Sunday, February 28, 2010

Get another tsunami warning

This is the second one in the 6 months that I have been here. I guess its better to be scared and ready but nothing happen then washed away.

So, I woke up this morning tired because it had rained all night and there was a small earthquake. I drank my coffee and oatmeal as usual and the there was a knock at my door – my host mama heard on the radio there was a tsunami warning for Vanuatu and she wanted to know what information I had. But I had no news, so I quickly rang my mom and she gave me all the details: an 8.8 earthquake hit Chile and the whole South Pacific is on alert for a tsunami to hit somewhere between 8am and 11am. The time then was 7:45am. I rushed back to my hut and told my host family what I knew and then I got out my emergency backpack and lifejacket and waited. I figured I was already high up (it’s about a 20min hike up from the ocean) and I could go higher but Id have to hike down and then up again and there just wasn’t time. I just stayed put with my backpack on listening to the radio and the waves crashing in the distance (or at least I was listening in case I stopped hearing the waves crashing – then I’d need to brace myself). There was nothing to do but wait – I tried to read a magazine to take my mind off the situation. And then after 2 hours had passed, I called my mom and was assured that no tsunami will be coming. What a relief.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Think about trash with dread & confusion

What do you do with trash on an island – a very small island??? In some places in the world a dump is the same size as my whole island.

From my survey I found out that most (practically everyone) just throws their trash in the bush or down a cliff and burns most of it and the rest just piles up. I’m sure my lungs don’t like inhaling burning plastic – not sure what the effects are but they can’t be good. And the batteries, tin cans, and glass are scattered about waiting to injure some little bare-footed kid. These are just little things we also have lots of rusted sheets of corrugated tin for roofs that you need a tetanus shot just from looking at it. And as I’m cleaning and organizing the dispensary I’m troubled by what should I do with the unusable old stretcher circa WWII and other relics from “colonial times” (aka before independence in 1980 from Britain and France, who ruled together in a condominium style government).

In the past some families had trash pits for batteries (which should probably be disposed of in a cement pit but 1 step at a time), glass, plastic and tin cans. But they all are filled up now. So, I hope to give a workshop on sanitation and environmental health and hopefully encourage the communities to make some new pits – they recognize the need but just lack the motivation.

But still what to do with the big junk?

What do we do with junk in America – I guess we too throw it in our equivalent of the “bush”.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Go to work at the dispensary

Today was my first day a the dispensary (a smaller version of a health clinic minus a trained professional and advanced equipment – imagine a first aid stand with antibiotics). I’ll now be working every morning with Shelley, the nurse aid, helping her with organization, record keeping and other tasks.

So many people ask “what does a Peace Corps – health volunteer do in Vanuatu???” And I’m not sure if I even know the answer to that because this is unlike any job I”ve ever had – there are no specific tasks or deadlines just a basic outline and you can color the piture however you would like.

The outline says we are not here to provide medical care but to work to educate and create awareness of health issues. And to work with the health committee & health facility at site with their organization, projects and help keep them motivated. Some examples of community health volunteer projects:
- teach health classes at the school
- community health survey
- health workshops (on topics like reproduction, hygiene, malaria, etc)
- work with the village water committee to develop water projects
- toilet projects
- health food and how to cook workshop
- assist with health facility fundraising
- help community to organize a village cleanup
- help nurses in record keeping

These are just some examples and it all depends on the community what their needs are and what projects or activities they are interested in because it must start with them. I’m here to help and what I think are problems may not be the same as what they view as problems and sustainability will not occur if I’m the only driving force.

So right now I’m excited and flexible and ready for whatever – who knows how or what my service will be like – I just hope I can do some good for my peeps on Tongariki :)