Hope you’re doing well! Sorry for my late response, I continued traveling after Fiji and internet has been sometimes scarce so I have been rather offline, which is not a bad thing I suppose 🙂
I’ll try to summarize my feedback as per your request below, but I’m happy to give you more insights should you want to discuss further.
Highlights: creating the bond with the staff from both Sheratons, especially the first one we stayed in (kudos to Sulu, who was amazingly supportive). It was rewarding to see that some of them were so committed in changing their eating habits and lifestyle in general – some even came up after some days to be checked again and see improvements already (and there were a few indeed!). Was also great to train the HR staff from the Sheratons – and with the material I donated to them, they are very enthusiastic to continue doing checks on a regular basis. The village visits, although we didn’t have as many as we wished for, were also amazing – and the chiefs were very welcoming and quite enthusiastic about it. We even had people from neighboring villages coming over as word of mouth spread across the island that we were doing these checks – can’t get any better! There was one resort (Taumeasina) that we ended up doing checks one day (arranged by the Sheraton, as villages didn’t work on the first week), and it was probably the most amazing and productive day we had. We checked almost their entire staff in just 4 hours, and their manager was a great host.
Team, food & accommodation: there’s not a single thing I could complain about. Working with Pam and David was an immense pleasure and so much fun, and I learned loads with them (especially Pam given her medical background). We organized ourselves pretty well and quickly right from the start, and improved along the way (e.g. getting food pyramid printouts to hand over to those being checked, check-in forms and reporting details). Food was amazing and we had plenty of choices (especially at the second Sheraton), and given my food restrictions I was really impressed at how well I could eat and how supportive they were in accommodating food changes I had to make here and there.
1) I think you can mix up villages and resorts on the same day (at least a few days). We saw that villages get really quiet after lunch, so it doesn’t make sense to even go there. Hence, I would say you can do checks in the morning in villages and then continue in the afternoon in resorts. This way you maximize the time and check more people in one day. You might want to also check at opportunities to work in Savaii, as it’s more rural and I would well imagine with even greater need for health checks.
2) when visiting villages, it is important to arrange with someone from the resorts that we have a permanent translator with us (either someone from Sheraton comes with us or the village ensures someone from their side). We were lucky to have it, but it was rather last minute organized, and if we wouldn’t have it, we would struggle with a lot of people not speaking enough English.
3) when Pam and I decided to ask for print outs of a healthy food pyramid to hand out to people who would visit us, we saw this had a major positive impact in providing advice on what to eat and what not. People felt it was a nice thing to have something visual and that they could “bring home”. I would recommend continuing to do this.
4) not sure how it was coordinated between you and Pam/David, but in fact most of the material we used for blood glucose tests (monitors, test strips and most of the lancets), were coming from my donations I brought over from Portugal. I think there was some material that maybe should have been brought over to Samoa, as I think these would be provided in full by IVI for the two weeks (that’s where part of the volunteering fee goes to anyway, right?). I am happy to have helped, don’t get me wrong – but in fact, I ended up with less strips and lancets to donate to clinics and villages, which would have been ideal. After all, we checked nearly 400 people I believe – so, it was a lot of material we used.
Many thanks, and look forward to hear from you!
Take care 🙂