Habele Listening Tour 2012

Habele Directors and supporters just completed the 2012 “Listening Tour” in Yap State, Micronesia. Meetings were held with state government officials, traditional chiefs, public and private school educators, as well as parents and community members in the villages.

Also attending the meetings was Nils Winkler, CEO of Yapital, a European-based electronic payments company. Yapital sponsored the Statewide Dictionary Project, delivering 1,000 dictionaries to middle school students, as part of its ongoing partnership with Habele to support K-12 students across Yap State.

Here are some of the trip highlights:

Yap State Legislators passed a resolution officially praising Habele’s six years of service to the students of Yap. The Speaker and Governor both believe that targeting support for students in intermediate and high school grades remains the best use of Habele’s limited resources.

The Council of Tamol and other traditional leaders encouraged Habele to expand its mission to serve all economically disadvantaged students, rather than only those from outer and distant lagoon islands.

Principals and teachers told Habele that after school programs such as Waa’gey (traditional canoe carving and weaving) and the Vex Robotics clubs have been genuine “game changers” for participating students. They asked for support to expand these extracurricular efforts.

The Women’s’ associations and the Waa’gey traditional skills programs thanked Habele for our donations of materials and funds. They both asked for Habele’s support in raising awareness of their work outside of Micronesia.

Public and private school educators asked Habele to repeat the statewide “Dictionary For Every Eighth Grader” donation on a yearly basis.

The feedback was constructive; the encouragement thrilling. Parents and educators communicated a genuine sense of gratitude. They want Habele to grow and gave us specific, actionable program ideas.

We encountered anxiety across Yap State about the drawdown in US Government aid and the prospect of a new multi-resort tourism and golf complex. This concern has spurred unprecedented public dialogue. The terms “sustainable development” and “effective foreign investment” were oft repeated. Directors noted a new interest in non-government organizations and hope about the role such groups could play in social and economic development.

The challenges faced by Yap (and all of Micronesia) represent an opportunity for Habele. Our targeted programs for students are academically effective and economically efficient. Habele’s slow-and-steady, grassroots, brick-by-brick growth strategy is being validated by praise and encouragement among official leaders and –more importantly– “back in the villages.” As the only US-based nonprofit solely serving students in Micronesia, Habele’s position remains unique and our ability to affect positive change enormous.