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.





































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