11-30 Training the Newbies

These are now way out of date.  The process of putting up blogs has a few steps and they fell through the cracks, so here are posts about October!

Health Vols learning about participatory methods by participating

I was asked to assist with training the new PCVs this year. In my mind, this is an honor. This is a sign of my bosses’ trust in me, their respect for the work I’ve been doing, their faith that I can communicate that effectively (or more effectively than anyone else around). As is true anytime someone tells me they think I am doing well and then gives me more responsibility with vague expectations, I did my best to exceed the expectations.

I haven’t had a whole lot of say “slacker time.” (I still haven’t beat portal despite having the full game for 2 years now. If you don’t know what the game Portal is, go find out. Even if you don’t like video games. Go. I’ll wait. It’s that cool.) I am determined to make this training as good as I possibly can.
Week 1 the trainees were all together at IDS, which is like a summer camp. They had sessions on medical concerns, safety and security basics, administrative details, phone service, bank accounts and all the other bits and pieces that come with moving to a new place and starting a new job. Week 2 they moved out to their training villages where they got placed with a host family and started to really dig into culture shock. Week 3 was where I started. Week 10 they flew the nest and are heading to site, some with more success in arriving than others.
Each week of training for the health volunteers has a “theme.” All of our trainings are focused on that theme in some way or another. Week 3 was Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). Luckily, I had a lot of back up that week. I had only been off Pentecost for 2 days when I started and that was not enough to screw my head back on straight and get going. We did an NCD panel with several other volunteers discussing the ways they’d approached these topics. We did a day discussing 3-kaen kakae (Vanuatu food pyramid) and a day discussing causes and treatments for NCDs and learned a few songs about the body. Like I said, I needed a lot of back up that week.
Discussing diversity in the Peace Corps

The next week was Water, Hygiene and Sanitation, which is frequently and inaccurately shortened to WASH. Our daily topics included such gems as toilet technology, water systems and not eating your own feces. For these sessions, I was given the Global Core Sessions lesson plans. I took out the objectives and left the rest where they were. I did not feel that the Core Sessions were the best way of conveying the information in a culturally appropriate, Vanuatu accurate manner. For instance, one of the sessions had the trainees using the internet for research. There is no internet on the outer islands (though that is changing). So, I re-wrote from scratch, starting with the PHAST workshop and the objectives of the Core Sessions and working outward from there. Turns out that it takes me as long to write a good lesson plan as it does to run the lesson plan.

Week 5 was my favorite theme: Sex. I have come to love talking about sex. This time, I had the added bonus of an excellent co-facilitator in a fellow PCV, Nik. He and I tag teamed the STIs, HIV/AIDS, condom demo and road blo bebi activities interspersed with stories of our experiences teaching sexual and reproductive health and a very long vocabulary lesson on all the dirty or obscene words in Bislama. For an otherwise pretty non-descriptive language, they have a plethora of words for sex in all its forms. It was interesting to teach these topics to people who were engaged, participatory, and willing to ask questions. I continue to believe in the participatory methods as the best way of teaching, both in the conveying information and in the conveying “soft skills” like public speaking and engagement.
Week 6 they went to visit volunteers out on the islands. My one regret with moving into Vila early is that I didn’t get to host any trainees on Pentecost. Last year, that was a highlight of my year. This year, I saw them three days a week until they were sicking of sorting pictures into piles. Not quite the same experience.
How to Catch a Virus – Useful lesson

They came back with a lot of new questions and a lot of new perspectives. In many ways, seeing the broadened perspective and curiosity in the trainees as they came back from the islands was one of the most rewarding experiences. We rolled straight into week 7 and prepping for their practicum without more than a day’s break. That’s Peace Corps training for you. The sessions for that week included WASH with Kids, which I gutted and replaced with CHAST (Children’s Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation) as well as how to plan out a session and some basics on running a workshop.

Week 8 was all practicum, all week. They took the year 3 (~third grade) class and did a 2 day workshop on topics of their choosing. They focused on WASH topics as the most age appropriate. They had to design lesson plans, or steal lesson plans from existing resources, for each segment. Their topics included: hand washing, germ spread, rubbish disposal, tooth brushing, fecal-oral contamination routes, health diet and exercise. For each topic, they designed a 20 minute lesson with an “educational” aspect and a “participatory” aspect. I think the trainees and the kids did a good job and learned a lot through the process. In fact, the trainees probably learned more than the kids.
The following Sunday, the trainees left their training village and came to town. Since then, it has been a whirlwind of trainings, shopping, goodbyes, freakouts, shipping woes and swearing in. Peace Corps provides us with a mattress (2 inch foam pad), a bucket, a set of sheets and some little things like scissors, matches and round one of laundry soap. The rest of the things for setting up house come out of our “settling in allowance.” Of course, that means that each trainee has to go buy all of the things they want, like a set of plates or spoons. Their seemed to be two tactics to that. One was to go wander aimlessly through town until things started to accumulate vs making a list and asking current volunteers where to find the items. Eventually, I made a list of common items and shops they could be found in to hang on the wall. It seemed like the most efficient method available.
Homework presentations about non-communicable diseases

They are mostly off at site now and my job as a trainer is done for the moment. I’ll be doing more in February when I get back. I’m looking forward to it. I have throughly enjoyed training this group. I think trainings appeal to me the same way as working on the ambulance. There, I wanted to be the best thing that happened to someone on their worst day. Here, I want to be the positive influence they can see and say, “She helped me get ready for this scary/exciting/amazing/lonely/intense experience.” I hope I did it well.

Cross-posted to our new blog at tegabis.com

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