Monday, January 4, 2010

Return Trip Summary


Here is a follow-up summary of what I found about my Peace Corps projects upon returning to Samoa in December:


Jim Metz (80) donating blood pressure monitors to Head Doctor and Nurse at Tuasivi Hospital on Savaii

What a joy to find that Jim Metz (80) and the Peace Corps are expanding volunteer involvement in the area of obesity/diabetes/hypertension. They are putting together a program in conjunction with the Samoan National Health Service for a in depth health program for twelve rural villages, centering on weight control and the relationship between weight and health. This program includes skits, dietary education, weigh-ins, and screening villagers.

New Peace Corps Volunteers whose primary job is to teach English in rural primary schools will have secondary health projects in their villages. Since schools offer an excellent venue to introduce children to health issues, but also is a great way to educate parents on life-style related diseases.

Over twenty blood pressure monitors were donated by various manufactures in the U.S. to the hospital at Tuasivi, Savaii. Jim Metz simply emailed them and asked if they would donate. It was that easy, but took the initiative of Jim to get it done.

The dozen scales which I had donated and distributed to other Peace Corps Volunteers and organizations on Savaii are being used, more or less. However, it was discovered that simply putting scales for people to weigh themselves is not enough. More emphasis needs to be put on the benefits of weight control, especially with those who already show signs of diabetes and hypertension.

In my own village of Iva, I was totally surprised to discover how many people are doing things differently because of the health clinics conducted earlier. You just never know what effects you may have.

I met with Dr. Stephen McGarvey from Brown University about his coming 2010 research project. His research team plans to screen 3,000 Samoans to see if their is a genetic component to account for the high degree of obesity. I have since discovered that a niece of a fellow Minnesota book club member is going to be part of the research team.

Note: I never was able to get my picture taken with the Minister of Health. In fact, I was advised not to per sue the matter.

Vegetable Gardens

Host mother in garden, December 2009

Garden 2008

The garden Mary and I worked to clear in the back of our host family's house is still producing. In fact the family has grown and sold several crops of cabbage and peanuts since I left. Although weeds have taken over a lot of the garden, I realize that my host family just doesn't have the time or resources to maintain its size. Nonetheless, the garden was the first things I was shown when I returned. They continue to grow okra and have discovered the joy of cooking with hot green peppers.

Much to my delight, the mayor of neighboring village of Lalomalava showed me his own garden and said that most of the twenty families who took part in the village's home garden project still have active gardens. These vegetables are sold at the mayor's vegetable stand.

Trent Lobdell (80) reported his village's community garden has really taken off, now that the Women's Committee realizes they can make money.

Sewing Machines

The machines are still safely locked in the back of Iva's Women's Committee house. In a conversation with her, she said that they had recently been oiled and that after the first of the year she was going to let selected older ladies take the machines to their homes where they can teach sewing to younger members of their families. Not quite what I had envisioned, but maybe a small step towards their wider use.

Talent Show
The 50 act, village wide talent show bringing together all churches and open to all villagers that Mary and I helped to organize in December 2007 was not be be repeated. However, several of the Iva churches organized talent shows for their own young organizations and with other similar denomination churches during the Christmas periods of 2008 and 2009. This just illustrates the degree of difficulty in organizing events within a community governed more by religious factors than secular ones.

Primary School

Sticks and stones last. Maybe the new primary school and its dedication the day after my departure ends up being the lasting legacy of our Peace Corps experience. The important thing is the school is built. Soon over 400 desks arrive from New Zealand to fill the larger, better ventilated classrooms in hopes that education can help Samoans adjust to life's pressures without losing their own identity.

1 comment:

Jane said...

Wow. I LOVE your garden. What a pleasure it must have been to see it come together.