7-6 PHAST Day 1, or Looking at the Resources and Challenges

The usual morning crowd
I have the PHAST workshop broken up into four days. Every community chooses its own schedule, so I’ve done them in three or four weeks, depending on how often the community wants to meet.

Every day starts something like this:

I arrive in the village around 8am. I go to the nakamal and say good morning to the youngfala boys who sleep there. I leave my bags in the nakamal and go find the person in charge, whether that is the chief or some other village leader. I walk back to the nakamal with him and he hits the tomtom (giant log hollowed out into a drum and used for summoning people or telling out important news). My co-facilitator and I set up the nakamal to our satisfaction, usually involving hanging a string and moving around some stools. Someone hits the tomtom again. I sort the first set of pictures out of the big stack. Someone hits the tomtom again. We chat and lounge around. Someone hits the tomtom again. Sometime around 9:30am, enough people have arrived to talk about starting. They hit the tomtom again. Somedays, they go once more on the tomtom, just for good measure. We start with an opening prayer and maybe a hymn, than anything the chief wants to say. My co-facilitator talks in language then I introduce the goals for the day and we get started.

The stories sometimes run long
On day one, we start out easy. The big group is broken into groups of about 5 people and each group gets a pile of pictures. They tell a story using four of the pictures. The pictures are pre-selected to focus on hygiene and sanitation issues, though not exclusively. I’ve heard stories about birth through death, stories about kava that is too strong, stories about star-crossed lovers and stories about pooping outside. It is a fun warm up. Each group presents their story to the wider group and then we move on.
Working on a community map

The second activity is a lot more challenging. I hang three pictures on the string; a picture of an Aid Post, a Health Center and a Kleva (kastom healer). Then, each person takes a picture. The person has to say what kind of sick that individual in the picture has and where they are going to get it seen to. This has been an enlightening activity for me. The first time, this activity took almost two hours because the participants sat and stared at me like I was off my rocker for the first forty-five minutes. Once they stopped staring at me, it took another hour for everyone, or close to everyone, to work up the courage to stand up and speak in front of the group. In the communities that get into it, the stories take the individual in the picture from the kleva to the aid post to the health center or from the aid post to the kleva to the health center. Further evidence of the “throw everything at it and hope something works” approach to medicine here.

Do not Disturb the artist!
At the end of this activity, I go through each form of illness and asks what causes it and whether it is something that can be blocked at the community level or if it needs medical intervention from the health center. I try to get the distinction between prevention and treatment, but that doesn’t always work. Finally, we zero in on the waterbourne illnesses and how they are influenced by fecal contamination. I don’t use those words, in fact I don’t even know how I’d translate that into Bislama.

The third activity is one of my favorites. The community draws a map. They choose what it is going to look like and what are important landmarks. I ask them to be sure to put all the water sources, toilets and garbage places on the map.


When the maps are done, we break up into two groups. The first group becomes tour guides. The second group becomes tourists. This always takes a little bit of effort to get into, but once they are into it, I can’t pull them back. I learned a spiel from one of the participants in the second village that seems to be working. I start by telling a bunch of people where they come from, everyone laughs really hard when I assign them places like Thailand and USA. Then I talk about the plane ride up out to Pentecost and bounce around on my seat during the “truck ride” on the road. Finally, we get up to the village and I immediately point out that I have to pee because the road was too bumpy. Everyone laughs and it seems to break the ice. From there, they get open season on the tour guides. The questions can get pretty ridiculous including a request for one of the guides to go get someone some fruit from the tree outside.

The idea is that this is a different way of looking at their own community. They get to brag about the things they are proud of and the tourists inevitably ask about toilets, why there are pigs running around and why there is poop on the ground.
Through all of this my co-facilitator is invaluable. He translates things into language when it isn’t clear in Bislama. He corrects people when they didn’t understand the directions right. He is another set of eyes and ears to keep things running smoothly. My co-facilitator is awesome.

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