Peterson represented the Pohnpei State government and District Administrator Peteriko Hairens represented the Nett Government.

Service Civil International (SCI) is a voluntary organization with approx. 40 national branches and groups worldwide. SCI aims are to promote peace, international understanding and solidarity, social justice, sustainable development, and respect for the environment. SCI believes that all people are capable of living together with mutual respect and to solve conflicts without recourse to any form of violence.

The roots of Service Civil International go back to the end of World War I when Europe had to be reconstructed and the people needed to cooperate again in a peaceful way. The first international workcamp was organized in 1920 by Pierre Ceresole and his friends in Verdun, France. Verdun was a town close to the German border which was completely destroyed during the war. The volunteers from this camp wanted to inspire others to work for peace as an alternative to military service and they started to call their network "Service Civil International".

The introductory material for the work camp says that Workcamps provide an opportunity for individuals to increase tolerance and facilitate the questioning of values and reflecting on the philosophy of SCI as a peace building organisation. The volunteers participate in cultural exchange along with practical assistance learning about the concerns and issues that confront the local community and their nation. This means, individuals learn that they can make a difference in their lives and shared global future.

Especially for young participants from Japan, it will be an opportunity to review their history of colonization and the Pacific War by hiking the hills where rusty antiaircraft guns and gun battery & powder magazines have been deserted while enjoying panoramic views over Kolonia, its harbor, airport, lagoon islands and the barrier reef.

The volunteers are Ms.Tuuli Nykänen (Finland), Ms. Zhang Yexia (China), Ms. Kanae Ishida (Japan), Ms. Hiroko Takahashi, SCI-Japan Organizer (Japan), Mr. Hiroya Abe (Japan), and Mr Sameera Jayasinghe the Work Camp Leader who is from Sri Lanka but currently serving with SCI in Hong Kong.

"When I came here last March," said JICA volunteer for tourism Seichi Naka, "I thought to set up here (an) SCI work camp again just I did in Vanuatu."

The volunteers will be in Pohnpei until March 10.