I had booked a trip to Vanuatu well prior to Pam and debated after the event whether or not to continue with the plan. There was so much information coming out of Vanuatu in those first 2 weeks immediately after the tragic event, some indicating that the majority of the islands were okay, so I made a decision to continue with the visit, but with a slightly different agenda.
Preparation was interesting. At a time like this, I guess you expect all sorts of information and some of it was conflicting. Based on logic, intuition and advice from those in Vanuatu, I commenced prioritising what to take with me. Medical equipment and food were the first things that came to mind. In the immediate aftermath of Cyclone Pam, I had become part of a group in my region that was formed to raise funds for the recovery of remote areas of Vanuatu. The group, Nelson VanAid, was working under the banner of The Butterfly Trust. That Trust had a long and successful reputation within Vanuatu, in supporting educational and medical needs in remote islands. Two of the key players from that Trust were on the ground in Port Vila and were able to give me great support in preparing for the trip.
Many food crops were entirely decimated and those contemplating, like me what to take on their trip to Vanuatu were considering seeds, as a practical way of helping in a long term way. The overall management of the disaster was being overseen by the National Disaster Management Office, (NDMO) and within that were specific areas of expertise. The Food Cluster were the ones I was taking advice from for appropriate seeds and documentation. That meant that seeds and medical were ticked off my list.
The next issue was food. Early indications were that it would be necessary to take my own food with me to Vanuatu, even though I had no intentions of going to the most damaged islands. Four weeks after the cyclone, reports were showing that many businesses were up and running in a Port Vila and food supplies were available in the supermarkets and smaller shops around the town. This was good news, less for me to carry in my luggage. However I had previously arranged to purchase a large quantity of freeze dried beef, from Absolute Wilderness. I had read that a great deal of the food aid was rice and only very small amounts of protein. So the idea of taking some protein with me would be a practical way of topping up protein intake by villages I was intending to visit. Because of the processing time to make a batch of this, I had gone ahead with the plan and decided to sort out documentation regardless of whether or not I was able to take the freeze dried meat into Vanuatu. After a lot of emails, I was onto a winner. It appeared that there would be no issues at the border, after all, Absolute Wilderness products are taken all over the world by endurance athletes, and secondly, Absolute Wilderness had very kindly offered to donate the entire amount to me for distribution.
Another issue was around excess luggage. After a great deal of emailing for several weeks, Air New Zealand granted me extra baggage to take the medical equipment with me. I am grateful to them for this, it wasn’t straight forward at all, but the staff were very helpful.
Basically, I was ready with very little space for my personal gear, but I was ready …