Monday, December 20, 2010
Jen and Cammi-came on a vacation to help out
Cammi teaching some children about heart rate.
Cammi allowing kids to hear their heart beat for the first time.
Cammi being amazing with children, again.
Jen and Cammi checking blood pressure in Rachel's village for the Samoa Challenge II.
Jen and me in Rachel's village.
While Jen and Cammi were here, they volunteered to check blood pressure in many of the villages in Savai’i to help with the Samoa Challenge II. They planned on 6 villages, and knew that a few more places might come up during their visit.
We started with Ali’s village, since it was the farthest from my village. When we arrived the women were carrying bags of sand, and we learned they had been doing that for awhile. Our arrival finally prompted them to take a break from their work, but they still took awhile to arrive at the Women’s Committee fale. In the meantime we spent time with the children in the beautiful fale that overlooked the Ocean. Jen and Cammi tried to explain about heart rate and used their stethoscope to let them hear their heart. It was the first time they had ever heard it, so it immediately brought smiles across their faces.
The women finally arrived and they were happy to hear the numbers of their blood pressure, since they do not usually have them checked regularly. Some of the women were advised to talk to a doctor, but overall they had better numbers than we originally thought.
We then headed down the road to Rachel’s village. Rachel had been working her women hard, as her and her counterpart Vern created new Jazzercise routines every week. Along with that, she went walking with the women, played volleyball with them and had numerous sports days where they played invented games.
It was the women’s final meeting and it was amazing to see their smiles as they weighed themselves for one final time and checked their measurements. I helped Rachel with this, while Jen and Cammi travelled around the room to check each women’s blood pressure and heart rate. All of the women in Rachel’s group had smiles on their faces the entire time we were there as they tried to offer their relatives as pe’u (boyfriends) to Jen, Cammi, and myself. When we left the room, the women weren’t done. Even though their final measurements were logged on paper, they still wanted to exercise and I was able to witness one of their amazing Jazzercise routines. I hung out in the doorway trying to do the dance myself and was having a blast.
Dana’s village was next. I was excited to show Jen and Cammi the beauty of her beaches since we arrived early. Dana’s group meets in the open fale in front of her house, and even though it is a small group, they all seemed so happy to be there and loved having Dana as their fearless leader of the program. While all the measurements were being done, she kept throwing out words of encouragement to them. She even had a women who was not able to be in the program because of her high blood pressure show up, and she explained to me that the woman still took part in each activity, even though she knew she could not get a prize out of it. Jen and Cammi were pleased to report that all of their blood pressures had dropped to healthy numbers because of Dana’s efforts.
We then headed up to Matt’s village where we saw a falavelave was going on, and were hoping it would not interrupt too much our plans. We decided to spend our time seeing some of the sites around Asau while we waited. We visited the old airport, the wharf and the pools. It was finally time for her meeting to start so we headed to the school where Matt lives at. Matt was concerned that the women might not show up for another few hours because of the falavelave, but thankfully they did, so we could continue with our plans. Jen and Cammi went around the room checking each women while I took pictures (they were going to do the other assessments at a later time) and did simple translations to help advise some women to seek a doctor for help controlling their blood pressure.
Elisa is my closest Peace Corps neighbor, so all the women in her village already know me, and it goes the same in my village. When we arrived, we were immediately impressed. Elisa had a classroom set up with posters lining the room, and check off lists for her group. She had music on in the background to make everyone feel comfortable. In her village, not only had all of her women lowered their blood pressure, but they were all at healthy numbers. Elisa had put a lot of work into her project, making numerous house calls to her “students” houses. She should be proud of her village’s accomplishments.
Our final stop was Emi’s village. We were so thrilled to get to Emi’s house because she was the only village where all of her women were there when we had already arrived. They were sitting around weaving beautiful fine mats which meant that they were rested more than other villages (especially those with women who had just finished carrying several sacks of sand). Emi is another one who made sure to work her women to lose weight as they had jazzercise several mornings a week starting before 6 am, and sometimes in the afternoon. Only a real dedicated volunteer would put in the effort she was with her women. After spending time with her women, we understood while she did it. Her women are amazing as they were constantly cracking jokes, and after Jen and Cammi had finished their work, several of the women got up and tried to teach us how to siva (dance) Samoa.
I am really proud of group 82 in Savaii for their work on this health project. Ali, Rachel, Emi, Elisa, Dana and Matt are not only incredible friends, but wonderful volunteers as well. They have put in so much work into this project to help improve their village and you can tell how much the women of their village appreciated it. Like me, they have one more year left to shock and amaze their villages and leave a lasting imprint in each villagers’ heart.
Jen and Cammi also were amazing, giving up so much of their vacation time to help out the people of my island. I know not only my Peace Corps family appreciates what they did, as throughout the time they were here, people were recognizing them to say thanks.