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




Erti John and Mary Ann Kiluwe spoke on behalf of the trainees. Photo: Karen Earnshaw

Open House at WAM

On having women involved in the WAM training program, Director Alson Kelen said:

We went to the Council of Chiefs and they did not need to stop and think about it, because they understood that everyone in the community has a task to do when making and sailing a canoe. It doesn’t matter if it’s building a house, going fishing or making a canoe … everyone has a role, including the women.

By Karen Earnshaw

Taula Milne’s education began at Rita Elementary School and continued on to Majuro Middle School. And that’s it. Done. The End.

Until, that is, he heard about the Waan Aelon in Majel (Canoes of the Marshall Islands) 2016 training program and signed up. “I came to WAM to finish school,” he said. “I’m learning to build a canoe and be a carpenter. And learning to sail a canoe … it’s great.”

Taula is one of 25 trainees now half way through their six-month WAM vocational program, which began as a wonderful cultural concept of reviving the art of canoe building over 30 years ago.

In all those years, WAM has passed many milestones, and last Monday evening was no exception. “For the first time ever, we’re holding an open house at WAM,” said Director Alson Kelen shortly before the event. Associate Director Tamie Bowman continued: “Alson is always emphasizing how important the trainees’ mentors are, be it their parents or a friend or simply someone they look up to. We were reaching the middle of the program and we decided to invite these mentors’ to WAM, to show them what we are doing and seek their help in supporting the trainees.”

And so at 5pm on Monday, families and friends of the trainees and the program gathered in WAM’s headquarters/school room next to Ministry of Education. The keynote speaker was Allison Nashion, head of the RMI National Training Council (NTC), which is the main source of funding for the program. “WAM fills many of the focus training areas that are important to NTC, with the goal being to give them a sustainable livelihood,” he said. As part of this goal, Allison said that NTC is a source of employment information for graduates of all the programs it supports. “Job seekers can come to our office, which is in the tall building opposite Marshall Islands Resort, and we can help them with resumes and prepare them for job interviews. We can also help them look for advanced training at places such as Job Corps in Hawaii.” He added that currently there are over 100 Marshallese students in the Job Corps program in Honolulu and Maui, Hawaii.

Following Allison’s speech, two students made remarks on behalf of all the trainees. First up was Etri John, who confidently read his speech, which touched on the many aspects of the training. “It has helped us learn many new things: not only how to work, but also about ourselves.” After the energetic applause for the speech, which he gave in English, subsided, Director Alson had a big grin on his face as he told the audience that when he’d first met Etri, the youngster could not look up and meet his eye, let alone speak before a room full of people. “He’s made great progress!”

The second student speaker was Mary Ann Kiluwe, who also delivered her speech, this time in Marshallese, which was also followed by a robust round of clapping.

On congratulating Mary for her moments at the podium, Alson added: “From the first days of the program, we have always been keen to include women, which brought a lot of comments from the community. People said to us, ‘Is this the Marshallese custom or is it UN (United Nations) custom?’ So we went to the Council of Chiefs and they did not need to stop and think about it, because they understood that everyone in the community has a task to do when making and sailing a canoe. It doesn’t matter if it’s building a house, going fishing or making a canoe … everyone has a role, including the women.”

In recent weeks, a group of the trainees has been working on making a new design for the WAM T-shirts and on behalf of the artists, Scamyo Namdrik told the audience how much they had enjoyed the process.

Following the speeches the audience was invited to visit the big A-frame Canoe House and view the cunning miniature canoes that have long been a signature product of WAM and the construction of two full-size sailing canoes. Also on display were a series of pandanus pounders and strippers the students are making for the jaki-ed revival program at the University of the South Pacific.

Clearly, the WAM trainees have been busy … and will continue to be as they move forward to a brighter future.

WAM Trainees 2016 and staff. Photo: volunteer

WAM Trainees Getting in the Groove

WAM trainees have had much to be happy about in the past weeks. Counselor Tolina Tomeing helped the trainees to get birth certificates, social security numbers and ID cards. With these documents they will soon be helped to open up their own savings accounts at the Bank of Guam.  All of these things will help them in their future endeavors after graduation from the program.

During this initial part of the program, each trainee received a health screening courtesy of the Ministry of Health and the Wellness Center, whose staff educated them on healthy meals they can make, as well as the importance of physical activity.

On Constitution Day the WAM trainees and staff enjoyed participating in the celebrations and the canoe races. To see how much fun they had with exciting video coverage go to our Facebook page.

WAM 2015 alumni Jacklick Kamo work at K&K Supermarket. Photo: Tolina Tomeing

Eleven WAM 2015 alumni employed

Eleven of the WAM 2015 trainees who graduated in early October are now employed, with most walking into jobs the week after graduation. All of the trainees did done internships as part of the program, with many being hired by those employers. The employers who recognized the graduates’ skills include Pan Pacific Food, True Value Hardware, Payless Supermarket, K&K Supermarket, and a Chinese takeout store in Laura. Four other trainees have applied to Job Corps and WAM is continuing to work with the remaining graduates to assist them in finding employment.

WAM trainees Reghie Lucky, March Enos ,Janen Torelik, and Jeitha Jennop. Photo: Karen Earnshaw

Internships pay off for trainees

WAM trainee Neil Lakmij with instructor Binton Daniel. Photo Karen Earnshaw

WAM trainee Neil Lakmij with instructor Binton Daniel. Photo Karen Earnshaw

At least six Waan Aelon in Majel trainees are guaranteed jobs after they graduate on Friday, October 2, with the potential of 12 jobs being available, according to WAM Director Alson Kelen.

“All of the trainees did internships during this six-month training program and this really paid off for us, with six being promised jobs and two of those already working on the weekends.” Alson said. “If everything goes well, there will be 12 job openings by the time graduation day comes around.”

Twenty youth have spent the last six months learning vocational skills from cultural instructor Binton Daniel and literacy and numeracy from GED teacher Agatha Rollis. “They do two hours a day of English and math. The rest of the time is spent doing hands-on work,” Alson said. This has included building a 27-foot tipnol canoe. “It’s made mainly of plywood because of the shortage of breadfruit trees to use for canoe building. That’s because the canoe tree is also a food tree.”

This year’s group of trainees has been a great group, Alson said. “They have been very open to learning and right from the start they clearly wanted to participate. Over the years, I’ve seen a growth in the amount of English the trainees have and their ability to stand up in front of a group and do presentations.”

All our welcome to attend the graduation, which will be held at 3pm on October 2 next to WAM at the MIR picnic area.


Learning curve for Linton in Taiwan

Carpenter Linton Baso is being groomed to be a leader in the Waan Aelon in Majel program and is currently adding to his skills at a training workshop in Taipei, Taiwan. “We are very fortunate at WAM that we have a good partnership with the ROC. I have been on a number of excellent workshops in Taiwan, and now Linton is there doing a Level II Carpentry course,” said WAM Director Alson Kelen.

The course is being presented by Taiwan’s International Community Development Fund, with the selection of trainees being partly handled by the RMI National Training Council. “Two years ago, Linton did a six-month course with the Australian Pacific Technical College in Suva, Fiji. He came back with a lot of great skills from that and we’re hoping for the same this time. Linton has a lot of potential.”

Read the WAM book

unbound WAM book front cover higher resMany of the trainees in the 2012 program star in the book simply titled WAM: Canoes of the Marshall Islands, which was published thanks to the Unbound Bookmaker Project, coordinated by Jamie Zvirzdin. Under this project many Marshallese non-profit organizations were sponsored to create and publish books.

According to the Unbound Bookmaker site the project aims to provide an authorship experience for children in the Marshall Islands to write, illustrate, and publish their own stories, in both Marshallese and English.

“Our aims for this project were to promote literacy, creativity, andc onfidence, with the additional benefit of teaching important life skills, imparting knowledge on environmental issues, and preserving local culture,” Jamie said. “About 300 students in the Marshall Islands have participated in creating 15 class books. Each has received a copy as part of the project, and each library has a set of the books.”

The WAM family with book publisher Jamie Zvirzdin, second from right.

The WAM family with book publisher Jamie Zvirzdin, second from right. Photo: WAM

To hear more about the project, you can listen to Jamie Zvirzdin, creator of the project, in an interview with ABC Radio Australia.

To see more about the book or to buy a copy, go to the amazon store.

Rinkey Hersey

Rinkey Hersey

One hour and thirty-six minutes: That’s all the time that Rinkey Hersey, 24, missed over the six-month Waan Aelon in Majel (WAM) vocational training program, which ends this Friday.
“That’s pretty amazing!” said Associate Director Kathy Hutton.
As part of teaching good work ethics, the Waan Aelon in Majel (WAM) program’s directors are extremely strict about trainees clocking in and out, which is done in clear view of management in the upstairs office.
Hersey’s punctuality, and other newly-learned skills, has made the program a complete success for him as he’s one of the trainees who will graduate and move straight into a full time job.
Born in Delap, Hersey has four younger sisters. He attended Delap Elementary School and then Calvary High, graduating in 2004. “I then got a job at the Frank K store in Uliga, then I worked in the packing division at Pan Pacific Foods.”
That job ran out, and he struggled to find another. “But I did do referee training with the Basketball Federation,” he said. Then, late in 2010, he saw an ad in the Journal for the WAM training program, which was to begin in January, 2011, and applied. He was successful, but funding was held up and the program didn’t start until August.
“I applied because I wanted to learn how to build a canoe. I have seen how the old men and women of the Marshall Islands have been losing their traditions and their culture and I wanted to find out more about it so I can continue the traditions.
“Because I’d had training before, I already knew how to focus, to pay attention to the teacher.”
One of Hersey’s favorite parts of the program is spending time with people from other countries. “I love going out with the visitors on a canoe,” he said. “I’ve also really enjoyed learning how to carve,” he said. “This was the first time for me, but I picked it up okay.”
Ijikar Abraham and Ken Taggart were his carpentry instructors and one of the items Hersey has made in the program is a large clock for the hardware store Do It Best.
No doubt one fact that helped Hersey have such a good time score is that he doesn’t drink alcohol. “I used to drink in high school a bit, but I haven’t had a drink now in three or four years.
“The difference the WAM program has made for me is that before I couldn’t stand in front of people. I thought I couldn’t do anything. Now I see myself a lot differently. I’m not shy any more and I’ve learned I can do more.”
During the two-week Christmas break, Hersey interned at Do It Best. “I really liked the work. I was in the warehouse.”
The feeling was mutual. Do It Best manager Larry Hernandez said: “The kid is awesome. He’s punctual, he’s responsible, he is a kid who doesn’t sit back and watch. He’s always eager to do more. He’s a proactive kind of guy!”

Sakura Edward

Sakura Edward

Sakura Edward walks into the big A-frame building at Waan Aelon in Majel (WAM), confidently picks up an electric planer and begins to work. The 23-year-old was born on Ebeye and then lived for a few years on Wotho. She then went to Delap Elementary School and Marshall Islands High School, finishing in 11th grade. “After I dropped out, I went to the GED program and while she finished the five levels and passed the diploma side, she failed her English test.”
A few years of not doing very much went by, until she was accepted at the Juren Ae program, which is run by Internal Affairs and is a four-month training, focusing on making handicrafts and learning sewing techniques. Its program is on the Ministry of Education campus, next to WAM.
“While I was at Juren Ae, I would come over to WAM and watch what they were doing and became interested. So when I heard there was a training program coming up, I applied.
“One of my favorite things about the program is the activities, especially learning how to use the tools to build canoes. I also loved the English and Math stuff and the counseling part.” The latter is counseling on both a group and individual basis, which is run by Cece Kilma and Tolina Tomeing. They also work for WAM’s Employer Assistance Program, which is funded by the US-funded Single Stage Agency through its Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment program.
When Sakura graduates, she hopes to find a job, “so I can make some money so I can afford to go back to school and finish my GED and then go on to college.
“My goal is to be a teacher. I believe I can improve the level of education at my home atoll of Wotho.”