Ngavalus - Well-Being

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As is the case in many collectivist societies, well-being is a central focus of the Ngavalus community. The community as a whole puts an emphasis on cleanliness, hygiene, water and food security, and education among a number of other things maintaining the ability to function at its optimal level. As discussed in the Custom and Culture section, the greater Ngavalus community assembles each Monday morning to discuss communitywide issues and to make announcements. One of the announcements comes from the head of the health committee. This person addresses disease awareness, nutrition, hygiene, and basic first aid education among other health related subjects. The head of the committee also reviews the community procedure for dealing with injury or illness so everyone has the knowledge necessary to obtain treatment. The health committee includes information about modern medicine as well as natural remedies in announcements, encouraging members of the community to utilize their knowledge of natural remedies before incurring the expenses of modern medicines. They work to educate the larger community about the abundance of health resources available to them instead of relying on manufactured products.

Nutrition and hygiene education is also an integral part of the school curriculum in Ngavalus. The students spend time in school learning about the benefits of washing their hands, bathing, brushing teeth, and eating healthy and take time in the morning to sweep and clean the school area. Sometimes they are required to clean up the beach, common areas, or other parts of the village later in the day as well. Not only is this initiative to keep the community clean focused on the school children, but it is also part of daily life for the adults of the community. Everyday the women of the community wake up early in the morning to sweep houses, kitchens, and the area surrounding their houses to keep it looking clean and eliminate insects. The men come together to repair roofs, windows, walls, and whatever else needs fixing to make sure every one in the community has sufficient shelter.

Collective responsibility extends into other aspects of the community’s well-being as well. Similar to the Qaqet and Tolai communities of East New Britain, families or individuals in Ngavalus will take in and care for the widowed or elderly members of the community. Everyone works together to provide these members of the community with food, a well-kept shelter, and companionship. The communal mindset of maintaining well-being goes beyond those who are in need of help in the community. When a group of men have a particularly abundant haul from fishing, it is divided amongst all members of the community. The same goes for particularly large harvests of fruit or other foods. Often times, a surplus of food results in a community-wide feast at which all members of the community are provided with a portion of the abundance.

Date Entered: August 2011