Canada is a long way from Loh Island in Vanuatu. Toronto, Canada to Loh Island, Vanuatu is 13586 kilometres.
The Torres Islands are situated in the TORBA Province of Vanuatu, the northernmost island group in the country. That’s where Mary, Jack, Maryse and Kalpep recently visited.
Mamma’s Laef Charitable Trust in New Zealand secured funding in mid 2020 from Canada Fund for Local Initiatives. The goal was to improve access to knowledge and resources of menstrual health for the remote communities of Torres Islands.
Manufacture – Deliver – Educate
To achieve this, firstly our team manufactured reusable menstrual pads in Pango village. At a time when so many ni Vanuatu have little income because of our closed borders, we were able to employ extra women to assist with manufacturing. Secondly, we were to deliver a menstrual health education programme. It became a week long visit to the island, as planes were only flying in once a week due to COVID19.
The third part of this project, was to ensure that the knowledge was in a shareable format. This would mean that sikmun conversations would continue long after we have departed these beautiful islands. We are delighted that the participants from the Workshops are now beginning to introduce this education programme to their communities.
Our original plan was to visit the Torres Islands before the onset of the 2020 cyclone season. COVID19 restrictions meant that freight into Vanuatu was delayed and essential raw materials didn’t arrive in time for us to complete the manufacture of sikmun pads before the end of September 2020. That created a domino effect. The planned October visit needed to be pushed out to avoid the tail end of the cyclone and wet season. Additionally, another issue we faced was shipping of the products to the remote islands. Many moons ago, the Maritime Police had approached us indicating if we ever needed shipping of items to remote islands, to let them know. We put the call out to them. Perfect timing, their ship was sailing north and could transport the boxes of sikmun pads.
You can probably imagine the challenging logistics, however as we had discussions with representatives of the TORBA Provincial Council in 2018, it meant that some good foundations were already in place. Jack made regular contact with Thomas Simon the Area Administrator and Kimson the Community Liaison Officer. Both men were very helpful and keen to make sure the Workshop and distribution was successful.
A warm welcome
Our team were warmly welcomed by the Chief on Loh Island. The community and participants were incredibly welcoming and we soon felt part of the community. Those who attended the Workshop were enthusiastic to learn more. They expressed gratitude to Mamma’s Laef for identifying their communities as some of the most in need of our products. And so, the Workshop began. Sharing knowledge and breaking taboo about sikmun (menstruation) and preparing to take that knowledge back to their own communities. Additionally, each women on their home islands would receive 8 sikmun pads to suit their needs (light, regular and heavy flows). The products are contained in our new Bergman Bag, which includes clear instructions on use and care of the pads.
Tank yu tumas Canada
Little by little we are impacting on the positive health of ni Vanuatu. Sharing our products and knowledge of sikmun. We wish those who attended the Workshop the very best in their presentations in their own communities. We are grateful to the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives in granting this fund to allow such important work to be done in some of the most remote islands in Vanuatu.
If you are a funder who would like to partner with us to create more impact, contact us on [email protected]