What we do in the Peace Corps



We are community health empowerment facilitators implementing goals laid out in the Community Health Empowerment Project strategic framework.

We are not clinicians, but we are here to do capacity building and behavior change among the clinicians, the local health volunteers, and the villagers. (A communications plan to complement the strategic plan would go far in aiding this mission, and I’ve already expressed the value of having one. We’ll see if this develops during the next two years.)

So now that I got those buzzwords in (strategic framework, capacity building, behavior change), let me break it down for you. Fiji’s Ministry of Health is doing what it can to reverse what is essentially a non-communicable disease (NCD) “crisis” in this country of nearly 900,000. With one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world:

  • One in three Fijians has diabetes
  • An amputation occurs every 12.6 hours in Fiji
  • Only 16 percent of Fijians live past 55 years old

Of course treating the NCDs is critical, but the ministry recognizes that educating the public about their behaviors will go along way in improving these deadly statistics.

That’s where we come in. We are working with the ministry to educate Fijians about what they can do to avoid NCDs: physical activity, healthy food choices, go to the doctor early instead of ignoring symptoms. We are working to build their capacity so that they have the knowledge to live healthy lives, and to teach their children about living healthy, long after we leave Fiji. 

Will and I are in a unique situation with an open field of development opportunities because we’re in a remote region that hasn’t had Peace Corps volunteers since the 70s, and those were education volunteers. We’re at the subdivisional level, which operates a hospital, a health center, a health inspector’s office, a dentist’s office, a maternal child health clinic, and multiple nursing stations throughout six islands. We have the opportunity to educate Fijians about:

  • NCD prevention
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Sanitation and hygiene
  • Women’s empowerment
  • Maternal-child health

So far we’ve given health talks to villagers and trained health workers about practices for women’s self-care and diabetes and hypertension prevention. Our subdivision is in the process of developing its business plan for the upcoming year, so things are a bit slow now. This gives us an opportunity to get to know our community and establish a relationship with the villagers, so they feel comfortable with us and trust us as we move forward together during these next two years.

Non-Dominican Cooking in the DR



I’d like to say that I am usually a more inventive cook, pero me da pena cocinar in my family’s kitchen as I feel I’m in the way half of the time, so I try to keep my meals under 20 minutes.

Above you see peanut noodles. Cooked some pasta — AL DENTE (Fun Food Fact: Dominicans cook pasta for a good 30-45 minutes until its disgustingly mushy). Steamed veggies on top of pasta pot using a colander. Tossed everything together with some peanut butter,  teriyaki sauce, and some hot sauce. For something so simple this is delicious. 


Easiest meal yet. I took some of the white rice my family makes daily and stir fried it with some soy sauce, broccoli, and egg. (Another Fun Food Fact: Most Dominican families will make the same lunch daily which they refer to as la badera — this consists of rice, beans, and some type of protein, usually chicken)


Probably the healthiest meal I have made and everything came from the colmado for under 130 pesos which equals to about $3 USD. (Fun Food Fact: Most families I have spoken to shop solely in local colmados and not in the bigger supermarkets that exist in Jarabacoa. Colamados are probably best compared to bodegas. They carry all of the staples like rice, beans, salami, junk food, and lots of alcohol. Some will have veggies available.) I mixed a can of tuna, tomato, avocado, cucumber, and carrot with some lime juice, salt, and pepper. 

So there you have it! Maria inventando in the DR.