WErise: Lisa Sapu – Empowering Children through Early Literacy


As a little girl, she would rush home every afternoon from Kama Adventist school in Goroka to watch the Kids Kona show on EMTV. She would imagine children interacting and paying attention to her, just like her favourite host on the show. Her dream flourished as life guided her to become a teacher graduating from Balob Teachers College years later.

This is the story of 33 year old Lisa Nellie Sapu, a dedicated Eastern Highlands and Engan woman who since attending primary school, has always had a dream to one day run her own Kids Club.

Lisa grew up in a well disciplined home with her parents and her four siblings. Most of her free time was spent indoors helping with house chores and getting creative with things such as drawing using scrap papers, and other fun activities she could get her hands on, in and around the house.

Lisa loves her peaceful hometown of Goroka. She totally loves the climate, the food; which you can easily get cheaper at the local markets, and the beautiful people in her neigbourhood and community.

But Life hasn’t been easier on Lisa. She has been through some devastating times along the way, causing her tremendous pain, hurt and grief. She tells us how she was a victim of abuse and later on, losing her one and only child – her son, and then losing the father of her child. Life placed Lisa in a dark and lonely place but despite these tragedies, her hope and faith in God gave her strength to overcome these challenges.

Lisa’s parents have always been her role models; guiding her and teaching her about empathy and forgiveness through Christ. Her Bible Teachers and Youth Leaders from church have also been a positive influence in her life. Through it all, Lisa’s two elder sisters have been her main support and biggest believers in her courage and fight to get through her difficult times.

In search of her purpose and meaning in life, after leaving the government education system and other teaching roles and programs in the private sector, Lisa came across the Jolly Phonics System online which she became quite interested in. She discovered that Jolly Phonics was the top curriculum in the world to help kids to read and write at a very early age.

This sparked her interest and Lisa knew she had to get involved in this straight away, somehow. The stars aligned for Lisa when she found a PNG Jolly Phonics Professional Trainer running Jolly Phonics training in Lae, so she registered and got herself down to Lae for the training program. She was the youngest in the group and the only participant from the Highlands region at the time.

As soon as Lisa returned from her training in Lae, she asked her dad to use a spare room at home to run reading sessions for small kids in her community. Lisa said initially it was only meant to be an experiment of 10 kids but to her surprise, about 60-70 kids and their parents enquired to join. 

Without being fully set up, and with no teacher aid to assist, Lisa took the risk and opened up Lisa’s Jolly Reading Club in February of 2019, her very own Kids Club.

Now in its second year of operation, Lisa’s Jolly Reading Club has a total of 30 students enrolled, and Lisa has since hired a young female employee to be her Teacher’s Aid.

Lisa’s Jolly Reading Club is all about creating a better future generation for Papua New Guinea, focusing on children at an early age. Lisa’s aim is to get as many children as possible to learn and understand the importance of being educated through reading and writing, and to instill in her students a growth and leadership mindset to enable them to empower change in their homes and communities.

At Lisa’s Jolly Reading Club, they teach the alphabet and the 42 main sounds of English. Lisa explains that Jolly phonics is a synthetic phonics scheme for teaching children how to read and write in the first school year. It teaches the children the 5 basic skills they need to master in order to become proficient readers and writers. These 5 basic skills are; Learning the letter sounds, Learning letter formation, Blending, Identifying sounds in words, and Tricky words.

Children following the Jolly Phonics scheme can expect to be, on average, up to a year ahead with reading and a little further with spelling by the end of their first year. When a child learns how to read at an early stage, he or she is likely to have a brighter future.

Lisa’s Jolly Reading Club currently has kids ranging from the ages of 3 – 10 years old. During lessons the kids have story lines that go with the sound of the day, where they get to identify the sound through the story and then, they get to learn the letter formation guarded by spoken guidance to write sounds correctly. They also do tracing, painting, colouring, creative arts and crafts, singing, dancing and playing most of the time.

“So far I am amazed by what I’ve accomplished. Parents have spoken to me about their child’s behavioural changes and improvements at home which has impacted the whole family and even spreading out into their neighbourhood. These young children are contributing much more and adding more value to their livelihoods at home. I am overwhelmingly happy to serve, especially to the less fortunate ones because most parents here are self-sufficient and self-employed. I feel so blessed by God and everyone around me and the club for believing in me.”

Lisa Nellie Sapu

Lisa exudes passion in helping others thrive and loves putting a smile on peoples faces. She believes in the power of doing good and forgiving others who wrong you. In her free time when she’s not preparing programs and activities for her kids club, Lisa enjoys singing and playing her guitar and taking part in the singing ministry group at church. Lisa also enjoys doing little ‘DIY’ projects in her spare time. At the moment she’s crafting cute little bilum clutches or purses which she sells to customers upon request.

Lisa’s hope is to one day see a decrease in the rate of unemployed youths in PNG. As a teacher by profession it saddens Lisa to see young, innocent, potentially intelligent students drop out of grade 8, 10 or 12 with nowhere to go with limited opportunities. Lisa hopes that the government could recognise the importance of reading in younger generations in the rural communities and hopefully engage youths to carry out reading and learning programs into their communities. This will involve a collective effort from communities and the government.

Lisa believes it is vital for all kids to attend an Early Childhood Learning Program before moving into the first level of education in our government school system. 

Lisa would like to encourage Women and Girls in PNG that through life experiences, there is a package of blessing that comes with every trial. Have faith in God as He is preparing us for something great. Stand firm, look for the lessons, change your course, follow your passions and don’t look back.

For enquiries regarding enrolment at Lisa’s Jolly Reading Club, contact Lisa on ‘Lisa’s Jolly Reading Club’ Facebook Page.

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  1. Inspiring article of a young woman who with sheer determination contributing in her own little way to our country’s development. I strongly believe in reading. Little children must be taught the techniques of attacking small words using the phonetic sounds. Reading makes writing easier. Writing is the second step. Reading and comprehsion is a very serious problem in our country. Many people don’t seem to understand what they read because they lack word attack skills and identifying clues in understanding vocabulary used in context. Teachers live in the hearts of the children they teach..Long live the teachers..You can turn mirrors into window..

  2. Thankyou so much for your positive reinforcement in reading. As of today iam still running my reading Club and now hosting annually Spelling Bee Competition in my home town Goroka. This year 2024 will be the 3rd one.


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