Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Progress Report, Month Seven


The Garden Project
The month of March can be summarized as our garden month. The clearing of ¼ acre of rocky soil, the planting of 10 vegetable beds, and lugging water buckets has kept us very busy. We have never worked harder in Samoa. Our technique of getting people interested by actually doing things seems to be working. There are a number of families who have started gardens with us supplying the starter plants from our nursery. The Ministry of Agriculture has watched our demonstration garden grown into a vegetable farm. We have been trading the hard to get seeds with others. Our objective is: “If you don’t have a job, you should have a garden”.

Telecenter/Computer Training
We got some good news, or I should say a good rumor, about our proposal for a telecenter. The Ministry of Internal Affairs, to whom we report, indicated the Ministry of Communications is strongly considering our proposal. We know they currently do not have the funds, but the rumor has had a real positive effect on us.

Teaching the teachers at the local primary school how to use the computer they have been given is a real disappointment. Over the past month, I have met initially with only three groups of teachers (14), almost all of whom have not even used a typewriter. Training sessions are continually canceled, forgotten, or not attended. There is a total lack of interest in learning how to use a computer. I don’t blame the teachers or the school principle since there is no reason why they need to use a computer to conduct their classes. Until there is a reason or requirement to learn how to use a computer, the computer will sit covered, unused, and eventually corrode. I do plan to meet with the school principle again at the end of the month to see if there are a couple of teachers who may want to learn.

Our effort at teaching computers at the high school likewise has been a disappointment. Earlier we thought we were scheduled to start training teachers at the schools beautiful, but unused, computer center. The principle seems to have a change of heart and doesn’t want “outsiders” there. Since these computers are suppose to be available to the village, we need to bring the Iva Village Council into the picture and have them put some pressure of the principle.

There are many schools in Samoa with successful computer programs, but these schools are headed by principles that are knowledgeable about computers. These leaders push their staffs, students, and community. I think the principles at our two schools simply don’t know how to use a computer and are reluctant to show their ignorance.

Sewing Machines
The Women’s Committee has finished building a room to store the machines this past month. Now it is time to start providing lessons to the village. This activity is at least moving forward.

Village Youth
The person on our Peace Corps Committee who represents the village youth and who so ably organized the talent contest has gone back to school in Apia. We need to find a replacement and start planning another youth activity.

Small Business
The two pilot small businesses I have started using my host family seem to be doing well and are profitable after paying me back my initial start-up loan. Popcorn is being sold at the local bingo parlor, and T-shirts are now being sold in a tourist café located at the ferry wharf. I plan to get a silk screening machine to handle the increased t-shirt demand. Just how I am going to handle the income from the garden still needs to be decided.

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