On the Job Training

During the final weeks of the WAM Life Skills/Vocational Program each trainee is placed at a local business as a volunteer for two weeks. This On the Job Training (OJT) can be a life changing experience, as many employers will offer employment to the trainee upon graduation from WAM. This has happened many times over the years proving that education is a key element to success!

Here are a few thoughts from this years employers who had WAM trainees for OJT:

“Trainee listens to instructions and carry’s out the task well. I would recommend him as he is eager to learn.”

“Trainee even worked Saturday even though is was not required.”

“Trainee was always on time and did not miss any work days.”


2018 Retreat to Eneko

Every year one of the highlights of the WAM Life Skills Vocational Training Program is the Eneko Retreat. As part of the WAM NTC program, trainees are provided with the opportunity to learn traditional knowledge and skills (manit) and use them during a 4 day retreat to the islet of Eneko. This year, a total of 32 (22 trainees and 10 staffs including family members) participated in this event. One of the main objectives of this retreat is also to enhance the trainees life-skills, such as traditional life-styles, collaboration, communication, and substance abuse & drug abuse prevention.

Some of the activities covered during the retreat were fishing (line, throw & long-net), weaving of Marshallese baskets, under-ground cooking, cooking of traditional foods, and hunting. These activities are very important for the trainees to learn and understand as they are very much a part of the Marshallese culture. Many trainees have lived in the outer islands, but they said they learned a lot about Marshallese traditional skills that they never knew, while participating in this retreat.

WAM partnered with Kumit Bobrae Coalitions (KUMIT) and Okeanos Marshall Islands (OMI) during the retreat they helped WAM to provide valuable skills and knowledge. The Kumit Out-Reach team provided WAM trainees with an Out-Reach program that covered the topic of DUI’s (driving under the influence).  Trainees really appreciated being able to understand how dangerous drinking and driving is and what can happen if you do so. By the end of their activity, 100% of the trainees vocally reported that the activity really enhanced their decision-making toward DUI. Later that same day the Okeanos of the Marshall Islands instructed the  trainees on water safety and sailing. The two representative from Okeanos Marshall Islands made clear the importance of sailing without using fossil fuel.

Trainees also participated in various other activities to help them with collaboration, communication and team work skills:

  1. Tug of War
  2. Rely
  3. Race
  4. Catch Balloon
  5. Weave Marshallese Basket
  6. Volleyball
  7. Train
  8. Find the Quarter
  9. Sniper
  10. Talent Show

All these activities engage and involve the trainees, which facilitates a fun learning experience.

In order for the retreat to start, proceed, and end well WAM Staff and Trainers split trainees into 3 groups. Each group had two trainers and 1 counsellor assigned to it, this enabled each trainee to get the most benefit out of the retreat. These groups were assigned to rotate certain responsibilities, which included breakfast, lunch, and dinner preparation. The trainees were evaluated on the last day of the retreat and a survey was given to the trainees to express how they felt about this life changing retreat.


Luau nite Battle of the Bands. Trainees Walthy Wase, Nodrio Kaious, Helmi Samuel, Jason Riling, Branson Clanry, Alington Akilang, Tom Jr. Schmidt, Allen Akilang, Henchi Tobey, Angie Tobey and Trainer Gregory Jokray. Photo: Sealand Laiden

Luau nite Battle of the Bands. Trainees Walthy Wase, Nodrio Kaious, Helmi Samuel, Jason Riling, Branson Clanry, Alington Akilang, Tom Jr. Schmidt, Allen Akilang, Henchi Tobey, Angie Tobey and Trainer Gregory Jokray. Photo: Sealand Laiden


Sailing home from Eneko. Trainees Mighty Jormile, Susan Edward, Titus Zackious & Lajwi Saimon. Photo: Rosan Bartolome

Sailing home from Eneko. Trainees Mighty Jormile, Susan Edward, Titus Zackious & Lajwi Saimon. Photo: Rosan Bartolome

Grassroots Grant Project Handover Ceremony

On Friday May 25, 2018 with sunny skies and happy faces, WAM hosted a handover ceremony for “the Project for Improvement of Transportation of Training Materials for Waan Aelõñ in Majel in Majuro Atoll.” The grant provided WAM with a Crane Truck and was funded through Japan’s Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Society Projects (GGP).

The ceremony was also attended by Hon. Minister of Natural Resources and Commerce Dennis Momotaro, Hon. President of Mayors Association Ota Kisino, Reverend Jimmy Moses, Commissioner of Public School System Kanchi Hosia, Director of Waan Aelon in Majel Alson Kelen, Director of Okeanos Dustin Langidrik, staff of Ministry of Natural Resources and Commerce, trainers and students of Waan Aelon in Majel, as well as officials and staff of the Embassy of Japan.

WAM is unique in providing youth with not only basic education but also traditional skills and knowledge of wood working, carving, saw milling, traditional navigation and canoe building. Without its own vehicle for transporting logs, WAM could only use limited types of trees in its programs. Because of the GGP funding WAM procured a crane truck, which allows us to collect different types of training materials including coconut trees, which are the most popular in the RMI and also appropriate for vocational training. In addition, the project is expected to help replantation of old coconut trees, which is promoted by Ministry of Natural Resources and Commerce, for protecting industries, environment and food security in the future.

WAM Trainee of the Month

April Trainee of the Month Darween Gideon. Photo: Sealend Laiden

April Trainee of the Month Darween Gideon. Photo: Sealend Laiden

The WAM Life Skills/Vocational Training Program of 2018 is off with a great start with Darween Gideon as our April Trainee of the Month. He was recognised for this award because of his perfect attendance, his good participation in class discussions and workshops, as well as his vocational projects are always well done and completed on time.

Darween lived on his family island of Mejit until 2010 at which time he came to live in Majuro with his Father and siblings. His goal after graduation from the WAM program is to go back to school and get his GED.

Great job Darween, awesome goal!

WAM 2018 Life Skills/Vocational Training Program

The 2018 WAM program has begun as of March 26th and is off to a great start with 20 young men and 5 young women. This 6-month program will as always gives these young people the Life Skills to compete in the job market further their education in this ever-changing world.  At the same time these trainees will learn traditional canoe construction and sailing. Some of the vocational projects they will be working on are; small model canoe building, repair and maintenance of existing canoes, and building a traditional dugout canoe. Before these projects are started each trainee learns basic tool identification, maintenance and use. They are also instructed in the traditional names of the parts of a canoe. During this 6-month program they will also are receive

instruction in Literacy and Numeracy every week. Trainees will also participate in various community events such as World Health Month. WAM hosted a Walk-a-thon for Health on April 13th. This event hosted by WAM started off with health screening provided for by Wellness Center and Ministry of Health and finished off with trainees and WAM staff many steps around the WAM Campus to encourage all to be health conscious.


We will post more updates on their progress as the program continues.

WAM Annual Report



Annual Report



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


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


  Life skills are

essential to lasting success

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



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


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


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


Majuro Water and Sewer


Do It Best


Triple J





Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration



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.


April GEF Trainee of the month Abija Lometo Photo: Sealend Laiden

April GEF Trainee of the Month

Abija Lometo was April’s GEF trainee of the month. He has lived in Majuro for the last three years with his wife and daughter. Before living in Majuro he along with his family resided in the Mili atoll where is family is from. Abija’s goal from attending the WAM GEF program is to be self-employed doing custom carving projects for clients. Congratulations Abija!

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