WAM Annual Report

 

WAAN AELÕÑ IN MAJEL (WAM)

Annual Report

2016-2017

Iakwe!

Welcome to WAM’s annual report for the year ending September 2017. WAM has had a busy and productive year that saw 32 trainees graduate and gain skills, knowledge, cultural appreciation and confidence to make positive choices for their future.

WAM is looking forward to forging new partnerships in 2017 and 2018 that will provide more opportunities for our young people to learn life changing behaviours in a changing world.

Ilo Kautiej

Alson Kelen

Director

Our Mission

To work with youth, their families and the local and  international community to preserve and protect Marshallese culture and tradition through canoe building and sailing, and through this cultural connection develop life skills and a work ethic that create meaning in the lives of all participants.

 

WAM’s History

The Waan Aelõñ in Majel (WAM) first began as a project in 1989 documenting the designs for and building of traditional outrigger canoes in the Marshall Islands. Six canoes were built over seven years on the outer islands where the history, songs and ceremonies involved with canoe building were captured.

Since 1999, WAM has been a grass roots, non-profit  organization educating young ‘at risk’ Marshall Islanders in the traditions of building and sailing wooden canoes. WAM has continued to develop and grow as an organization that provides vocational and life skills training, counselling and substance abuse treatment for youth-at-risk, using canoe building, traditional and contemporary boat building, sailing and navigation, wood working and weaving.WAM’s programs are designed to educate and empower young people, link the new generation with the old, working together to keep this unique aspect of Marshallese culture alive.

 

Our Values and Guiding Principles

WAM is anchored by values and guiding principles that have been core to the organization since its formation.

Connection with the canoe   Measured Risk Taking  
  An atmosphere of safety and sense of community    
Learning for life and for

prosperity

  Life skills are

essential to lasting success

 
  Quality and Professionalism   Simplicity
Training is about generating  self-awareness and

self-respect

  Inclusivity  

Our vocational and life skills training programs are designed and delivered to support trainees to develop self-identity and self-worth, enabling them to either enter the workforce or further their education. Trainees were aged 17-24 and on graduation had learned elements of Marshallese culture, woodworking, sailing, boatbuilding and weaving skills, English, literacy, numeracy and business management. The two programs delivered were:

Cultural and Vocational Training Program, funded by the National Training Council (NTC)

Advanced Carpentry and Entrepreneurship Program, funded by Global Environment Facility Small Grants Program (GEF)

All trainees participated in and were supported throughout their training via the Life Skills Program, funded by Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT).

 

 

Cultural and Vocational Training Program (NTC)

Trainees were asked what they wanted to achieve by completing their training with WAM…

60% aim to find employment

28% want to go back to school

12% would like to continue schooling with Advanced Education

 

WAM Trainees participated in many different community events throughout the year. Below is a summary of three events:

National Youth Conference – July 24-27, 2017

The trainees’ traditional products they had made were on display during the weeklong conference.

Welcoming Ceremony for Vaka Motu – July 27, 2017

WAM trainers and trainees participated in welcoming this   sailing vessel donated to RMI by the Okeanus Foundation.

Manit Day – September 29, 2017 

The trainees’ this year displayed and demonstrated how to construct canoe models, repair traditional fishing nets, weave traditional baskets, and demonstrate construction of rowboats. A key aspect of this event is that trainees are able to explain the different activities using Marshallese and culturally appropriate names.

The six months follow up from WAM counselours of graduates from September 2016 found…

  • 28% were employed
  • 28% had migrated either to the US or reverse migration
  • 6% were volunteering
  • 22% had enrolled in further education
  • 33% were receiving WAM assistance for employment

 

Advanced Carpentry and Entrepreneurship Program (GEF)

Graduates with Yoshiko Yamaguchi from GEF. Photo: Tamie Bowman

Graduates with Yoshiko Yamaguchi from GEF. Photo: Tamie Bowman

The criterion to apply for the GEF program is to be aged 18 and older, unemployed and interested in advancing in carving and woodworking skills. Trainees were taught how to make wooden checkerboards, picture frames, traditional spear and paddles and various carved wooden objects.

An Open House was held on June 26, 2017 showcasing a   variety of wooden handmade products, carved from the lumber milled from the Lukwej tree and other local wood, by the trainees. Fourteen trainees graduated from the program in August, with two trainees leaving early as they had found employment. The Open House was attended by community and family members and provided the opportunity for all WAM trainees to use their Life Skills training in communication and customer service skills.

Trainees Thoughts …

  • Trainees enjoyed the carving and learning to make furniture out of local wood.
  • Trainees said that the program was very good and they only hoped that more young people could be recruited to attend.
  • All Trainees recommended the program becasue it has helped them increase their knowledge and skill level in many ways to prepare for the future.

    Life Skills Program (SAPT)

We have two counselors who work with the trainees from day one of each program to assist them to complete their training, open bank accounts, receive health checks and continue to provide counseling support three, six and 12 months following their graduation. A total of 90 trainees received counseling support via face-to-face meetings for this year. The counselors also interviewed 71 applicants who came by appointment to apply for WAM programs. Life skills are a key ingredient for becoming job ready, which the trainees are provided support for, with on the job training and interview and resume preparation.

By providing counseling support throughout the program, trainees are seen to have an improvement in their attitudes and behaviors, enabling them to set goals, attend regularly and complete tasks.

 

A Success Story

A 20-year-old male grew up in the outer island atoll of Ebon. After graduating from Ebon Elementary School, he then went to Jaluit High School for further education. Unfortunately, he was expelled from the High School due to alcohol use. He was afraid to return to his home island because he thought that his father would beat him for being expelled. Therefore, he came to Majuro and lived with his uncle in Rita. For several years he did not attend school or have a decent job because of his abuse of alcohol and drugs.

It is while attending the WAM program that he gained motivation to make changes in his life. When he first began attending the training program, he had low self-esteem. He never mingled with his fellow trainees, but only his prior associates from Rita. After he attended several counseling sessions, he was given treatment plans to enhance his confidence and reduce his substance and drug use.

He applied the counseling he received and put effort into changing his destructive habits. He began to work towards a better future and became one of the most outstanding trainees. He was chosen to be the Trainees Vice President, and given the chance to teach his fellow trainees to sail. His projects were done before everyone’s.

Surprisingly, after the post Behavioural Health Screening he scored low on alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. A quote from this trainee was, “my past may have dragged me back for a while from my future, but now it won’t stop me from trying my best to accomplish my goals”.

It’s beyond others expectation that this talented trainee would have made it through the program because of his past. As a matter of fact, he proved to himself that nothing’s impossible as long as you are willing to face the past but move on for a future. During his final counseling session, he said that his father already forgave him for running away. Currently, he is scheduled to be interviewed as a perspective employee of a local business.

On the Job Training

 

18 trainees undertook two weeks of on the job training. Trainees are provided with an opportunity to experience working in a team environment, while gaining valuable work experience that will assist them to seek and secure employment. The following organizations partnered with WAM to provide placements for the trainees:

EZ Price

Do it Best

AJ Executive Salon

K&K Supermarket

Ajejdikdik

Marshall Islands Resort

Majuro Water Sewer Co.

Wellness Center

A Story of Change

A soft spoken, shy, young woman who graduated from the WAM program experienced a major transformation. She came to WAM a shy person with low self-esteem and having no plans for her future. Over the course of the program she became more outgoing, displayed a confidence she had not had before and now has plans for the future. During On the Job Training she excelled in her placement at a local salon and was offered a full-time position as an esthetician. She is currently employed at the salon as she awaits the GED placement test in December. She plans to attend GED this fall semester and finish GED while working part-time at the salon. It has been exciting and encouraging to see how the WAM program can change lives.

 

WAM Retreat Eneko

Director Alson Kelen with trainees giving instruction on climate change and the importance of protecting the environment. Photo: Suemina Bohanny

Director Alson Kelen with trainees giving instruction on climate change and the importance of protecting the environment.

Trainees and staff participated in the annual retreat from July 3-6, 2017 on the islet Eneko. The retreat focused on communication, collaboration and decision-making and the importance of learning to work together.

Each day different cultural and traditional skills were taught and everyone had the opportunity to:

  • fish using hand line and nets and seafood hunting methods
  • coconut gathering, husking and grinding
  • cook Marshallese traditional food using the traditional (underground) oven.

Climate change was one topic discussed and how our culture is adapting due to the effects of climate change in the Marshall Islands. The retreat was a fun and successful event that prepared these young people to implement their goals and help them make decisions for their future.

First Aid Training

17 Trainees attended a two-day first aid training course delivered by the Marshall Islands Red Cross. The course gave instruction in basic first aid techniques related to resuscitation, choking, seizures, cut, burns and breaks.

 

Staff Professional Development

Capacity Building

Evaluation templates, curriculum, lesson planning, proposal and grant writing instruction was provided by Rae Plush an AVI volunteer to the WAM administration. Director Alson Kelen and Associate Director Tamara Bowman completed the Project Management for Development Professionals a project management course delivered by Rae Plush.

WAM counselors Sealend Laiden and Suemina Bohanny increased their knowledge and skill levels by attending workshops and completing online courses on such subjects as:

  • ILO Career counseling training workshop
  • The Rights of Youth at Work  (online course)
  • Substance Abuse Prevention (online course)
  • Planning for Success Understanding the Basics (online course)

    WAM Promotion

Throughout the year WAM has promoted its work and accomplishments on the website, Facebook, displaying at various community events, selling made to order traditional and contemporary products, and providing tourist with sailing tours.

 

We rely on local and international partnerships for our programs to be delivered.  We thank our sponsors for their support and look forward to future partnerships.

The Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands

Majuro Atoll Local Government

MIMRA

The Government of Japan

The Government of New Zealand

The Government of the United States

The Government of Canada

The Government of Australia

Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)Sweden

National Training Counsel of the RMI

Mobile

Majuro Water and Sewer

K&K

Do It Best

RRE

Triple J

MEC

PII

Dare

MIVA

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration

Tobolar

MIR

Majuro Stevedore Co.

For a complete copy of the WAM Annual Report 2016 to 2017 or a copy of the WAM Strategic Plan please feel free to contact us at canoesmarshallislands.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


New Crane Truck for WAM

On Wednesday, November 1, 2017 Ambassador Hideyuki Mitsuoka of Japan and Director Alson Kelen of WAM signed a contract for “the Project for Improvement of Transportation of Training Materials for Waan Aelõñ in Majel in Majuro Atoll” at the Embassy of Japan. The signing ceremony was witnessed by WAM’s  traditional canoe building trainer Binton Daniels and officials of the Embassy of Japan.

The funds provided by this contract will facilitate the purchasing of a crane truck.  Previously, do to the expense of renting transportation for logging purposes WAM could only offer programs using lukwej and breadfruit logs. Because of the Grassroots Grant Project funding, WAM will be able to advance their training program with coconut trees as well as the other woods. Furthermore, this project will also promote the RMI’s coconut replanting program and promote an increased awareness of the ability to produce local products from local sources thus increase cultural pride.

WAM appreciates this support from GGP and is excited to have this opportunity by means of this additional equipment to diversify and enhance their training programs.

Japan Ambassador Hideyuki Mitsuoka and Director of WAM Alson Kelen with signed agreement. Photo: Embassy staff member

Japan Ambassador Hideyuki Mitsuoka and Director of WAM Alson Kelen with signed agreement. Photo: Embassy staff member


GEF Graduation

August 11th was an exciting day for many. It marked a new kind of commencement for WAM as fourteen young men received certificates of completion in an Advanced Carpentry and Entrepreneurship Program. The program was a great success. This was displayed, by the beautiful handcrafted wood carvings, frames,and furniture made out local Lukej wood.

Friends, family, local business leaders along with  President Heine attended this celebration of success and accomplishment.

It is WAM’s hope that the training received will help these young people realize their dreams and goals.


Director Alson Kelen with trainees giving instruction on climate change and the importance of protecting the environment. Photo: Suemina Bohanny

NTC Trainees Retreat to Eneko

Every year the National Training Counsel (NTC) Trainees attend a Retreat Event held on the islet Eneko. This year is was held July 3-6, 2017 and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) trainees attended as well making a total of 32 trainees that attended the four day event. Group activities are a big part of the Vocational and Life Skills training during the retreat; therefore trainees are divided into groups to teach the importance of learning to work together. WAM staff was assigned to supervise the groups. The group activities encouraged the trainees to three areas:

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Decision-making skills

In addition each day cultural and traditional skills are taught and lived by. Group activities included a schedule to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as the following:

  • handling fishing, throw net fishing and seafood hunting
  • Coconut gathering, husking and grinding
  • Instruction and participation in cooking Marshallese traditional food
  • Learning how to make an underground oven (traditional oven)

To facilitate the skill of working together team activities such as the ones listed below were planned each day:

  • Tug of War
  • Over & Under
  • Neck-to-Neck
  • Volleyball
  • Relay

The Retreat proved to be very successful in helping the NTC trainees with an increased awareness of responsibility and the importance of taking assigned tasks seriously. This training has also prepared them to implement their goals and helped them to make decisions for their future.

 


GEF Trainees create a beautiful carved Government Seal from Lukwej. Photo: Suemina Bohanny

GEF Advanced Carpentry and Entrepreneurial Program Coming to Completion

There is not many days left for the GEF trainees to be at WAM. The trainees in the last few months have worked hard to hone their skills in carpentry, carving, and entrepreneurship knowledge. They have participated and been a big part of two major events that WAM has held. An Open House Event was held on June 26, 2017 from 5:30 to 7:00 pm displaying the handmade wood products that the trainees in this program have produced from local woods. The Open House was attended by many in the community as well as family and friends. It was an opportunity for the GEF trainees to display their hard work and what knowledge and skills they have achieved from this Advanced Carpentry Program

The trainees in this program also participated in the Retreat to Eneko Island July 3-6, 2017. This retreat encouraged environmental awareness, manit (local customs and food), and self-identity thru various group activities. Learning to work in teams helped all trainees to see the need to work together to protect the environment and use it wisely.

A special session that took place during the retreat was when they went over to an islet near Eneko. The trainees were located on a small portion of sand that looks like a formation of a little islet. Alson the Executive Director of WAM begin talking to them about climate change and how it is part of their culture adaptation. This was the perfect setting to talk about climate change because not only did the trainees HEAR about climate change but they actually were able to SEE how the Marshall Islands is affected by climate change. The Retreat proved to be very successful in helping the GEF trainees with an increased awareness of responsibility and the importance of taking assigned tasks seriously. This training has also prepared them to implement their goals and helped them to make decisions for future employment and entrepreneurship. Completion of this successful program and graduation day are not far off.

 


NTC Youth Reference Group 2017

The WAM 2017 Vocational Program has an added feature this year with establishing a Youth Reference Group (YRG) from among the 2017 NTC trainees. The aim of the (YRG) is for the trainees to actively contribute to the evaluation of the program, increase their self-esteem, and increase their confidence. The YRG in particular will assist in the planning and organization of the Open House Event and the Graduation. This years YRG trainees are pictured below.

WAM 2017 Youth Reference Group. Pictured from left to right is Rona Stephen, Lestha Mokka, Donny Erbin, Johnson Anwel, Jerry Anjain, and Aklok Edward. Photo: Sealend Laiden

WAM 2017 Youth Reference Group. Pictured from left to right is Rona Stephen, Lestha Mokka, Donny Erbin, Johnson Anwel, Jerry Anjain, and Aklok Edward. Photo: Sealend Laiden


WAM Vocational Program 2017

WAM’s 2017 Vocational Program started on April 3rd with 25 enthusiastic trainees. A pre evaluation was completed by each trainee identifying their personal goals from participating in the WAM program. To be employed was 60% of the trainees goal and 28% wanted to get their GED. Advanced education such as a trade or vocational school was the remaining 12% goal.

In weeks one to four the trainees were guided to look towards themselves. The theme was “Self Identity”. These weeks of the curriculum involved the life-skills counselors assisting the trainees in the process of obtaining social security numbers, birth certificates, bank accounts, health clearances and ID cards. The trainees were also introduced to the substance abuse counseling program and advised on time management and money management strategies. The trainees were informed on the knowledge about migrating through participating in a presentation by Internal Organization for Migration (IOM). The counselors have conducted completed Behavioral Health Screenings for 60% of the trainees. The remaining 40% will be completed in the next few weeks.

In weeks five to ten the theme was “Health”. This is where all the trainees learned about the importance of a healthy life style. The topics covered were suicide prevention, substances, inhalants and drugs and STI’s/HIVs. The focus of these weeks were an introduction for the trainees in independent living skills by working on the garden and having guests such as the Wellness Center teach trainees how to cook healthy meals using local foods. There were guest speakers from CMI Peer to Peer Educators, Youth to Youth in Health, Kumit Bobrae, and Jerry Nii to extend trainees knowledge of local services. Also, the Youth Reference Group (YRG) started their preparation for the open house. Starting the week of June 5th trainees will be introduced to basic computer skills that will help them in their employment search and continuing education after the completion of the WAM program.

Enjoy the pictures of these events.

Orientation Day with Director Alson Kelen and Counselors Suemina Bohanny & Sealend Laiden. Photo: Tamie Bowman

Orientation Day with Director Alson Kelen and Counselors Suemina Bohanny & Sealend Laiden. Photo: Tamie Bowman

 

NTC Trainees for WAM Vocational Program 2017. Photo: Isocker Anwel

NTC Trainees for WAM Vocational Program 2017. Photo: Isocker Anwel

Vocational Orientation with trainer/navigator Binton Danel. Photo: Sealend Laiden

Vocational Orientation with trainer/navigator Binton Danel. Photo: Sealend Laiden

Vocational Training pictured left to right is Fredly Amlej, Idelia Stephen, Lestha Mokka, Carlos Kesai, Jerryann Harkey, Thyin Laibwij. Photo: Sueminna Bohanny

Vocational Training pictured left to right is Fredly Amlej, Idelia Stephen, Lestha Mokka, Carlos Kesai, Jerryann Harkey, Thyin Laibwij. Photo: Suemina Bohanny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


WAM Vocational Program 2017 continued

WAM trainees Dalas Henry and Jerry Anjain applying for identification cards. Photo: Sealend Laiden

WAM trainees Dalas Henry and Jerry Anjain applying for identification cards. Photo: Sealend Laiden

WAM trainees Johnson Anwel, Carlon Jetton and Jerryann Harkey applying for birth certificates. Photo: Suemina Bohanny

WAM trainees Johnson Anwel, Carlon Jetton and Jerryann Harkey applying for birth certificates. Photo: Suemina Bohanny

WAM trainees receiving sailing instruction. Photo: Isocker Anw

WAM trainees receiving sailing instruction. Photo: Isocker Anwel

WAM 2017 Trainee Aklok Edward. Photo: Suemina Bohann

WAM 2017 Trainee Aklok Edward. Photo: Suemina Bohanny

WAM trainees preparing lunch. Photo: Suemina Bohanny

WAM trainees preparing lunch. Photo: Suemina Bohanny

WAM trainees Rona Stephen, Idelia Stephen and Aklok Edward enjoying the gardening experience. Photo: Suemina Bohanny

WAM trainees Rona Stephen, Idelia Stephen and Aklok Edward enjoying the gardening experience. Photo: Suemina Bohanny


GEF trainees prepare wood for carving projects. Photo: Sealend Laiden

Lukwej the Wood of Choice for the GEF Program

Its busy times for WAM as the GEF trainees learn valuable skills in advanced carpentry and carving. Their first few weeks in February involved logging large Lukwej trees, and then milling them. This beautiful local wood was cut into slabs and some was seasoned in the salt water right outside WAM. The trainees of the GEF program started with making their own wood mallets in preparation for their training in carving. They also did carpentry work for the WAM office giving it a much needed upgrade.

 

Large Lukwej tree being milled by Oliber Mack and Matson John. Photo: Sealend Laiden

Large Lukwej tree being milled by Oliber Mack and Matson John. Photo: Sealend Laiden

Stacked Lukwej slabs in WAM's Canoe House. Photo: Sealend Laide

Stacked Lukwej slabs in WAM’s Canoe House. Photo: Sealend Laiden

Lukwej slabs being cured in saltwater with the assistance of trainees Dickson Randy, Matson John and Trainer Gregory Jokray. Photo: Sealand Laiden

Carpentry skills being used by Abija Lometo & Rusty Riklon. Photo: Sealend Laiden

Carpentry skills being used by Abija Lometo & Rusty Riklon. Photo: Sealend Laiden

Lukwej slabs curing. Photo: Sealend Laiden

Lukwej slabs curing. Photo: Sealend Laiden

In the days ahead they will being given small business start-up training enabling them to be self-employed upon graduation.

 


A New Program for WAM

Whats happening at WAM these days?

A new Apprenticeship Project has begin funded by the Global Environment Facility/Small Grants Program. This new program at WAM will focus on Advanced Carpentry/Furniture Building Skills and Entrepreneurial Training.

The program will have a broad and long-reaching impact on the trainees and the community. With the skills acquired in carpentry the trainees will be made aware of the use and availability of locally sourced wood products to create such things as furniture, cabinets, caskets, cultural tools etc. This will reduce the need for such items to be imported. At the same time the trainees will be made aware of the environmental need of replantation of food trees. Training will be provided in such areas as basic business practices and financial planning so that each trainee can be empowered to have the goal of self-employment.

We are excited to be able to provide such training in these areas and can foresee the benefits of such training having a positive effect on the trainees and the community for years to come.

 


NTC Graduates 2016. Photo: J. Bowman

Vocational/Lifeskills Trainee Achievement Commencement Day 2016

After many  stormy day’s for weeks the sun came out and shined, as did the Vocational/Lifeskills 2016 Trainee Graduates! There was approximately 120 in attendance made up of family, friends and community leaders to see 14 young men and 4 young women receive their graduation certificates for completing the WAM program. The graduating Class of 2016 wore a t-shirt they personnel designed for just this day.

In just 6 months these trainees became more self-confident, improved their decision making, learned how to work together as a team and acquired many vocational skills. On display for family and community to see were the two sailing canoes built by the trainees as well as the many other woodworking crafts they had made. The trainees are provided with a Literacy course and they displayed their achievements in this area by presenting opening  and closing speeches both in English and Marshallese.  We are sure that these skills will help them in their future endeavors whether that be further education or employment.

After certificates of achievement were awarded all enjoyed a good lunch under the tree at the Marshall Islands Resort, and then some fun in the sun with the canoes. We congratulate them on their achievements at present and wish them many more to come in the future.

 

 

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Trainees Experience On the Job Training

In these last few weeks of our National Training Council Program the trainees had the opportunity to experience what it is like to be in the workforce. Local businesses opened their doors to the trainees giving them the chance to see just what its like to have a job.   There were lots of smiles when we visited the various businesses to see how they were doing. Below are just a few pictures of some our trainees during their work on the job training. All trainees expressed that it was a great experience! They found working with other people, pricing inventory, and working in carpentry to be the most interesting part of the experience. The only thing they would change would be to have a longer time with the on the job training.

 


WAM trainees and staff bringing provisions ashore. Photo: Alson Kelen

WAM Retreat

WAM trainees and staff had a great time at Eneko Island July 22-25th.  They shared responsibilities and the things learned made for a fun weekend.

Each day of the retreat began with trainees cleaning up the area before starting the daily activities. Trainees were taught about the importance of keeping the coral and fish alive.

They also were taught how to source local resources for there lunch and evening meals. In doing so they learned how to make coconut pudding, rice balls, ‘beru’ and different dishes that could be made from breadfruit. The trainees were also introduced to the cultural skills of throw net fishing. They enjoyed learning this skill and were able to use this new skill to catch and serve fish as a part of the evening meals.

The trainees also engaged in fun activities to help them build their decision making and team building skills. They participated in the egg throwing competition; tug – a – war competition; wet dress relay and a volley ball competition.

Here are quotes from the trainees about how they felt about the retreat:

‘Working together makes everything possible’

‘To learn about life’

‘Learn about what’s right and wrong’

‘Strengthen their skills and knowledge’

‘Learn about the culture’

‘Getting to know more of each other’

‘Making the right decision’

‘Learning how to cook traditional food’

‘Respecting each other’

All participants in Eneko Retreat weekend felt it was a huge success!

 

 


Instructor Binton Daniel learns first aid skills at the Red Cross workshop. Photo: WAM

Teaching WAM Folk to Save Lives

WAM trainees learn how to help in emergency situations. Photo: WAM

WAM trainees learn how to help in emergency situations. Photo: WAM

Eyes were popping and a reluctant attitude abounded as the 19 Waan Aelon in Majel (WAM) trainees were asked to do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on one of their colleagues.

“Many aspects of first aid is not really appropriate culturally,” WAM Director Alson Kelen explained. “Asking a young man to ‘kiss’ his mom is, well, just not done.”

But Majuro Red Cross (MRCS) instructors were working hard to dispell this thinking during a two-day, “full on” first aid course designed to give people the hands-on skills need to save people’s lives.

“This is the first time the Red Cross has done this type of training for WAM and, I believe, for any organization here. It came about after the Red Cross’ Paul Alee contacted me and said they were thinking of doing some first aid training.

The Red Cross first aid workshop included some fun and games. Photo: WAM

The Red Cross first aid workshop included some fun and games. Photo: WAM

“I said great! What can I do to facilitate it,” said Alson, knowing that this was just exactly the sort of training that boosted the skill base for the WAM trainees.

Understanding Alson’s eagerness, the MIRCS team put together a successful proposal to the RMI National Training Council for funding for the course.

Two part-time Red Cross instructors, Richard Anta and Kennedy Kaneko, and First Aid Course Coordinator Harry Herming led the WAM program, which is a certificate level course. Assisting them was Telbi Jason, who is the MIRCS Administrator.

“They brought a ton of equipment and were very serious in their approach, which the students got,” Alson said. “The only slight issue was that the training material was all in English, but the instructors managed the translations very well.”

WAM trainees learn first aid skills thanks to the Red Cross workshop. Photo: WAM

WAM trainees learn first aid skills thanks to the Red Cross workshop. Photo: WAM

The trainees were split into three groups for the mainly hands-on program. “For example, they’d brought along baby dolls to show how to press in the right area to restart their breathing. That was really great because all of these folks will have families one day and every bit of information like this will help. It will help them in their workplaces too.”

The trainees learned CPR, treatment of choking, management of emergency medical conditions and general first aid skills (including treatment of muscular and bony injuries, bleeding, burns, and poisoning).

A huge benefit to WAM is that the program’s instructors also took part, so they will be certified first aid workers for ongoing programs.

Instructor Binton Daniel learns first aid skills at the Red Cross workshop. Photo: WAM

Instructor Binton Daniel learns first aid skills at the Red Cross workshop. Photo: WAM

Lead coordinator Harry said: “First aid training was totally new for these trainees. This was the first time they had learnt anything about first aid. But by the second day of the training the trainees were asking more questions, and were wanting to know more, showing they had become more and more interested in first aid as the training progressed.”

Harry believes the training was definitely successful: “The group of 19 young trainees who passed the course are now able to literally save a life. As well, Red Cross would of course like to repeat the first aid training to the next group of WAM trainees next year.”

He added that MIRCS can provide training to any other interested organizations. “We are just about to start training all the (100 odd) MALGov Local Police over the months of August and September.”

On the cultural side of things, Alson the instructors stressed to the trainees that it’s their obligation to put those feelings aside and do what was required. “its a difficult thing to do, but that’s part of our education on the first aid courses. “On this topic, Harry said: “For people who don’t understand, its a difficult thing (the idea of putting your mouth on your sister or mother), but once you have learned that it can really help someone and actually save their life this makes it easier. “Basically, he said, once you know why you must do something, it becomes easier.

“The trainees seemed to be completely into the course and I believe got a lot out of it,” Alson said. And this will be proven at the upcoming WAM graduation, scheduled for the end of September. “The Red Cross will be there to hand out their certificates of completion.”

Footnote: This article and photos first appeared in the Marshall Islands Journal’s August 5, 2016 issue. To subscribe to the Journal, check their website at www.marshallislandsjournal.com.