Seven Selfish Reasons to Become a Cook Island Global Volunteer

It seems that this time of year we feel compelled to create and/or read lists–the ten best movies, the thirty best female vocalists of the decade, five foolproof ways to lose weight, eight helpful hints you can’t live without.  So, I figured I might as well jump right onto the ol bandwagon with MY list.  LIke Letterman, I’ll do it as a countdown.


The KiiKii, your home while volunteering, is right smack dab on the ocean.  But then, just about everything in Rarotonga is right on the ocean–the island’s interior is completely mountainous.  If you have trouble falling asleep to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, you need to bring earplugs!

The KiiKii Motel
The KiiKii Motel


Yes,  Global Volunteers’ country manager is indeed the owner of Matutu Brewery. And, as a Rarotonga resident, James knows everything of importance, like where to get the best pizza I’ve ever tasted!   That’s where we were heading right after our brewery tour.  Pizza and beer, what could be a better ending to a volunteer’s day?

James, giving us the brewery tour
James, giving us the brewery tour


The  nicest people become Global Volunteers…take a look

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It seems like everyone on the island sings and dances.  Those in the know (like us volunteers)  catch the professionals practicing the routine they perform at the local resorts.  There is also a show every Saturday at the outdoor market.   Here’s a 30 second clip  of my favorite dancers.  Check out the expression on the little girl’s face, second to the left.  Watching her always made me smile.  


Cook Islanders are gracious, friendly people who welcome visitors to their island.  Family is everything to them.  As a volunteer you become a member of the extended family, sharing food and laughter.

Best of all, you learn to appreciate “island time” and a life style that is safer, slower and friendlier than what you might have been used to.   You come home more relaxed and more aware of what really matters.

Teachers at Takitumu
Teachers at Takitumu


New Zealanders in general, and Cook Islanders in particular, are in tune with nature, and care about preserving the environment–and it shows.   No billboards, no litter, no traffic jams–just flowers and mountains and ocean.

Hiking up one of the mountain trails with Niki
Hiking up one of the mountain trails with Niki.  Check out the size of those leaves!
another beautiful sunrise
another beautiful sunrise


Look at these beautiful faces–how could anyone NOT fall in love?   P1040264

What a wonderful way to spend three weeks!


Global Volunteers, Cook Islands

Let me introduce you to Global Volunteer’s Vaca 139. Why “Vaca”?  Because it is the Maori word for boat, and  it serves as a reminder that we are all in the same boat–we’re in this together.

The 139 is self explanatory:  we are the 139th group of Global Volunteers to serve in Rarotonga. Of Vaca 139’s ten volunteers, six have been here before, which speaks volumes about this assignment. Half of the group will be staying for two weeks.  I am one of the five that opted for three weeks.

Standing:  Dave, Larry, Willy Middle: James, Lynda, Shelley, Bud Front: Robyn, Patrick, Sally, Niki
Standing: Dave, Larry, Willy
Middle: James, the country manager,  Lynda, Shelley, Bud
Front: Robyn, Patrick, Sally, Niki

So what were we going to do during our stay?  Larry and Sally split their time between the prison and the high school.  When she was not in jail, Sally was a one woman “beautifier”, sprucing up the exterior of Tereora College.  She was leaving HER mark in flowers, while Larry, a former math teacher, gave his students practical skills, such as learning how to calculate nutritional values and convert celsius to fahrenheit.

Robyn and Dave worked in Titikavaka College. Bud, an Ob/Gyn, returned to the hospital to offer his assistance, and Lynda worked with the Ministry of Education, developing plans for special needs children.

Willy and Niki, Patrick and I were delighted to be assigned to an elementary school.  Papa Patrick, an artist from Florida, very thoughtfully brought along a suitcase full of watercolors and paper.  He spent the first two of the three weeks at the school, helping the children make cards; the last week he taught disabled adults at the Creative Center with Lynda.


Uncle Willy worked with the third graders during class time.

Uncle Willy with the third grade class.
Uncle Willy with the third grade class.
Can you see why it required more than one attempt to photograph THIS group?
Can you see why it required more than one attempt to photograph THIS group?

Once the drums started beating (yes, that’s right–there are no bells, there are drums that mark the start and finish of school periods) he was out in the field, playing soccer with boys of ALL ages, regardless of the heat and humidity.

Time to get into your classroom!
Time to get into your classroom!

If you would like a more vivid drumming experience, Just click on this YouTube link.

Niki and I preferred more sedentary (and cooler) ways to interact with the children during “free” time.  During the school day, she worked one on one with fourth and fifth graders.

My first week was spent helping out in the office.  Their secretary had abruptly quit right before we arrived, leaving a mountain of unfinished paperwork.  A basic principle of Global Volunteers is that you do whatever you are asked to do, so I got busy copying, doing excel spreadsheets, data entry, and report cards.   James figured that my years in the insurance industry would mean I was good at office work.  I didn’t bother to tell him that wasn’t quite what I did, and once I left the world of paid employment, I said goodbye to PCs to become an Apple devotee.  I was shocked at how much windows and excel had changed in just a couple of years!  Fortunately, speed was not important, and I was able to figure it out–although the copy machine WAS a bit of a struggle.

The best part of my assignment was I shared the principal’s office, so I got to know this warm, gracious, interesting woman. Because she had recently married, she generously shared her wedding photos and the stories about people in them, her extended family.

In the principal's office
Engia, the principal, and her new secretary

Of course, I was able to take several breaks during the day to play and read with the children, who LOVED to have their photos taken, AND to take photos.   Here are a few schoolyard shots.



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Stay tuned for the next post–the coronation!