1-19 The State of the Work

Despite what this blog reflects, I am actually in Vanuatu to do a job.  That job is a little unclear most days, but I am here to do it.  My job description translates to something like “Improve the health of the area.”  It is up to me to determine what that means.

PHAST in action, discussing toilet improvements for the community
I like these parameters.  I am a self-starter and I work best with minimal supervision.  (Its a nice way or saying I don’t like authority.)  Most of the time, this works out great for me.  However, there are days it is kind of rough.  There are days I want nothing more than to show up to a job and be told to go take care of something that I can then proceed to ignore or half ass until the end of the work day when I can go home and feel like I did my eight hours.  I don’t do that here.  Even on the days I feel like slacking, I have to motivate me to go do work.
This conundrum has been challenging for some Community Health volunteers.  It is hard work to go make yourself a job every day.  For some volunteers, their last year of service becomes a year of watching time pass.  They’ve run out of steam to find work and are just waiting to finish their contracts.  I’m at the point right now where I can choose to sit back and play with my cats and go swim in the ocean or I can make the choice to keep working hard and searching out things to do and people to do them with.  Those of you who know me know which choice I’ve made, but that doesn’t mean it is easy.
Here is what I’m doing and how it is going. 
After a four day PHAST workshop, we did a group picture

Toilets

I did a lot of workshops about hygiene and sanitation.  In them, the community chose a project to improve their hygiene and sanitation.  I chose these workshops based on surveys in which the community members told me there is a lot of trouble with toilets.  So, the community chose to build water seal (dump a bucket to flush) toilets.  I agreed to help them write a grant.  That was over six months ago.  The grant is still incomplete, though it is under consideration by the funding agency.  The community contribution was due over a month ago and I haven’t seen or heard of anyone giving their portion of the money.  The person I was working with has forgotten to show up to talk about this twice in a row.  In a continuing effort to not give up, I went to the chief to discuss this state of affairs.  We’ll see if there is any change in the coming month.  If not, I will strongly consider pulling the grant out of consideration. 
Children’s Sanddrawing workbook
There are beautiful sand drawings that have meanings and stories that go with them.  The stories and even the drawings themselves are disappearing as the oldfala die or become to senile to show them to people.  There are a few people who are interested in preserving this art form.  I am trying to work with one of them to create a small workbook/coloring book for kids that include how to make about a dozen of the drawings and the stories that go with them.  If I can pull it off, I’d like to stories to be in Apma, Bislama, French and English.  Literacy, here we come!  Of course, the last three times I’ve tried to meet with the oldfala, something has made us not connect.  I still don’t have the drawings or the stories so I can’t even start to type them up and create a layout for the book, much less look for a publisher or funding to publish it.  Sigh.
Weekly Health toktok
I want to get my  counterpart involved in doing more health outreach as well as learning more about health and medicine herself.  She is interested in going to nursing school in the future.  I thought we could do weekly or bi-weekly lectures of an hour or less about one or two topics each week.  It would give the two of us a chance to discuss health topics and hopefully increase her knowledge while doing some basic education within the community.  We set a date for the first one.  She cancelled it the night before.  We set a second date.  She cancelled it.  I went to her about a third date, she cancelled it.  I tried a fourth date, she cancelled in the morning of.  I think I’m done trying on that plan.
High School Health Class


In Jason’s classroom, mine is up the hill with chalkboards, not computer.

I was teaching the high schoolers health.  By health I mean sex ed.  This is one of the places I can say I’ve been successful.  I’ve increased the knowledge of STIs and STI prevention among the 14-17 year-olds in the area.  I know they are using condoms because I keep finding the condom wrappers hidden in dark corners.  When we did Sex Jeaopardy on the last day of class, there were only a few questions that stumped them.  I’ll be teaching in the school again this coming school year, though I may try to expand from sex ed to include nutrition and basic first aid.

Children Hygeine and Sanitation Transformation
It isn’t a success yet, but its getting there.  I’m working with some other PCVs to create a toolkit of pictures to teach hygiene and sanitation to first through fifth graders.  We’re ready to do a beta test of it when the new school year starts, I’ll tell you if it goes anywhere from there.

At the Training of Trainers for a GLOW/BILD.
Next step: run a GLOW/BILD

Camp GLOW/BILD

These are youth leadership and empowerment camps that are really encouraged within Peace Corps.  We went to a Training of Trainers last May.  We left with every intention of running one in our community.  Since then, the girl who came with us left to get married on Santo, one of the boys got married and is too busy and the other one hasn’t showed up to talk to me about it.  We may try to do a long weekend instead of a full week sometime in the next few months.  Again, it seems like the momentum is lost and it will take some serious effort to build it back up.
Adolescent Reproductive Health Curriculm
This is another project to try to give Peace Corps more resources for the future.  I’m basing it on my experience teaching last year.  I haven’t done a lot yet, but again, I have high hopes.  I always have high hopes.

I have a few more ideas of things I want to do before I leave.  I’d like to do a AIDS/STI workshop in the community.  I may try to make it a really big deal over two or three days and do a tournament and hire the band to play or watch AIDS related videos in the evenings.  We’ll see.  I’d like to do a maternal and child nutrition workshop with the mamas.  I’m going to talk to someone about that today.  We’ll see what other work I can find to do.  I’m good at coming up with ideas for work, anyway.

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