TUVALU is a remote archipelago of nine islands 9,500 miles away from the Isle of Man in the South Pacific and for the past six months it has been home to a teenager from Port St Mary who is their Scouting ambassador.
The nearest land mass to Tuvalu is Fiji, but even that is a two-hour flight away so living there has been both an adventure and a culture shock to 18-year-old Jay Thompson, who arrived in October with one other ambassador from the UK to help organise a scouting movement for the young people there.
At its highest point Tuvalu is just two metres above sea level and has a population of only 10,000, with nearly half of them in Funafuti, the capital. The whole of Tuvalu covers a total area of around six or seven square miles.
Explaining how he had the good fortune to spend winter in a tropical climate – typically 28°C to 38°C – Jay said Scouting had died out in Tuvalu about 30 years ago and islanders had asked the UK Scouting Association for help to re-establish a troupe.
‘I applied for the role and went to a selection weekend and was lucky enough to get selected,’ he said.
Since then much time has been devoted to organisation and training but the role has taken off since Tuvalu’s young people have become involved.
‘In February we had our first meetings with the young people, which have been a great success. We have about 30 to 40 young people at each meeting. The aim is to create sustainable Scouting, so we train a training manager to train the leaders to run meetings. We want Scouting to be here for a long time,’ he said. ‘It is likely that at some point in the remaining months that I will visit the outer islands. The island of Niutao has 50-plus Scouts who have been running activities. Young people in the Isle of Man are always complaining there is nothing to do. They should see Tuvalu! Young people have materialistically nothing but they make their fun by going fishing, swimming and playing for hours on the runway (which sees just two weekly flights).’
Jay, who returns in August to the Isle of Man added: ‘It is an opportunity of a lifetime to be able to live and work in a country like Tuvalu.’