3-9 CHAST write up

Danielle and 2 students discussing the pictures

This is the write-up I just did for my boss about what I spent the last week doing.  It isn’t my usual style of blog post, but it is proff that I do work once in a while.

The Children’s Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (CHAST) is a toolkit originally developed in Somalia by Caritas, Int to address hygiene and sanitation issues with children.  The toolkit follows the same participatory methodology as the Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST) for adults.  The aim of the program is to use pictures to convey messages about hygiene and sanitation to children who are pre-literate in a way that engages them in their own processes of cleanliness. 

Showing off the pictures they colored

The toolkit consists of a manual, two character puppets who act as guides through the process, two more puppets for small puppet shows and about 100 images.  The workshop is broken into modules with one to three activities per module.  The activities can be run serially over the course of a few days or spread out in installments of an hour at a time once a day or once a week.  Along with the hygiene and sanitation objectives, the goals of the program include soft skills like public speaking, group collaboration and critical thinking.

The impetus for CHAST in Vanuatu started with the discovery of the Somalia manual online while searching for a PHAST manual.  They determined that CHAST did not meet the needs of their community and focused their efforts on PHAST.  The manual was mentioned in trainings about PHAST and the idea of a toolkit directly addressing the children caught the attention of several volunteers.  A cross-project committee was formed to create a pilot toolkit for Vanuatu.

The silly faces at the end of first day. 
I think I’m being the silliest.

Behavior change is easiest in children and children are the most likely to spread messages that encourage behavior change.  By targeting that population, we hoped to have a high instance of behavior change which may “trickle up” to the adults.
We started to develop the toolkit in April, 2011.  It took several months to complete the drawings, create the puppets and have a pilot toolkit ready for testing.  By the time all of it was put together, it was time for school break.  We waited until the start of the new year and ran a test pilot the third week of school.

The Poop Demon and Clean Fairy with the guides through the program.

The CHAST workshop was a positive experience for everyone involved.  The two PCV facilitators were assisted by the regular teacher of a mixed-grade class spanning years 1-3.  The entire workshop took about 7 hours spread across three days with nine participants.  The transformation in public speaking and confidence of the students over the three days was as rewarding as the increased knowledge of hygiene behaviors.  The children started the workshop with presentations that were barely audible, their backs turned and their hands in front of their faces.  By the last presentation, each student turned to face their audience, pointed to the picture they were describing and spoke clearly.  The best surprise happened when we went to the bathroom to discuss the proper use of the facilities.  The students had just seen a puppet show about banishing stinky-poop demons with soap and water.  When they got to the bathroom, the discovered their own bathroom was like the one in the puppet show.  They decided to banish their own demons and spontaneously cleaned the toilets, without any prompting by the facilitators.

Though the toolkit requires some revisions, the baseline that we’ve created seems to be functional.  We will spend the next two months refining and re-testing the toolkit we have now then make it available to other PCVs and NGOs in Vanuatu.

Practical lessons: How to wash hands!
Roylline really knows the answer

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


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


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.

12-17 I Talk About Sex a Lot

I mentioned this in a previous post, but after my last trip to Vila it bears repeating. I talk about sex a lot. I’m pretty knowledgeable about the mechanics and the plumbing and I’m good at not being embarrassed, so it comes pretty easily to me. It came in useful on my last trip to Vila.

I went to Vila for a meeting. On Wednesday evening, a big group of us went out to kava. All work gets done over kava in this country. I went to hang with a bunch of other PCVs and one of them had brought her co-workers as well. She works in the office of another organization called Save the Children Australia(SCA). After a few shells, one of her co-workers comes and sits down next to me and asks if we can talk work. We’re at the nakamal, where better to discuss work?
By the end of a rather long conversation, I agreed to run one day of a five day workshop focused on sexual and reproductive health and outreach techniques. I was doing the plumbing and baby-blocking day. I had a nine days to prepare.
I called my dad. Naturally, when one wants to talk about sex, one should call one’s father. My life is normal. He proved incredibly helpful after all, he’s an ob/gyn. He’s also good at talking about sex.
After a week of silence from SCA, I was starting to freak out. I hadn’t heard if my lesson plans were approved, I didn’t have the supplies I needed to make my flip charts, I hadn’t printed out my handouts and I didn’t know where to get things like condoms. Luckily, I got ahold of them on Wednesday afternoon and went to their office. I was printing and collating until 9pm, but I got it done. I spent all of Thursday morning drawing diagrams of uteruses (uteri?) and penises.
The workshop started like every workshop I’ve done here does, which is to say, an hour late. We had transport issues. Normal, for Vanuatu. I wasn’t even concerned about it at an hour, I would have started getting nervous at 2.
The people I was teaching were all involved with the outreach program. They in some way support or work as outreach to talk about sex, HIV/AIDS, family planning and STIs. Their education ranged from finishing tenth grade (not necessarily passing) to 4 nurses and a couple of Master’s degrees. Their ages varied from about 20 up through late 50s. They did awesome.
It was a pleasure to work with people who were engaged, eager to learn and not full of shame. Shame is a big deal here. Shame about things like sex is a huge issue. When I talk to teenagers, I have to deal with them literally hiding behind their friends, collapsing into giggles and putting their face in their friend’s lap to hide or just laughing so hard I can’t teach. That’s when they manage to overcome their shame enough to even show up.
There was only once in the entire day I said something that made someone hide. I was talking about anal sex, so I guess a little bit of nervous tittering is ok, most people in the States would have done that, too.
We started the day with naming parts. We started with calling out all the slang names for breasts, penis and vagina/vulva. Then I put name tags on everyone’s back with a word on it. They had to go around asking yes or no questions to find out what body part they were. By the end of those, no one had much shame left.
Even though I’ve done a lot of sex ed, I still struggle with impostor syndrome. I found myself standing in the front of a room asking myself why I was doing this. Aren’t there more qualified people to teach this stuff? But really, with the way I’ve been running my workshops, it isn’t about being qualified in knowing every bit of information and factoid about birth control, its about knowing how to elicit that information from within the group. It wasn’t me telling the group about birth control, it was them explaining different methods to each other. I feel like that is a more effective form of learning. Or I’m just excusing my impostor syndrome and lack of knowledge. I hope its the first one.

7-28 PHAST part 6: The Importance of a Co-Facilitator

I just feel the need to say again that my co-facilitator for the workshops is amazing. I found him on a fluke.

Pierre-Joseph in action

My Peace Corps assigned counterpart doesn’t follow through on anything and doesn’t show up to commitments, so I’d given up on using him. I thought I’d use the individuals on the Aid Post Committee, figuring they were community members in good standing with some sort of connection to my work. The first place I did a workshop was my own village, which meant my papa was my co-facilitator. I spent five evenings working with him to teach him the workshop and the goals. We set a date for the workshop, it was going to be the following Thursday. I went to Vila over the weekend (bad choice, too little time for the expense level.) He decided to go to Vila on the ship to watch football (soccer). He decided not to take the first ship back to the island.

My workshop is scheduled for Thursday remember. I called him Monday and he didn’t pick up. He called me late on Tuesday and told me he was still in Vila. On Wednesday, I was going to go talk to the chief and cancel the workshop. I was not going to do it by myself and I was not willing to set that precedent. Pierre-Joseph caught me on my way and he was carrying the notebook I’d written the Bislama cheat sheet in. Last time I saw that notebook, it was in my papa’s house. Pierre-Joseph said he’d take over. We spent all afternoon and evening going over the workshop for the next day.

We ran it the next day and it went fine. From there, due to further flakiness by other people and his continued hard work, I decided that my best possible course forward was to use him for all the workshops.

Last week, he ran a workshop by himself. I’d gone to Vila for a meeting and he took the initiative to do the first day of the workshop on his own. This is huge. People here don’t volunteer for leadership roles, they are more just shoved into them. Not showing up to something is not a big deal and standing up in front of a crowd is putting yourself above your neighbors. He told me the workshop went great and we ran the next part of it together. I think this is the kind of capacity building I am here to do. He may not ever need to run a PHAST workshop again, but he has learned more about public speaking and how to present to a group than I could have hoped for.

For me, this has been a learning experience in a lot of ways. I have had to learn how to run this workshop with no formal training, I’ve learned more about facilitation than I thought possible and I’m learning to let go of the results of my work. It will be interesting and I hope exciting to see where these projects go.

7-28 PHAST Day 4, or Creating the Program

Day four is very concrete. The goal is that we will have a program for building whatever facilities they have decided on over the course of the next year.

Pinning the program up for all to see.

The first activity asks them to tell the story of how to build a toilet (or water supply, or whatever they’ve decided to build). They put the pictures in order with each step in the construction stages including steps like “have a meeting,” and “write a grant.” Then the small groups present to the big group. Once all the small groups have presented, they have to agree on a single way of building a toilet.

The plan they create goes up on the string and stays there for the rest of the day. Once they have a plan, I ask who will do each of the steps. Most of the work is the community, which is fine, but some things need to be specifically assigned like ordering supplies or joining pipes. Once we know who is doing the step, I ask who is in charge of making sure that step gets done. In some cases, this prompts a toilet committee to form, in other cases they just say the chief. Once we know who will do the work and who will be in charge of the work, I ask how long it will take.

Filling in the chart

The timeline is a rough step. Time here is different. Deadlines happen, though they are often treated as starting points, not ending points. The idea that something might happen to interrupt the work being done and be need to plan for extra time is new. Even for things like Christmas holidays which is taem blo spel and no one does any work, I have to prompted them to think about putting extra time in those months.

Finally, we have a functional schedule for the facility improvements. None of the schedules we’ve made have held true yet, but you know, at least we made them.

This man likes his questions! 
He put in like seven, including, “Where is the kava bar?”

The next activity is a question basket again. This time, instead of asking anything about the workshop, I ask them to focus on problems that might happen in the schedule they just built. I give an example of the ship sinking with all the supplies, which is usually copied or answered by several people. The question game is hard and requires a different kind of thought process. It requires critical thinking skills which are in short supply here, but usually people ask about what happens if the community doesn’t follow through or if we can’t get funding. Then they answer those questions, like the first question basket.

While they are asking and answering questions, I draw a chart. On the left side is each step they’ve agreed needs to be accomplished. On the top is how much?, how?, and who?. The hope is that this gets them thinking about the work in a different way. They really like filling in the chart, so I guess that’s a step.

That’s where the workshop ends for the day. We always close with a prayer and often closing kava or food. In two communities, I was told to go home and they would tell me a different day for closing kava and food because it had gotten too late in the evening. That was fine with me, it was too late in the evening.

That’s my village!

7-8 PHAST Day 3 or Let’s Stop Eating Poop

I’m trying to be delicate…
Day three is both one of the most interesting and the most difficult day. This is the behavior change day and requires a delicate hand at facilitating. Let’s be honest, I’m not delicate at anything. It requires a lot of work on my part, but when it works it is pretty neat.
The day starts with a sanitation ladder. They don’t really use ladders here and there aren’t any stairs, so translating the concept has been interesting. I am using the metaphor of a hill, which people here definitely get. We have a lot of hills.
The activity itself takes a handful of pictures of different toilets, water and animal control options and asks the groups to put them in order from best to worst. When they have the order, they are asked to choose where they are now and where they would like to be in one year. The idea is that by laying out the ladder, they can see that there are small steps to take to reach a goal and that they don’t have to jump from the bottom to the top in one go. I think it kind of works, but due to outside influences here, they sometimes miss the point. Part of this activity is to try to get a debate started about what the best possible option for this community is. The “where we want to be” picture is what we set as the goal for the rest of the workshop. In some places, they’ve reached agreement easily at this stage and had an argument later and in other places they’ve started the argument right then. I’m happy with either option.
I’m sure he had some insightful questions to write.
Once we have a goal for facility changes, we start on activity two which talks about behavior changes. The small groups look through various behavior pictures that they have already deemed good or bad and find two pictures. One is a picture of a bad behavior that is happening in this community and they want to stop. The second is a picture of a good behavior that is happening a little bit but they want to encourage to happen more. This is where the delicate hand of facilitation comes in. It is my job to help them find ways to encourage or discourage the behaviors, without actually telling them what to do. In some communities, this works great. They want to talk about these problems and everyone has an opinion. In some communities, they want me to tell them what to build and it doesn’t work great. Every workshop is a new experience.
The last activity for day three is one of my favorites. Everyone gets a slip of paper that they write a question on. Any question about the workshop so far is a valid question. Every paper goes into a basket so it is completely anonymous. They all think I’m going to answer the questions up until the point I start handing the slips of paper back out and asking them for answers to the questions. It can be a really empowering activity, if it goes well. The community can see that all of the information it needs to accomplish these goals already exists within the community, which is both empowering and scary. It means they are running out of excuses to not do things.
In my village, this activity went really well, in a backwards kind of way. My co-facilitator at the time pulled the question, “There aren’t very many people at your workshop. How do you feel about that?” Clearly, that was addressed to me, but because it was my co-facilitator who pulled it, I got to turn it around on him. He had to answer the question, as a leader.
Pulling the questions out of the basket
I did answer it after but my answer still turned it back around onto the community. In my mind, I am running these workshops because people have asked for help with toilets. I am not running these workshops because I have a long-term interest in living in this community, so the people who will be living here should take responsibility for using the resources available to them to improve their own lives. That is a little harsh, I know. On the other hand, I’m on a contract which, when it is finished, means I will go back to the US and have running water and indoor plumbing. This is their life. I don’t want to waste my own time or their resources by being here and I am a goal oriented person. I like results. But in the end, it is their lives that will be impacted by having toilets and they need to take responsibility for that.
There have been a lot of questions about things like funding (grant vs fundraiser), who will do the work (the community), and what happens if they don’t do the work (nothing, or loss of grant money, depending).
The goal of day three is that at the end, people are thinking about changing certain behaviors and thinking of ways to improve their own behavior to avoid eating poop.

7-6 PHAST Day 2, or How We All Eat Poop!

Day two is what I refer to as the “education day” in polite company. Luckily for me, none of the PCVs can be considered polite company anymore so we mostly just call it “how we eat poop.”
After the usual two hour wait and story time, we dive into poop-talk. That is, after all, the reason for doing this workshop. We start with an activity about good and bad hygiene and sanitation. There are three piles, one for good behaviors, one for bad behaviors and one for things that run the middle ground. The small groups sort about twenty pictures into those three piles, then they have to explain why it is a good or bad behavior.
Gud, I Stap lo Midel, Nogud
This activity is a hilarious look at cultural differences around art. A lot of time, things that are supposed to be “good” behaviors get put in the “bad” or “middle” categories because of artistic issues. For instance, the protected water source picture (it shows a pond with a fence around it and is in contrast to a pond with a pig in it) is regularly put in the “bad” category during my workshops. People interpret it as a pig pen and the pig is not inside the fence, therefore it is bad. Similarly, the first draft of the tied up pig picture showed it tied by a rope around its neck to a coconut tree. When Ni-Vans looks at this, they see it as very bad. You don’t tie animals by the throat, they might choke. You tie them by the leg. If you tie the pig under a coconut tree, a coconut might fall on it and kill it and you’ll have to step in pig poop to get your coconuts that will also have pig poop on them. That one required a re-draw. The pig is now tied under a non-coconut tree by its front leg. There are some arguments about the front leg but it is mostly acceptable now.
By the time we get through how pooping outside is bad and touching poop is gross, people are pretty well past the shy stage. There is only so much poop a person can handle without laughing.
That’s my chief.
He sat down in front of the nogud sign…
If the first activity didn’t get them there, the second activity certainly will. I show them a picture of a boy pooping outside and a second picture of a mouth. I tell them to look at the rest of the pictures to tell the story about how the poop goes from the ground to the mouth. I get more “crazy white lady” looks and then we move on. I get a lot of the “crazy white lady” looks during this workshop. The hoped for end result is that there are five ways we eat poop: fingers, flies, food, fields and fluids. (It’s called an f-chart.) Let this be a lesson to all of you with running water to WASH YOUR HANDS! Only you can avoid eating poop!
Once they’ve presented their charts to the larger group and agreed on the routes to eat poop, we try to block those routes. I give them another pile of pictures of “good” hygiene behaviors like handwashing, covering up food and teaching children to use a toilet. They have to block the routes they found and then explain them to the group.
My favorite is lunch time on day two. It falls either between those two activities or right after, which means everyone is discussing eating poop. They all tease each other about handwashing. It is the best peer pressure ever.
The debate is on!
The next activity is what I refer to as the “you don’t have an excuse” activity. They go through each option they used to block the eating of poop and decide how effective it is – not at all, some or very – and how hard it is – not at all, some or very. The idea is that they will see the “easy” and “very effective” options and start thinking about implementing them. At the end of this, we spend a little time discussing why these things aren’t happening and what could change to make them happen, but there is a lot more of that in day three.
Then I start marital discord. The last activity for the day is a short gender analysis. There are pictures depicting different aspects of hygiene and sanitation work and they put them in piles for men’s work, women’s work or work for both. The women get quite up in arms about the whole thing and usually by the end the conclusion is men here are slackers. It is true. They are. So, then we talk about what small changes we can make to the gender assigned roles to make hygiene and sanitation easier and therefore, more likely to happen.

It is kind of hard to end on this activity. People get riled up and I don’t want to end on a negative, but the next day doesn’t really have space for that activity and I don’t want to start the day on that high tension tone. I think the activity is important, I just don’t know where to put it.

All the workshops are inside the nakamal. This is how I set it up to try to focus the attention where I want it.

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.

7-6 Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation, or Why I Talk About Poop All the Time

The idea is that the community shares knowledge and
the facilitator just gives them a place to do that.
The Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST) workshop is one of the current big development tools in the Pacific. It follows the SARAR (I can’t remember what that stands for) methodology that basically says active participation will teach better than passive reception and is more empowering. The theory behind PHAST is that people in the developing world have been receiving messages about hygiene and sanitation for the last twenty or so years, so repeating the same information over and over is not going to change people’s behaviors or available facilities. If however, people are given a place to discuss their own issues and challenges, they are a whole lot more likely to have behavior change and can chose to improve facilities in a way that is appropriate to the available resources.

For example, a community without running water wouldn’t benefit from water seal toilets, though they are the most sanitary toilet option. The toilets require a bucket of water to flush and without easy access to water, that bucket just won’t happen allowing the excrement to build up in a much smaller hole than a pit toilet. After that same community gets a good water source, it still might not be the best option because they might not have access to toilet paper. The plumbing is too small to take leaves, the TP alternative of choice around here, and when those leaves go in the toilet it will block up. An outsider coming in, might not be able to assess these issues accurately and therefore recommend a project that is not appropriate to the community. If said outsider came during the rainy season, there may be plentiful water in rain tanks making that person think that water isn’t an issue. So, through this methodology, the community itself chooses what it sees as the best option for the circumstances of that community.

My co-facilitator and I planning our next move
The workshop itself is a series of small activities, each one lasting an hour or two. The activities are done with a set of about 40 pictures. That has been vital to my success. First off, there are three languages spoken in my area, two of which don’t have standardized writing systems. I don’t speak French, so I can’t run it in that, which leaves me without a good written system to convey information. Secondly, the last literacy study in Central Pentecost found that the adult literacy rate is around 7% and is only slightly higher (10%) in the young adults who benefitted from government sponsored education. Finally, we are in what is considered a “rural area,” which is a nice way of saying the Vanuatu sticks. We haven’t had a lot of contact with outsiders and the women especially haven’t traveled. Many of them speak little to no Bislama and only a few words of French. That is continuing to be a struggle in my service.

Room for help from all sizes
Each activity has a “goal,” or reason for doing it. Often those goals include such hippy-inspired ideas as “improving the community’s confidence” and “breaking down barrier around the issue.” It seems to work though, so I can’t knock on the hippies too much. (Jason would like to point out I am one.)

As the facilitator, I spend a lot of time biting my tongue. This process is very much about the community discovering for itself the issues it is facing and what it can do to improve its own situation. This means, I don’t correct misinformation and I don’t tell them what kinds of projects are reasonable. That has been a challenge.

I love the theory here. The practice has been an interesting experience.
Small group work in the workshop

7-1 Peace Corps Goal 2.5

The Peace Corps has three main goals.

1) To provide skilled individuals to countries in need.

2) To teach the assisted people’s about America and Americans.

3) To teach Americans about other cultures.

We think we are working on goal 2.5. We haven’t clearly defined goal 2.5 though. It might be bringing American culture to other developed nations, or maybe bringing Vanuatu to other developed nations or possible bringing other developed nations’ culture to America. We do all three and call it goal 2.5.

We spend a lot of time hanging out with other people from developed nations, mostly New Zealand, Australia and England, who are also volunteering here in Vanuatu. We have the Oxford, now called Project Teach Vanuatu, Volunteers who teach English in Melsisi and Science and Math in Ranwadi. We have the GAP or Latitude volunteers in Ranwadi who teach English. In January, we spent some time talking to the Teen Mission volunteers from Australia and New Zealand.

Every volunteer here has a different experience. The experience of living at a school is not the same as living in the village, which is not the same as living in Vila. Even our job descriptions change our experiences. The teachers, like Jason, have the school schedule to follow and things like timetables. The health volunteers, like me, have a job description that consists of “improve health in the area” which could be interpreted any number of ways and doesn’t lend itself to a work schedule.

Because of our living situation, we are bridging the school lifestyle and the village lifestyle. It has been great to be able to help groups like Teen Mission to see what the village looks like and what life in the village is. Bringing them to Vansemakul and up to the garden was an experience they wouldn’t otherwise have gotten while they were working on the school in Melsisi.

In the same way, by hanging out with the other volunteers, I get to find out what they make as cultural in-jokes. Ask someone from England about Percy Pig and why it was funny to name the pig we were eating for a feast Percy. As always, I love talking to people and learning more about how people tick. This is just one more way to see the world through someone else’s eyes.