Tamil, Yap-- Construction on the Tamilang Elementary School in the Yap municipality of Tamil was began in 1962 and completed in 1968. Over the next five decades, the buildings slowly began to show their age as is common in the heat and humidity of tropical islands. One of the structures, a 2,000 square foot classroom building, was eventually closed.
Then, in 2014, the Tamil Youth Organization spearheaded a plan to renovate the unused building. They told community leaders that they wanted a cafeteria where students could receive a healthy lunch every day. The idea resonated with the community leaders, school officials, teachers and parents who agree that “a full stomach opens the mind to learning.”
Students at Tamilang Elementary School help Ambassador Riley and Yap State Gov. Tony Ganngiyan and other VIPs cut the ribbon for the school's recently rehabbed cafeteria and kitchen. (Photo: Joyce McClure)
Two years later, the US Department of Agriculture approved the TYO’s application for a USDA Rural Development grant to support the rehabilitation of part of the building into a kitchen and cafeteria. Work began and on Nov. 27, 2018, the students gathered outside to watch as Yap State Gov. Tony Ganngiyan and U.S. Ambassador Robert Riley joined a roster of senators, Tamil Council members and other VIPs assembled along with school officials, parents, teachers and residents of the community to cut a long red ribbon and open wide the doors on the modernized blue and white building.
“The USDA is proud that we could partner with the Tamil Youth Organization,” said Ambassador Riley. “This is one of the USDA’s favorite projects,” he added, noting that USDA Area Director, Gary Bloom, and his team in Pohnpei especially enjoyed the opportunity to work with the youth to make it a reality.
In addition to a large kitchen area, the building now has a spacious cafeteria room with a low stage at one end for performances and presentations. The $83,274 grant also included kitchen equipment that will be delivered soon after the first of the coming year, and tables and chairs for the cafeteria that have already arrived. Although not a part of the USDA grant, other rooms inside the building were rehabbed at same time and will be turned into a gym and exercise room and a storage area. Future plans include a library and computer room.
The daily school lunch program will be provided to the approximately 100 students by a different village every week with an emphasis on locally sourced food. The children clapped along with the honored guests as they heard their leaders give thanks to the TYO members for “a dream come true.” Then they joined the VIPs in cutting the ribbon before enjoying a large display of fresh, local foods prepared by the women of Tamil.