Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Iva, Month Four, Progress Report


Along with all the extracurricular activities, we actually have a Peace Corps job, funded by your tax dollars. Here are some of the things we are doing.

Village Telecenter and Computer Training
Our request for a village telecenter was set back because there are no possible funds until at least next June. This means the telecenter is at least a year away.

Our efforts to use the unused computers for training at the local primary and secondary schools also have been disappointing. The principal at the primary school ask me to start training teachers. We set up a schedule of two hour sessions to begin the next week after classes ended. When I rode up on my bike the following Monday, I found the school building completely locked up and won’t be opened again until the end of January when classes start again. Likewise the large computer room at the secondary school isn’t available because no funds are available for electricity to run the air conditioning. Lessons for the school principal who has had a computer sitting on his desk unused for a year also are on hold.

If the schools are not more receptive to train their own teachers or open up to train Iva residents at the end of January, then we will have to find ways to turn up the heat.

Sewing Machines
Success! Our proposal for seven manual sewing machines was approved by New Zealand Aid. Mary went to Apia, got the check, and placed the order for them. They probably won’t arrive until the end of January. The administration is to be done by the Women’s Committee.

Iva does not have a place to store the machines or a place to do the training. The grant for the machines may now generate a new proposal to build a Women’s Committee House. Problems exist because there doesn’t seem to be any available land. Stay turned for our next major project.

Village Youth
The talent contest was our first attempt at trying to unite the village youth. What a roaring success. In fact, it has generated a sense of community and pride. New youth events are in the planning stage. A new series of talent contests modeled after American Idol with a resultant CD and a sports day are scheduled for the coming months. This bringing together youth from different churches and those who are considered losers has been tremendously gratifying for Mary and me. When you hear from other villages and from Apia talk about the talent show, our lava lavas almost come off.

Demonstration Garden
Suddenly my little personal garden is turning into a project with the Ministry of Agriculture. The Ministry is hoping to encourage villagers to start their own backyard gardens to improve nutrition and to earn extra money. They say they are providing me with seeds and fertilizer. Samoans love vegetables, but seem reluctant to grow them.

I plan to expand the size of my garden after the holidays. It is nice to see villagers look into the garden and start to ask questions. I know that the first step is getting people curious. I might also start a nursery garden to grow seeds.

I am so proud of my cabbages. You would love them too.

Health Issues
As Mary is finding out, trying to cure the baby of scabies in our host family’s compound, tackling health issues is more than just providing medicine and a caring manner. Despite all of Mary’s earlier efforts, the baby’s scabies has reverted back to the original state.

Each issue or project undertaken leads us into new territory. As long as we continue to have the support of village leaders, we shall continue to gently push the agenda. What we are finding is that even the seemingly simplest projects have unknown cultural caveats

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