Tag Archives: Micronesia

2018 Summer Internship Series: Ean Tierney in Micronesia

by: Ean Tierney ’19

The dock at Truk Stop Hotel at Sunset in Weno, Chuuk, Micronesia

Even amongst the well-traveled, few in the world are familiar with the series of remote, sun-scorched, wind-swept rocks that make up Micronesia in the Western Pacific. A frequent response when confronted with the information that such a place exists is, “Well, I’ve heard of it.” But one could be forgiven for letting it fly under your radar. It is truly out there. Off the grid.

The Chuuk Lagoon from the roof of Xavier High School

Here, many of the more common challenges associated with development are compounded by the remote and isolated nature of the islands. One such challenge is that, as processed and imported foods become more readily available to locals, the associated change in diet and lifestyle is causing rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes to skyrocket. As many as 4 in 5 Micronesians will become overweight or obese during their lifetime, with 1 in 3, on average, developing diabetes. In some parts of the region, complications from diabetes is the leading cause of death.

A road in the village of Penia, where 15 families received gardens

The basis for my project is rooted in a USAID intervention that took place a few years prior.  There, they provided supplies and training for 45 families to start and maintain a home garden on the island of Weno in the state of Chuuk.  The basis for the project was to reduce the dependency on foreign imports and to provide a channel through which to empower women. (The project was executed through the support of the local women’s council.)  My project, coming on the heels of this intervention, was to assess the general indicators of health and well-being of the families that received the gardens and compare them to those who did not—the idea being that greater access to fresh and local food would be positively correlated with improved measures of health.  If I could identify a strong connection between the two, then it could be fodder for a future project to expand and further improve the gardens.

A woman completes a survey in the village of Sapuk with the assistance of a local translator

My initial results (derived from a self-reporting survey that was distributed at random to families with and without gardens) suggests that there is indeed a correlation.  Hopefully this means that, in the future, this can be used as evidence to support further efforts to improve the health and well-being of the islanders.  At the very least, providing access to a healthy and active lifestyle in a place with poor health infrastructure, feels worthwhile, in and of itself.

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Summer Series: Tess Hart ’18 and the Chuuk Women’s Council in Micronesia

By: Tess Hart

Tess Hart, an IPED Arrupe Fellow, was awarded the Santander International Internships Fellowship to spend part of the summer in Chuuk, Micronesia working at the Chuuk Women’s Council (CWC). The CWC is an umbrella organization of 64 women’s groups across the state with over 1,000 total members. The mission of the organization is “to assist women in becoming more productive and self-sufficient members of our society through comprehensive programs which enhance the social, economic and physical well-being of women and their families in Chuuk.”

Members of the Chuuk Women’s Counsel at a general meeting joined by two representatives from USAID

The Chuuk Women’s Council is currently implementing their Tongen Inepwinéú, Tongen Fénúwach (Love of the family, Love of Our Islands) Climate Change Adaptation through Family, Gardens, Food, and Health Project, which is being funded through the USAID Pacific American Climate Action Fund (PACAM). The program involves training and providing ongoing support for 45 home gardeners, maintaining 3 community nurseries, and developing and implementing a high school gardening curriculum. The program seeks to help participants improve food security through climate resilient gardening methods with a co-benefit of increasing access to nutritious food options.

The USAID PACAM Review team meeting with the CWC.

Returning to the FSM having served as a Jesuit Volunteer in the region prior to attending IPED, Tess helped the CWC team prepare for their mid-term grant review. She worked with the Monitoring and Evaluation team and Project Coordinator to compile data and strengthen implementation methods. The review included visiting and interviewing home gardeners in the villages.

One of the CWC-PACAM sponsored home gardens in Sapuk village.

Tess with one of the many young beneficiaries of the home gardening program (11% are under 5 and an additional 29% are school aged).

In addition to assisting with the PACAM project, Tess assisted the with several grant applications and helped with the preparation of summer curriculums for the CWC’s Summer Enrichment Program for second to fifth graders, which focuses improving reading, writing, and math skills while exploring the importance of the environment and the impacts of climate change. She also reviewed the CWC’s Young Women’s Empowerment Program and helped prepare the implementing team for compliance with AusAid. Moreover, while in Chuuk, Tess had the opportunity to utilize the Micronesian Seminar library, attend the Xavier High School Class of 2017 graduation, attend the inauguration of the governor of Chuuk, and meet with the ambassador of the United States to the FSM.

There is nothing like a beautiful sunset in Chuuk, Micronesia.

Tess is very grateful to the CWC for warmly welcoming her back to Chuuk and allowing her to be a part of their programs. Her advice for students considering applying for Santander funding or seeking a summer internship is to look for opportunities early, make the experience your own, and pursue an area in which you are passionate.

 

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