COMING SOON: more capsule stories with fantastic pictures!
But for now, anyone who is curious about what we DID here, professionally, here is my Description of Service (DOS). Peter will post his if he wants. I don’t feel comfy posting his without his permission.
REPUBLIC OF VANUATU
After a competitive application process stressing technical experience, ambition, adaptability, and cross-cultural understanding, the United States Peace Corps invited Nicole Areté to serve as a community health facilitator in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu from December 6, 2012 to December 5, 2014.
Nicole began her 10-week Pre-Service Training on October 7, 2012. This training included the following elements:
- Language: (53 hours) developed intermediate fluency in Bislama, first national language of Vanuatu.
- Cross-Cultural: (47 hours) learned to appropriately navigate Vanuatu’s culture and adjust to the new lifestyle.
- Technical: (127 hours) learned how to facilitate community projects and prepared for teaching various kinds of health education.
- Safety and Security: (25 hours) prepared for safety and security risks in Vanuatu, ranging from potential natural disasters to personal security.
- Medical: (25 hours) learned to identify and treat common ailments with only the remote help of a medical officer.
Nicole also completed the following In-Service Trainings:
- Project Design and Management: (24 hours) trained for agency collaboration, community mobilization, and project planning and follow-through.
- Disaster Risk Reduction: (24 hours) trained to improve a community’s preparedness in the event of a natural disaster.
On December 6, 2012, Nicole completed training and was sworn in by Peace Corps Vanuatu’s Country Director and other Vanuatu officials as a Peace Corps Volunteer. She was assigned to the village of Port Narvin on the island of Erromango. While living in Port Narvin, Nicole facilitated health education and development activities conducive to improving her community’s health.
Port Narvin is a rural village on the island of Erromango which is located approximately 80 miles southeast of Vanuatu’s capital of Port Vila. Port Narvin has a population of less than 700 people, located approximately 80 miles southeast of Vanuatu’s capital of Port Vila. Reaching the village from the nation’s capital requires hours of both boat and plane travel. Nicole was assigned a host family who adopted her as their own. She learned to adjust to their lifestyle. Living in a house of bamboo and thatch, she regularly engaged with her host family and other community members, as is traditional, both in her kitchen and theirs. She learned to cook traditional food, wash laundry by hand, take part in traditional ceremonies, and much more. She accomplished these feats while living without electricity, indoor plumbing, or climate control of any sort. Nicole’s achievements were due to the strong relationships she developed with family and friends she lived and worked with.
Activities For Fulfillment Of Primary Objectives
- Made herself available as a resource for health information, including a community Question Board located on the village’s main road where people submitted health inquiries. Answers were publically displayed on the board for all to see and learn from.
- Provided training to local counterparts to developed skills such as completing Higher Education applications, writing formal letters to government agencies, and completing grant applications.
- Trained a local health worker to create and implement health outreach workshops. After the first year, she was no longer afraid to speak on health issues publicly and was designing workshops on her own.
- Taught supplemental as well as curriculum-based health classes collaboratively with local teachers. These included a supplemental health and hygiene class with Class 10 students at Danpy Secondary School as well as co-teaching creatively implemented health curriculum to Classes 1-4 in Port Narvin Primary School.
- Collaborated with other volunteers and various local partners to run health workshops. Some examples are: STIs and Youth workshop, Family Planning with SDA Mamas, Four Kinds of Health with the combined villages of Erromango, and several other workshops on hygiene, sanitation, and various other health topics.
- Coordinated “Run for Your Life,” a biweekly sports and running program for women with the goal of reducing rate and impact of NCDs.
- Conducted two community-wide surveys. One to acquire general community health baselines, the other to collect community opinion with regard to a development project.
- Facilitated and supervised planning and management of Port Narvin Rain Tank Project, providing the entire village with a reliable source of potable water.
- Created a team of Class 6 students and supervised their designing and building of hand washing facilities at their school.
- Conducted amateur eye screening with local counterparts at Port Narvin Primary School to assist teachers in meeting the needs of their students.
In addition to these accomplishments, Nicole was instrumental in bringing the renowned Grassroot Soccer Peace Corps SKILLZ program to the Pacific Region for the very first time. Nicole ran the pilot program for Vanuatu youth first in an urban local and then repeated the program in a rural setting. SKILLZ is a program for youth that combines soccer with life skills training and Adolescent Reproductive Health education. Nicole also created well-developed materials adapting the program to Vanuatu’s needs and culture, as well as translating printed materials into Bislama.
- Conducted a Study Hour with 30-40 students and parents from every Class Level each school night. The objective was to teach students effective study habits and teach parents positive ways to help and support their children. This time included playing educational games, providing extra homework, and answering questions for both students and parents.
- Organized Port Narvin’s youth group “Yut i Laev Bakegen,” a youth empowerment group, and helped them facilitate community-wide fundraisers to support development in the community and other projects.
- Held study sessions where adults would trade lessons in the local language, Sye, for English practice.
- Taught “Kitchen Kindy”: a program where 3-5 pre-school students would practice their alphabet and other pre-reading skills with Nicole. This program was designed to augment Nicole’s twice-weekly visits to the Pre-school to teach pre-reading skills and demonstrate positive teaching practices.
- Facilitated formation of the Unurvati Environmental Network (UEN), a network of committees committed to managing and preserving the island’s resources. Nicole particularly assisted in creating the official UEN Guideline Document.
- Throughout her second year, Nicole held a Friday night “Girl’s Night” with her oldest host sister where they practiced English, taught each other about their cultures, and discussed topics relevant to her host sister’s upcoming adolescence.
- Directed, edited, and produced a music video with and for the Port Narvin community.
Nicole Areté completed her Peace Corps service in Vanuatu on December 5, 2014.