Tuesday, June 8, 2010

(Insert Cool Fijian Phrase Here)

Dear Readers,

We wish you were in Fiji with us to enjoy the beautiful weather, people, and culture. Life on this island is paradise. Well, it’s a little hotter than we expected, but we are getting on just fine despite the heat. And lucky you, if you faithfully follow this blog. You should be getting two updates this week. True, this post is a week late, but two updates… you can’t beat that.

The team is continuing to perform extremely well together. Everyone is working very hard and figuring out creative solutions to the daily challenges of development work and the challenges to the projects we are trying to implement here in Fiji. So far, our only real injuries are a few sunburns, some upset stomachs from some spicy curry dishes, and sadness that the first wave of volunteers leaves so soon. Then there is Dana. She got a new cut this week. Don’t worry though. We have more than enough nursing students on the team, eager to bust out their first aid kits and heal all wounds. Dana is a trooper though. She handles these types of things like a champ and gets right back to work. That’s the way we feel about everyone on our team. Everyone has risen to the challenge and excelled in the projects they have been working on for these last few weeks. This post will attempt to update you on the projects and other major developments of the HELP Fiji team from the week of May 30th – June 5th.

Square Foot Gardens. This project is really taking off. Currently, the garden team is focusing on teaching the benefits and reasons why to construct personal gardens. We have discovered that eggplant, tomatoes, long beans, carrots, lettuce, capsicum, radishes, and cucumbers grow exceptionally well during this time of year in Fiji. Growing these vegetables at home not only helps locals save money on expensive vegetables purchased from the markets, but they are also able to enhance the nutritional values of the meals they eat. The gardens that the team planted previously are beginning to sprout and it’s time to focus on the next stage of the garden project. Keeping the soil nutrient rich by adding homemade compost. After that comes seed extraction. So much more to come on Gardens as the summer continues.

Adobe Stoves. This project is also a success. We have had several local villagers approach us about adobe stoves. The stoves are great because of the chimney system, which works to divert the smoke away from the cooking area, rather than linger in the air causing irritation to the eyes and lungs for villagers who normally cook over open fires. This project requires that interested recipients of adobe stoves gather all the necessary materials before we construct a stove. All materials can be found locally and for little or no expense, leading to greater sustainability. Materials required for the stoves include, red soils, sand, water (for mixing the soil and sand together to make clay) banana stock (for the burner holes and tunnel systems) and cement cinder blocks for the frame. In exchange for this, HELP International provides the chimney and the instruction for proper construction. Everyone that has approached us has been very proactive in gathering the necessary materials and getting their neighbors involved in the learning and construction process. We are thrilled to see such a high level of interest in adobe stoves here in Fiji. All the stoves that we have been made are currently in the drying process for the next couple of months and a few are ready to have the banana stock removed from within. We did learn on valuable lesson for future construction of adobe stoves, after attempting to remove the banana stock from the first stove we built. Make sure to place the thick end of the banana stock near the top. It’s much easier to remove that way…

PRISM. This project is really exciting. A doctor, trained in the United States, spends 9 months of the year in Fiji, working on a community based health program he created called PRISM. Dr. Animesh Sinha works to prevent and treat NCDs (non-communicable diseases) primarily diabetes and high blood pressure by venturing into rural communities and settlements to screen locals for these two diseases. The goal is to recognize problems before they start and treat moderate to severe cases if they are detected at the initial screening visits. Dr. Animesh uses our volunteers to help him record and check height, weight, blood glucose levels, and blood pressure. It is a great way for volunteers interested in medical work to get hands-on field experience, while not getting entangled in medical procedures they should not be performing. PRISM has seen incredible results from there community based health efforts and considering that 80% of Fijians die from NCDs, the need is great. After all, a health community leads to a developed community.

Nutrition and Fitness. In reality, each of these is separate project, but they work so well with each other. We have really seen an increased interest in fitness and nutrition classes, especially from the women’s groups we work with. And both projects are doing a phenomenal job at helping the Fijian people to eat better and become more active. These projects also work very closely with our square foot gardens project and PRISM. Seeing how intertwined all of our projects are really increases the sustainability of each project, because without one, it is difficult to keep the others going. Some exciting recent developments in both the fitness and nutrition projects are the number of women’s groups they are meeting with on a weekly basis, holding weekly exercise and nutrition classes. They Fijian women love to do the dances, aerobics, and learn how to more healthily prepare meals for their families. We are proud of the number of people they are reaching and helping to make Fiji a healthier country. In addition to this, we will be starting fitness classes with the hospital staff every Monday evening. It’s kind of like a competition among the staff members. There will be an initial weigh in and a prize will be awarded for the staff member who loses the most weight at the end of the summer after attending weekly fitness classes. It should be fun, and we’ll keep you posted on that as it progresses. Finally, the hospital is pushing it’s Bula 5/30 program. While “Bula” is the official greeting in Fiji, it literally means health. The 5 stands for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day and the 30 stands for 30 minutes of active exercise every day. We are working closely with hospital to push Bula 5/30 in the communities we visit them and in the women’s groups we are already working on. It seems to us, that there is a nationwide push for greater health among Fiji and we feel like our fitness and nutrition can be a valuable asset to this goal.

Music. Our project leads over music are doing a great job at helping youth and adults to find recreational therapy through music. This project really helps locals understand the importance of music in daily life and also provides teens with and outlet to avoid peer pressure of getting involved in drugs, alcohol, or sexual activity. Music has partnered with FRIEND in Lautoka and every week, the music team goes out with FRIEND employees to teach basic music classes and how to deal with life’s challenges through musical theater productions. It’s a fun project and as it continues to develop, we will provide as many details as we can. Stay tuned.

Health. Health is making a big difference in the Nasomo village. Teaming with the Ministry of Health at the Tavua Hospital, the team goes out to teach Typhoid to the different parts of Nasomo. There has been a huge acceptance and wanting to change for the better, by the Fijians, to help stop and prevent Typhoid from spreading in the Nasomo area. Health is also going with Nutrition and Exercise to help teach and inform the different women’s groups throughout Tavua. The women are very interested and are willing to change because they know that not only is it better for them and their families, but better for their villages as well. The health team also goes and helps the nursing staff at the hospital by taking the vitals of the patients waiting. This helps the patients see the Dr. faster and helps the nurses move along quickly.

We have a couple of projects that are just getting off the ground as well. One of which is business classes. In conjunction with this, we are working on chicken coop construction to provide locals with opportunities to create their own business of selling small chickens or eggs. In addition to these, we have some volunteers researching teaching English as a second language, and constructing more useful libraries at the various schools that are scattered all over Fiji. All of the projects are worthwhile and the needs are great. Fiji is a beautiful country, but much can be done to help locals create better economic opportunities for themselves, leading to great self-reliance. It is through your support that we are able to have these successful projects at this time in Fiji. For that, we want to thank you for. And thank you for your continued interest in the work we are doing here.

So that is a brief look into some of the what and why of the projects we’ve currently got rolling in Fiji.

In other news, we are getting ready for another wave of volunteers to arrive on June 10th. Once they arrive, we look forward to more projects coming about and the progression of the projects that we currently have going. So, stay tuned and we’ll continue to keep you posted. We will be sad to see 1st wave leave, but the work that everyone put in over these past weeks has made all the difference in establishing worthwhile and sustainable projects for the rest of the summer. The foundation the created is strong, and we look forward to the progress the current and future volunteers will surely contribute.

And let’s give a little shout out to our Country Directors. They’re pretty cool and we’re pretty sure Fiji is the coolest and best country to be a HELP volunteer in during the summer of 2010.

Until next time,
- Team Fiji

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