10-9 World Vision Workshop, Round 2: Nutrition

Doesn’t this place look like a real office?

Sometime in August, Jason did a computer use workshop with the local branch of World Vision. (I think that blog went up in early-September.) While he was doing the computer stuff, I got to chatting with the manager of the early-childhood education program. World Vision is rolling out some new messages and trainings for their programs but the people implementing them were not feeling qualified for the work. So, he asked if I would come do a bit of additional training on nutrition, participatory methods and first aid. Actually, he asked for a whole bunch of other things, but we narrowed it down to those. Jason and I squished in a few days between all the end of term commitments and went to Lekavatkaimal where they have their Pentecost office.

First, the office. WTF? It is a concrete building with stairs, a veranda with fancy bricks making a half wall, five rooms inside, a generator, a stove and five computers. What? Standing in the building felt like someone had picked up a Vila office and dropped it in the bush in Pentecost. There were posters on the walls talking about the issues they address. There was a photocopier and two printers. There was a generator with enough benzine to run however much we needed it. There was 2 futons and a real mattress that had springs, not a foam pad. Bizarre.
I don’t think this truck has moved recently.

Once we got over the sheer wierdness of the office, we made ourselves at home. They had rainwater tanks for water but it hadn’t rained in about two weeks so the tanks were totally dry. That meant no bathing and minimal water to drink. That at least felt normal.

The first day of the workshop was all nutrition. I was really tired of the sound of my own voice by the end of the day. I tried to use as much participatory methods and engagement as I could but at some point, I just had to stand there and say, “This is vitamin A. Signs that a child isn’t getting enough include nightblindness, spots on the skin, and blah blah blah.” Which I did. For all of the vitamins. Then we played nutrition bingo, which is much more fun and interesting than me lecturing. The afternoon was all about breastfeeding and early childhood nutrition, which included pregnancy nutrition.
I learned a ton about nutrition, vitamins and vitamin deficiencies through prepping for this workshop. The resources I had for it included wikitaxi, an offline wikipedia. Any one who had been to college or high school knows how valuable wikipedia is for research, just like we all know we aren’t supposed to use it. I supplemented that with a bunch of WHO materials and some stuff from UNICEF working with a Fijian organization to make materials relevant to the South Pacific Islands. It really helped to be able to show pictures of things they recognize and use examples from staple foods here.
They fed us well, which I’ve come to expect. Lunch on the second day involved a chicken breast for Jason. He has been wondering where all the breasts go when they kill the chickens since he has yet to see one outside a restaurant in Vanuatu. He found one, which only increases the mystery since they should come in pairs.
Sometimes there has to be shadow puppets.

We went on a short walkabout to visit one of the other villages in the evening. We were standing outside their nakamal and chatting with the boys working kava when I decided to read the sign hanging on the wall. It was an announcement of a political meeting. One of the men asked what I thought and I made some non-commital answer about having recently heard a speech in my own nakamal about politics. I did not realize that that would fire up the volcano. Turns out, that guy was the organizer of that political party which is in opposition to the party I’d heard the speech by. I got out of any committed statements by claiming to have not understood a lot of it. (Actually, most of the speech was in Bislama with only a bit of language and French so I understood more or less all of it.) I still got a very informative lecture on the platform of the Vanuaka party and their stance on free education for primary schools. Then the person walking with us unsubtly decided it was time to go and we ran away. I have enough problems with American politics, I don’t need to get involved in Vanuatu ones, too.

We drank kava with the village in the evening. The chief there was a hilarious guy who really liked Americans. He kept telling us that Vanuatu needs to work with America more because America believed in equality and freedom for the ni-Vans when the French and English were busy colonizing the place. It is a common sentiment here which makes me curious about the view of Americans in the protectorates like Guam or American Samoa. That chief was a young man when the fight for independence was in full swing and had some very strong views about who was right and who was wrong.
This included a half a chicken as a thank you for our work.

For day 2, Jason and I tag-teamed. He did budgeting and money management while I prepared a powerpoint about participatory methods. (Don’t point out the irony there.) They really appreciated the budget stuff and had a lot of positive feedback for him. I dug into participatory methods, behavior change and PHAST after lunch. I used the PHAST pictures as examples of participatory methods and made the group actually do the activities which helped everyone stay awake. I had an extra hour at the end, so I did a quick lecture on heart attacks. Lucky for me, my medical background covered things like how the blood goes round and round and what happens when the arteries get clogged, so I could just BS my way through that one.
The group was a pleasure to work with again. They were attentive, curious, friendly and ready to learn. As I told them in my thank you talktalk at the end, the work isn’t hard when you have good people to work with. Working with them was a pleasure and World Vision is lucky to have such good staff.

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