Waan Aelon in Majel (Canoes of the Marshall Islands) is bubbling with activities with two training programs for young people ongoing at one time.
In years past, WAM sponsored one six-month life skills and vocational training program centered around canoe building and carpentry. This year, opportunity arose to run a skills training in woodworking related to the government’s coconut replanting program that is focused on creating local products ranging from picture frames to furniture from coconut and other local wood sources. Twenty trainees are working in this six-month program, which is funded by the United Nations Development Program/Global Environment Fund.
Not to neglect its life skills and vocational training program aimed at school dropouts, WAM launched its six-month program last month for 25 young people, with funding support from the National Training Council. All told, 45 young people are involved in the daily training program at WAM.
“We didn’t want to lose the opportunity to work with dropouts,” said WAM Director Alson Kelen. “We see an increasing number of dropouts (in Majuro). This part of the program is important.” Knowledge of Marshall Islands canoe culture is a foundational aspect of the life skills and vocational training program that aims to engage young people in developing viable opportunities for their future after dropping out from school in some cases as early as elementary level.
New opportunities are opening for local products from the coconut tree replanting starting to happen on a number of outer islands. “For people on outer islands, the main source of money is copra,” said Kelen. New trees will improve the copra product and availability of coconuts.
But what about the coconut logs from the thousands of trees that will be cut down and removed so new ones can be planted? Kelen sees the opportunity of new cottage industries developing. “We’re training the group in the woodworking program to use portable saw mills,” he said. The lumber that is produced can be used “to make frames, flooring, counters, tables, chairs and other products. It offers income for the makers.”
Kelen mentioned the RMI’s “Be Marshallese/Buy Marshallese” slogan and program. “We’re actually doing it,” he said. “This will help copra makers and weavers with a new industry.”
The goal, he said, is to take these two groups “from a wasted life to sustainable livelihoods. We’re not doing it for them,” said Kelen. “We’re giving them the tools. We give guidance and (let them) walk the talk.”
Read more about this in the April 21, 2017 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.