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A year full of highs and lows

Lukluk bak lo yia 2020

…. 2020 started out well. 

January – I took a brief trip to Vanuatu and scheduled a further trip for March. It was while I was travelling back to New Zealand in late January that I first heard of Corona virus and the impact it was having in China.  

We all know what happened soon after that.  Within days, plans changed for people across the globe.  

February – Mary & Jack were accepted into an incubation programme with V-Lab.  A wonderful opportunity for their personal and business development.   

March – Vanuatu closed it’s borders to all flights on 20th March.  Marc-Antoine from V-Lab suggested Mamma’s Laef manufacture reusable face masks.   Diversification is key to keeping abreast of the challenges that we were facing.

April – 6th and 7th April saw the unwelcome visit from Cyclone Harold – sweeping through and devastating the central islands of Vanuatu.

May to July – Vanuatu was still COVID free but all focus was on producing products for Cyclone Harold relief efforts by both Vanuatu placed International and local NGO’s.  Logistics for those at the front line were difficult, to say the least.   The demand for our products was high, but the supply chain was severely disrupted due to non production of factories in China and the long delays in shipping into the Pacific.   We stopped production for a while, waiting for much needed supplies.

Discussions started again about the possibility of our Reusable Nappy Pilot happening. We were keen, but needed to consider the country still being in “clean up/ support mode” from TC Harold.

August – Jack travelled with Department of Environment Protection & Conservation to speak with rural and remote communities about the pending disposable baby diaper ban and the alternatives.  (Thanks to DEPC for this opportunity).

Production of menstrual pads started again, through a grant from the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives.

September – our Reusable Baby Nappy Pilot starts.

October  – working closely with Bambino Mio and SAVVY Vanuatu to capture valuable information to present to Vanuatu government and other interested parties.

November – the first COVID19 positive person arrives in Vanuatu, and our reusable mask production goes into over-drive – giving more women the chance to earn an income for their families.

So this is Christmas and what have we done?

  • Developed new products – reusable face masks and reusable baby nappies.
  • Shared new products with rural and remote communities.
  • Finalised and produced the Men’s TokTok menstrual health education programme.
  • Produced a short video about how we want to see the future of the Pacific.
  • Commenced links to communities via our Champions model.
  • Started a direct sales team in Port Vila and recently expanding to rural communities.
  • Our first imports directly from manufacturers of our raw materials.
  • Provided more women with short term work.
  • Worked alongside other Pacific menstrual health champions to develop better supply chains and to break the taboo of menstruation – Pacific-wide.

Images being captured by young ni Vanuatu photographer, Gina from Starlight Photography to share the essence of Mamma’s Laef with the world. The significance of this photo, is that Mary & Jack are looking at the sea – an euphemism for sikmun
The Butterfly Trust distributed our reusable menstrual pads to women on Vao Island, as part of their TC Harold relief response
Jack travelled with Department of Environment Protection and Conservation in August. Remote communities were consulted in the lead up to the disposable baby diaper ban.
Participating in Pacific-Wide campaigns to break the taboo of menstruation
Chris Elphick from Breadfruit Consulting has coached Mary & Jack as part of the V-Lab Incubee programme
Maryse sporting one of our reusable face masks
Introducing our own design of reusable baby nappy with support from Bambino Mio
Marc-Antoine and Deputy High Commissioner of Australian High Commission in Vanuatu with Mary at V-Lab
UN75 programme helped us move forward the men’s menstrual health education and awareness programme

To our fellow change makers who have supported us along the way – tank yu tumas.

  • V-Lab – Marc-Antoine Morel for the opportunity to grow Mamma’s Laef Vanuatu.
  • Breadfruit Consulting – Chris Elphick for your coaching as part of the V-Lab incubee programme.
  • Bambino Mio – for your supports, guidance and encouragement in walking with us on our development of the reusable baby nappy trials.
  • Amrit – who helped us with content for the Men’s menstrual health programme.
  • The Comfort Club – for their enthusiasm, practical supports and donations.
  • Trustee in New Zealand – Tina – aroha.

#TogetherWeCanMakeADifference

It’s a tag we use in our social media posts – because it’s true.  If we work together, change can, will and does happen.

It has been a busy year for the Vanuatu team and for me in New Zealand. We’ve faced challenges head-on. We’ve learnt a lot. We are grateful for those who have walked alongside us and shared their knowledge.

Now, it’s time to take a short rest.

Mary & Jack and the Vanuatu team send their best wishes to you all for a very special festive season and we all look forward to a fruitful 2021.

Mi lukim yu

Belinda

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