The SolarSPELL team traveled to Efate and Santo Islands, in Vanuatu, to lead two trainings with Peace Corps volunteers and their counterparts, on October 17, 18, 25 & 26, 2019. During the week between these trainings, the team traveled around both Malekula and Tanna Islands to visit volunteers at their sites where the SolarSPELLs have been used for the past year, to hear success stories and to uncover areas of improvement for the digital libraries. Multiple upcoming posts from SolarSPELL team members will go into detail about these travels to the field. This post will cover the library trainings, which marked SolarSPELL’s fourth year in Vanuatu!

Each of the trainings kicked off with a background and overview of the SolarSPELL digital library initiative at Arizona State University, as well as its development from many lessons learned, from the field, over the course of many years. This portion of the workshop stresses the importance of using SolarSPELL as a tool for teaching information and digital literacy to novice technology users.


This was followed by a discussion of the concept of a digital library, a “highlights tour” of some of the content on the library, and an overview of successful examples of library use from users in the field, both in Vanuatu and around the world.

Next, the libraries themselves are distributed, for hands-on introduction to the technology and to how simple and straightforward it is to connect any WiFi-capable device to the library. The trainees first plug-in and unplug the components of the library, to get some practice doing this, and then get connected to the library, and begin to surf its content on their own.

This training also served as an opportunity for Alyssa Lehn, student in ASU’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, to gather initial data (with a pre- and post-test vis-à-vis knowledge about strokes) for her applied project, which is focused on strokes. Alyssa will return to Vanuatu to continue her work on this project, in the coming months.

Chloe Scott led the overall training session, while Bruce Baikie, Dr. Emily Blau, Dr. Laura Hosman, and Alyssa Lehn all jumped in to provide supporting information as the training covered the subjects each is expert in.

In total, 20 Peace Corps volunteers and 20 local counterparts (Ni-Vanuatu) were trained, with half representing the education sector, and half representing the health sector. Thus, 10 new SolarSPELL libraries will go out to schools across Vanuatu and 10 will go out to health centers or dispensaries, as a result of this training.

For both trainings, the second day focused on the more in-depth questions that volunteers had, which there may not have been time to address during the first day of training. Discussions also became far more detailed regarding the successes, as well as challenges that those introducing SolarSPELL to their communities could face.

The SolarSPELL team looks forward to working with Vanuatu’s Ministry of Education to be able to add the national textbooks and curriculum to the libraries, as well as to discover whether working with additional schools may be possible.

The team truly appreciated the opportunity to get to know all of the volunteers and Ni-Vanuatu, who are now a part of the SolarSPELL family, this past week!

Thank you for the warm hospitality and for four years of working together now, Peace Corps Vanuatu!