|Many come from professional backgrounds and want to 'give something back',
as well as face new challenges and adventures. They will usually be committing themselves
to two years volunteering, using their skills as teachers, nurses, carpenters, builders,
technical workers. Their posting may be Russia, China, Cambodia or one of seventy-odd
other of the world's poorest countries. They will be provided with free accommodation and
usually a basic living wage.
For Nottingham teachers Ken and Liz Pye, the posting was
Papua New Guinea. When they decided to make it their retirement home, friends and
family reacted with incredulity.
"Most people said we were mad," says Liz, a 62 year old sports teacher,
"but weve always wanted to do VSO and it seemed an ideal time for us. When we
were offered Papua New Guinea it was a complete unknown, a really exciting
So in the summer of 1999 Liz and her geography lecturer husband, Ken, 60, traded Trent
College Nottingham for St. Ignatius High, a rural Papua New Guinea secondary school. St.
Ignatius school is short of trained national teachers, and Ken and Liz were required not
only to teach, but to work alongside local counterparts, sharing their skills.
It didn't take long for them to know that they had made the right decision.
"I have to pinch myself sometimes, as I cant believe Im here,"
Liz Pye exclaims, sitting on the verandah of her house, against a backdrop of coconut
Teaching in Papua New Guinea is not like Nottingham. As a sports teacher, Liz is
providing some totally new lesson programmes and is also training a local counterpart to
carry on when she leaves.
She found that many students were too shy to participate at first, and has had to adapt
her teaching methods to make students feel more secure and confident.
But she has also had learn how to fit in to local ways, which means dressing and
behaving differently to the way they do in Nottingham. "You cant show your
legs. Bosoms yes - thats not really a problem, thighs - no!"
It's also pretty quiet, give or take the odd barbecue. "Not a place for
people who crave an active night life," says Liz. "Its too relaxed and
Students come from varied countryside communities, and there is great linguistic
diversity. Some speak not only English and Tok Pisin (Pidgin), but a plethora of Tok Ples
(local) languages. It is vital that these Tok Ples languages are kept alive so that they
help maintain the unique traditions of each tribe. For Ken and Liz it means acquiring new
Ken in his English and Geography lessons is also developing new techniques, blending
together modern communicative methods with traditional Papua New Guinean chalk and
talk style. Western teaching may have moved on from this, but for Ken and his
students, the combining is constructive and rewarding.
The principal of St. Ignatius High has been delighted with the way students have
responded. As an experienced older couple, Ken and Liz are highly valued by the school .
So do they have any regrets about this post retirement life change?
"No," Liz says emphatically "Yes, it is hard work, yes there is the odd
snake and loads of mosquitoes, but weve never done anything like this in our lives
before. Our friends are all envious of us now. Personally, I cant think of a better
way to spend retirement!"
VSO website is: www.vso.org.uk and email is: firstname.lastname@example.org