following is an account of our experiences in Vanuatu:-
It started with our ministry
to the Vanuatan seasonal workers who became part of our congregation
about two years ago. Listening to their chilling accounts of
survival during and after the Category 5 cyclone ' Pam' in March 2015, we
decided to see how we could help their villages. That
culminated in a container of medical, educational and other assistance
that we accompanied to Port Vila in June 2017.
Vanuatu has the unfortunate categorisation as being
most at risk country in the world' – from cyclones, earthquakes,
volcanoes and sea level rise (83 islands spread out along the
“ring of fire” the edge of one of the world’s most active tectonic
A number of potential
projects were identified. We prioritised
areas of greatest need, deemed to be provision of
desks to the Rongdal School – a tiny primary school where the
children’s desks consisted of overlapping scraps of plywood on tree
trunks; and the refurbishing of the children’s ward at Port Vila
hospital. While we were visiting the hospital, they were trying to
raise $10,000 to buy a delivery bed for the maternity ward.
you to members of the congregation for donations of
money, and for the mountains of clothing,
books, toys and other educational material that we have received.
It is your compassion over a prolonged period of time, in supporting
this aid effort, and in the fellowship and support that you have
provided to the groups of seasonal workers who have joined our
congregation, that is really appreciated.
those who have journeyed to Vanuatu, we personally have received much
more than we have given, in the cultural richness, friendship and
fellowship that we received from the people.
November 2017, a group of us went back to Port Vila to talk to government
officials and the local Rotary Club about what permissions were required
and if our suggestions were something that the country wanted/needed.
Our suggestions were met with great enthusiasm and we were given
assurances that the assistance to the children’s ward in particular
would be gratefully accepted.
weren’t planning to send another container as our initial thoughts
were to source funding for desks for the Rongdal School and purchase
them. However, on visiting the Rotary warehouse Donations in Kind, we
were delighted to be offered 70 desks and chairs and a maternity
delivery bed as well as baby bassinettes, drip stands and an examination
Then came the task of raising money to send a container and
buy paint and supplies. We again approached Rotary, and the Warragul and
Moe Clubs very generously added to our donation. This was bolstered by
an unexpected, but delightful, corporate donation, which made the
paint however became a nightmare. Shipping companies weren’t
keen on sending it as a pallet on their ship. AusAid came
to the rescue and the paint was provided by the Australian Government
along with much of the painting equipment. In another faith
promoting incident, the paint brushes we took, generously supplied by
the congregation, were invaluable as the equipment that AusAid didn’t
supply was paint brushes.
We also bought protective facemasks,
gloves, new curtains for the treatment room, stick-on numbers for the
beds, and provision of lunches for the Nivan (Vanuatan) workers who turned up
diligently every day to help. Without them we would never have
been able to finish, as the task was much bigger than we had
Members of our congregation and local Rotarians from the tiny Rotary club
of Port Vila were of great assistance. All of those who came to help did
so at their own expense. Our Nivan friends took unpaid leave from their
jobs to assist.
painting took almost three weeks! Access was not possible every day
because the wards were often too full of sick children. This was,
in a way, fortuitous because we needed to liaise very closely with
government to secure the release of the container and gain customs
exemptions. This was much harder than last year as customs now
require new exemptions – in our case, from the Ministry of Education
and the Ministry of Health. Fortunately as our budget was much better
than expected due to the assistance of AusAid, we were able to cover
this without difficulty.
the children’s ward was confronting. The children were
“shunted” from one side of the ward to the other while we painted.
Some of them were very seriously ill with heart, chest and digestive
problems. Seeing a 4 week old baby with whooping cough was something
none of us would like to see again; three children died while we were
there, one from a curable condition had he been born in Australia.
what is all of this about really? Why have we put ourselves
through these enormous (and stressful) projects?
is about people. Pure and simple. Helping, uplifting, showing that
someone cares, putting our needs and comfort behind that of others,
building relationships, showing gratitude for what we have. Our
efforts are assisting to build the capacity of that very new nation, and
our gifts free up their resources to be used elsewhere.