lyn thomas 
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Dancing To Two Tunes-Stars of the future need to dance 
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On the Banks Islands in the remote, far north of the Vanuatu archipelago, the ancient traditions are passed from generation to generation, through an oral history. This is interpreted through the skill of sand drawing. The dances (dancing stones) are taught to the young by the elders. The skills of wood carving and decorating, to form such objects as the multi-colored statue Tamata, will not be lost either. Women, with the ability to make music from the beating of the ocean’s waves, are to perform on the international scene. These traditions will continue to be passed to the kids of the future.

The kids of the Banks Islands are dancing to the tune of two cultures. The families pass on the traditions. The families also know that these children need to receive an education to interact with the Western world in the 21st century. These parents and grandparents cannot read and write. At the bottom of a village a cleared and swept space with a long wooden bench is the school. In another village the international community and churches have built classrooms with louver windows for air flow, blackboards and benches with stools.

In yet another village there is no school and kids walk 5 kilometers each way, each day to attend school. The Vanuatu government in 2007 acknowledged that it did not have the means to support schooling in the outer islands. These schools take kids through to the end of grade 6, but have limited resources. The government may provide the teacher, but reading books have to be shared, exercise books torn apart to provide writing paper, pencils broken into three. There is simply not enough to go around. Should a disaster occur as with the January 2008 cyclone, then the government could not replace what little resources were available.

The government is dancing to a different tune. The kids are eager to learn. They are excited by their achievements. They giggle, chatter and smile in delight. They are dancing to the tune of the future. These kids are the future of the nation – future politicians, doctors, lawyers. They will be the stars of Vanuatu in the 21st century. But the kids need to get beyond grade 6. These kids dance with great joy when boxes of school materials arrive from the inter-island ferry.

Schooling is not free. In this no-cash-economy. Many school fees are paid in custom manner. The teacher receives bundles of chopped firewood, colorful hand-woven mats, and pig tusks – the most valuable payment of all. But at the end of grade 6, there is the entrance test to sit. If the students pass the parents have to cope with the thought of the kids leaving home to attend high school on another island and the worry of trying to find the cash to pay the school fees. In Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, there is one charity, YouMe Support Foundation that cares about these kids. At Seachange Lodge, the guests and the owners, Rick and Wendy Tendys are making a difference. Guests are contributing to the boxes of school resources sent north.

The resort has contributed 10% of earnings to purchase items as requested by the communities, since 2003. Harris Arup, the local area secretary, contacts Port Vila with updates on the community's needs. “We don’t know what we would have done without the support and help of YouMe Support Foundation, particularly after the cyclone in January this year.” To ensure the kids of these northern islands can go beyond a grade 6 education, YouMe Support Foundation provides on-going non-repayable education grants for high school. YouMe Support Foundation, as a world first, in conjunction with is offering Seachange Lodge in an Internet raffle.

You could become the owner of this private holiday home and six holiday apartments to share with family and friends, or top up your superannuation package, retire to the South Pacific or on-sell the resort worth $2m. These kids need to continue to dance through life with our assistance and you could gain a whole new way of life also.

Dr Wendy Stenberg-Tendys and her husband are CEO of YouMe Support Foundation, providing non-repayable high school education grants for kids who will never have the opportunity to have an education without outside assistance. This is once in a life time Blue Moon Opportunity for someone to own their own private holiday home, plus 6 luxury holiday apartments, while assisting these children to gain an education. Check it out at: 
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