Project & Weather Updates

Well it has been a good long while since these blogs really updated anyone on the work I have been doing here, so here is a blog to remedy that.

 

Village Development Plan:

Our village recently completed a 5 year village development plan stating projects and goals the village has and wishes to work towards in the next 5 years. I’m quite proud of them, the things included in this plan make me so happy!

 

Goal 1: Increasing Formal and Non-Formal Educational Opportunities

  • Educational Awareness Program for Parents including home visits before the school terms
  • Village Homework Club. Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-9 pm
  • Completion of a Village Library
  • Establish yearly fundraiser to create scholarship program for at-risk youth
  • Obtain Village computers and use profits to aid the Education Fund

Goal 2: Emphasizing Environmental Preservation (Marine and Terrestrial)

  • Establish coral planting program
  • Establish mangrove restoration to aid in the sustainability and impact of our tabu area by creating an efficient nursery habitat and reducing erosion and pollution from village runoff
  • Establish Village composting project to reduce rubbish put in the district dump and create efficient organic fertilizer for farms
  • Improve rubbish shelter construction to reduce the amount of incidental rubbish being blown onto the beach
  • Preserve the 300m2 catchment area around our water source to aid in water cleanliness
  • Reforestation of the catchment area to improve area health and water quality
  • Relocate or create composting piggeries to reduce toxic runoff into the tabu area and aid in water quality and overall environmental health

Goal 3: Preservation of Indigenous Culture and Heritage

  • Create a Bose Vanua
  • Tell stories and show youth sites of cultural importance to transfer the information and increase awareness of our history

Goal 4: Increasing and Promoting Healthy Living

  • Obtain a 30,000 Liter water tank to increase the availability of water in the village
    • Do a workshop on water management to increase awareness of how to save water
  • Cover the spring water source to prevent detritus from falling into it and clogging the outflow causing water shortages in the village, also prevents animals from contaminating the water source
  • Construct V-Drains in flood-prone areas of the village to ease flooding impacts
  • Construct proper septic systems in specified areas of the village that have issues with proper septic systems
  • Repair the seawall that runs along the creek through the village

Goal 5: Create Opportunities for Income Generation

  • Potential Ecotourism site at the old village where the dolphins are visible in the Summer months
  • Income Generation will be dealt with on a Mataqali or Family level to diversify sources of income and productivity within the village
  • Run money management sessions to teach basic accounting and family finance

 

Some of the “projects” were identified as awareness, education and outreach programs and thus were not included in our priority matrix to decide between the two projects. Essentially to do a priority matrix you list all the projects across the top and side of a page and make boxes, then cross out half the options at a diagonal to prevent repetitive comparisons. Then people are asked a series of questions comparing all the projects 2 at a time as to which is most important, urgent, can be completed with our own resources, helps the most people etc. Ex, “Would you rather move/compost the piggeries or create a village library?” The answers to all of these were compiled and the rating is as follows.

 

Rating

Project

Points

1

Move/ compost Piggeries

85

2

Preserve Catchment Area

78

3

Improve rubbish Shelters

76

4

Create Village Composting Plan

75

5

Village Library

61

6

Reforestation Initiatives

60

7

Coral Planting

58

8

Village Computers for Library

50

9

Mangrove Planting

48

10

Cover Water Source

47

11

Initiate Money Management Programs

42

12

Repair Creek Seawall

38

13

Update Village Septic System

36

14

Obtain 30,000 Liter Water Tank

26

15

Construct V-Drains

24

 

This gives us a work plan to complete projects in a logical and organized manner. Obviously it is a fluid document in the sense that things change and something might become more important in the future than it is now, and/or new projects not considered here might become of pressing importance and would be worked on as such.

 

Composting Project:

 

So we have a new Town Council CEO in Levuka named Suli who is incredible. We have met a few times and discovered that we both feel that waste management is one of the biggest issues we face on the island and are beginning to take steps to remedy that problem.

 

Starting this school term (which starts today) I will be going to all the schools from Visoto village to Levuka town (I think its 6  or 7 schools…) to initiate and maintain composting projects with them. Each school will construct a compost pile and use it for food scraps and grass/leaf clippings from around the school compound. I will visit each school once every 2 weeks to do educational games and talks about environmental issues and to check out the compost. During the second school term, we will take the  compost and create school gardens entering into a health/nutrition focus. During this time I will also be working with all 6 villages in the district to initiate composting programs in a similar nature and then finally hit the town of Levuka with the composting craze!

 

It should be a really wonderful program hitting all age groups and levels of the district hopefully making it a sustainable and worthwhile endeavor. I am really excited for this one!

 

Seacology:

 

First of all, shout out to this wonderful NGO based out of San Francisco! Google them and see what they are all about and make a donation if you are able, they are doing some really incredible things all around the world!

 

Well Saturday morning I was told by a member of Tokou village to come down for the opening of their new community hall (this is how Seacology works, they provide the building materials for structures like community halls, dispensaries, schools etc, in exchange for the village agreeing to protect an area of land or sea as tabu for a set number of years). Well the guy told me to be there at 8:30 am and I got there at 9:15 thinking I was late, but this is Fiji time and the program didn’t start until 10ish. So I helped the women decorate the shed and then had breakfast at Pio’s house across from the new hall. Well there was a very formal and traditional ceremony welcoming a board member from Seacology and his wife, Aaron (who works in the finance department), and Harry and Jackie, a married couple who live in Fiji and work as their “scouters” for new projects and are really the ones working with and guiding the village. There were speeches, a formal sevusevu, and the presentation of a tabua (whales tooth), as well as a ribbon cutting of the new hall! Once inside it was a big party with tea, a meke (dance) performed by some of the young men from Tokou, a great lunch, dancing and naturally grog.

 

It was really great to see Americans… I had tears in my eyes when they were talking sometimes because of the reminders of home and such. For some reason seeing them made me think of things like coffee shops, boutiques, restaurants, good beer, and my family and friends back home. Turns out the guy on the board had just come back from Bellingham a few days earlier… small world eh? The meke the boys performed was about fishing and dolphins which they picked because they had just created a tabu on their fishing grounds in exchange for the hall and afterwards the boys picked up all the visitors (and me) for a dance, the traditional taralala. Honestly, not much beats dancing with attractive men wearing leaves, war paint, and covered in coconut oil at eleven in the morning. Well after speaking with them over lunch they agreed to come up to my village the next day to check out our community hall and distribute some much needed reading glasses to the elderly in the village.

 

Sunday at around 5 Harry and Aaron came up to the village and saw our hall. We have the oldest hall on the island built in 1983, it is very small (for example when we held elections for committees at our last meeting we needed 200 people out of the 470 in the village present and we couldn’t fit that many in the hall), and there are some basic structural damage issues (a leaking roof, cracks in the walls and foundation, etc). Don’t get me wrong, I love the hall… but we could do with a new one and since the village already has a tabu area we know how to do monitoring etc it could be a really beneficial project. Anyway I am going to be in contact with Harry and hopefully filling out an application soon to have our community considered for one of Seacology’s projects. Please keep your fingers crossed for us! It would do a lot for village unity and morale.

 

 

And now for your latest weather update…

 

Tropical Depressions make Peace Corps Volunteers … depressed. It has been raining fairly heavily for the past 5 days coupled with extremely strong winds.  Obviously all parts of Fiji are experiencing this in a different way and I can only talk about what its like out here on my island but it will give you a bit of an idea about what its like in pre-cyclone weather.

 

Out here on Ovalau (which is a very small island, see map on the right hand sidebar…) things a getting a bit iffy. We have had periods incredibly intense rain where I can’t even hear my radio to listen for weather updates when its on full-blast, really high winds (someone at the Peace Corps office told me it was up to 55 knots), very high swells nearshore (which is not normal. We have a fringing reef around the south/east of the island which breaks waves long before the reach the shore so now having waves breaking against the seawall is very interesting and seeing whitecaps out in a normally very tame area makes you think a bit). I had to go to town on Monday for a meeting with the Town Council and was shocked at what the road looked like. For reference, we have one road around the island it is gravel in 90% of the places and has so many potholes it looks like a road made of swiss cheese. Well due to the heavy rains many places on the road were washed out, meaning there was literally a small river of water (shallow but wide) running across the road out to the sea. There were downed trees, mangoes, papayas and coconuts everywhere and leaves/tree debris from the strong winds.

 

I am supposed to leave to go into Suva tomorrow for a conference but am not sure if I will be able to make it off the island right now. All flights to Ovalau have been stopped (which means we get no newspapers and no mail) and even though the ferry is still running the Peace Corps has different rules about weather conditions for volunteer travel than the ferry company does. So we shall see.

 

Right now we are experiencing intermittent power outages across the island. As of now we haven’t had an issue with the water in the taps (but lets me honest just stick a bucket outside and 10 minutes later you’ve got cleaner water than whats coming from that river…). Honestly the weather isn’t too crazy at the moment, but at night it has been getting pretty bad. I have a 2-6″  gap between my walls and my roof all over my house and it makes for some pretty brisk evenings when the wind rips through. There are also a few small puncture holes in my tin roof that water will leak down through.

 

Mostly the weather just makes you depressed. I can’t go to my farm because its probably a death trap to get up there right now, I cant go swimming because let’s be honest that’s just stupid, I cant really walk around the village because people fear sickness from the rain, and honestly its just really low key. In other words, living alone in inclement weather… kind of sucks.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Project & Weather Updates

  1. Marcia Arnold

    Thank you so much for the update. Sounds. . .interesting. . .to say the least. Stay safe, because we want to meet you when we visit Dan in June. Hopefully the weather will improve by then. . .and the roads (?)
    Love reading your posts.

    • No worries Marcia, In June its not cyclone season and so you guys will have some pretty awesome weather (and roads!) Things will be good here. We just got a weather update from the Peace Corps and we are all prevented from out of site travel right now which means that I’m not allowed to go to the conference, and neither is anyone else for that matter. The boats didn’t leave the island today and won’t tomorrow so we shall see when people/information is allowed to leave the island!

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