Jaluit, Marshall Island
BIG CHANGE ON LITTLE JALUIT
By Tanner Smith, Wellness Center Co-Director
Jaluit Atoll is located south of Majuro about 30 minutes by plane. Jaluit used to be the capitol of the Marshalls during World War II. Now it boasts a population of over 1,000 people spread out in a series of communities. It also has one of the only paved runways in the outer-islands, which means the small propeller airplanes are able to land regardless of weather conditions. So, come rain or shine, once a week the Air Marshall Islands plane brings supplies and passengers to the island.
Because of my responsibilities as director at the Canvasback Wellness Center, I hardly ever get to go on any outer-island trips. In the past three years, we have sent many teams to the outer-islands, but each time I have stood at the gate waving goodbye, unable to leave due to work constraints. Well, not this time! I finally took the chance and went on the inaugural “Scaling Up Pacific Adaptation” (SUPA) trip to Jaluit. SUPA is a new initiative from the European Union’s Global Climate Change Alliance that brought 17 people representing 5 different organizations to Jaluit to conduct health and agriculture assessments.
After landing at the small airport with only one man working to check everyone in and get us off the plane, we started a busy week of work. The first order of business was meeting with local officials and landowners to get their approval for the health and agriculture surveys. Culturally, getting buy-in from these leaders is a very important part of doing business and usually takes place during a “yokwe” celebration. Though it was mostly a formality, we were grateful for their approval which meant we were off and running!
The week consisted of visiting health clinics, schools, exercise groups, and agriculture sites to understand the needs in the community. As we worked with local healthworkers to do blood pressure and diabetes tests, we found that about 25% of the patients we saw had diabetes. We were very concerned to see that many of the cases were uncontrolled which could lead to serious consequences such as amputations. We had a chance to talk with Elmon, the local health worker to understand this problem and found that patients only come in once a week on Mondays and often don’t show up for check ups or to receive refills of their medication. We hope to help solve this problem by hiring a community health worker to assist Elmon on monitoring the hypertensive and diabetic patients and referring them to the health clinic.
Adapted from Onboard Summer 2020 article
"Flying back the next week, I was excited about the work we accomplished and the great opportunities to come. Jaluit faces many challenges, but through our partnerships and with support of Canvasback’s loyal donors, we are going to see big changes on the atoll! " Tanner Smith
Ailuk, Marshall Island
OUT & ABOUT ON AILUK
By Sterling Spence
About 250 miles to the north of Majuro, you’ll find one of the most unique locations on the planet. Ailuk Atoll is a 2.1 sq. mile ring of land, home to a thriving Marshallese community of almost 350 people. It has become a destination for the adventurous yachtsman who wants to see a slice of the old ways of living in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. There, dugout canoes are still considered a common form of transportation and life is carved out of the coral with a mixture of ancient wisdom and modern technology.
As you can imagine, life can be precarious in the far reaches of the ocean. Changes in the climate or weather patterns could mean a lack of fresh water or a year without fresh produce. That’s why the Canvasback Wellness team partnered with the European Union’s “Readiness for El Niño Project” to help the community on Ailuk secure food and water resources before a drought. Kristin Smith, co-director at our Wellness Center, accompanied by Lise, one of our Wellness cooks, and Nora from our partners at the Taiwan Health Center traveled to the atoll to teach gardening and health courses.
They brought the lessons we’ve been learning with Marshallese across the island nation. Things like: how to grow okra on a coral atoll, what to use for composting in the tropical climate, and which vegetables are easiest to grow and fit well into cultural dishes. The team even met with the mayor to discuss strategies for making healthy food available at local businesses without harming them; these businesses have thus far made their living by providing affordable, imported foods that often lack necessary nutrients.
Canvasback’s message of wellness, a model for a happy and healthy life, is excitedly spreading throughout the Pacific and we are determined to share it no matter how small the community because we believe everyone deserves a good life!