Leaving Luganville on another early morning flight, heading south to Port Vila and knowing that I would need to “hit the road running” with a series of meetings. Two of my meetings were based around Lav Kokonas’s desire to “pay it forward in Vanuatu”. Firstly, a gifted couple who had previously volunteered in Vanuatu with prisoners, and the creation of Kalabus Arts, had returned for a new placement working within tourism for ni-Vanuatu businesses. The second meeting was with a ni Vanuatu man who is as passionate about football as one could be. Late in 2013, I had been approached by a Nelson football player / fan about the possibility of a project in Vanuatu to support footballers. The idea behind my meeting on the seafront in Port Vila, was to make a connection and see what needs there were with youth level football across Vanuatu. I came away feeling enthused about the possibilities to assist youth in something that they enjoy. I am sure the young man in Nelson will make this project run, watch this space.
The day progressed with a few compliance meetings to tick the boxes for Lav Kokonas, finishing with a brief meeting with Volunteer Vanuatu. It was good to get an update from Amanda. Volunteer Vanuatu continues to get traction across Vanuatu, working with key government departments in order to respond to specific needs across some of the 83 islands that make up the Vanuatu archipelago.
My accommodation was a ni-Vanuatu owned guesthouse in Pango, an area of Port Vila speckled with small resorts. One of the extended family who own the guesthouse welcomed me into their home share dinner. A lovely opportunity to relax and find out more about what is important to non rural living ni-Vanuatu. It was clear as with rural ni-Vanuatu that education of their children is nambawan (top priority) on the list of importance for families. There were 3 children in this family, all highly motivated to do well at school and wanting careers that will lead their family forward. Such refreshing attitudes in a country where education is not always affordable. Annual school fees are approximately $1,500 NZD per year per child. When most ni-Vanuatu are non- income earners, this is a significant barrier to education. Those families that do have an income, live on a wage in the vicinity of $2 NZD per hour. You do the mathematics on that.
My final day in Vanuatu was to be meeting-free but there was one opportunity I couldn’t resist, the chance to meet one of our suppliers who happened to be in Port Vila for the day. Later that day I had the opportunity to head up to northern Efate where I was able to visit two of the Presbyterian Colleges
who will receive donations of mathematics text books which Lav Kokonas were arranging to have sent to Vanuatu.
It was the first time I had been inside a Vanuatu boarding school, consisting of a large dormitory with shuttered windows. Sleeping spaces with little privacy, apart from the brightly coloured sarongs at the entrance to the set of 4 bunks per “room”. The girls seemed happy and one in particular, pleased with the gift of a goodie bag from Port Vila. The day came to a close, with dinner provided by the beautiful ni-Vanuatu family again. I always enjoy eating aelen kakae (island food).
The day of my departure with a 4am alarm – I was greeted outside by a very heavy dew and a low fog hanging around the airport, but the flight was not delayed. My final view of Vanuatu was a billowing Mount Yasur on Tanna Island, a beautiful sight to remember my first solo trip to Vanuatu.