Service in Vanuatu — A partnership with the Survival School
With thanks to student reporter, Mabel Ye
To describe this experience in one word? Rewarding. The smiles on the children’s faces, the endless stock of tropical fruits, playing sport with the children every spare moment of the day, outrageous singing in the truck and friendly locals are just some of the things we miss from our week long experience in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Seven boys and seven girls departed Auckland in June - and all with overweight luggage. We crammed our suitcases with as much sports equipment, school stationery and clothes as possible to gift to the children of the school we were visiting, the Survival School in Vanuatu. Despite being a private school, the conditions are far from those we experience at Saint Kentigern – one running toilet for a few hundred students, six classrooms, pencil engraved desks, mismatched chairs, missing window panes, and worn down black boards.
The first five days were spent at the school doing three things: building a sand volleyball court and outdoor seating area (also to be used as an outdoor classroom) for the school; teaching a class of up to 50 students; and playing with the children, whether it was soccer, rugby, frisbee, volleyball, or learning and teaching hand games. Class was from 8am – 2pm and the students ranged from 5 – 17 years of age. With the younger children we taught rhyming words, basic maths, and songs and dances such as the Chicken Dance and the Macarena. On the other side of the spectrum, we taught the older students basic physics, how tropical cyclones form, the parts of an insect and English language features. The satisfaction of teaching made this experience so special.
Some of the students had never seen a movie before, so on one night we held a community screening of Madagascar. From here the plan is to continually provide DVDs for the school to be able to run movie screenings regularly as a source of income for the school.
Saying goodbye was an emotional experience, in a few short days friendships were built in the hope that we would see each other sometime in the future again.
In the tropical regions, June is part of the cold-dry season and unsurprisingly we experienced warm nights, occasional rain, and felt fatigued by the humid days. On the first night we were awoken by a small earthquake. Some of us slept through it like rocks.
The final two days were spent relaxing at a resort. This was a stark contrast from our home a few days before. We explored the local markets, snorkelled at Turtle Bay, and generally relaxed. Snorkelling with giant turtles, small reef sharks, and colourful fish was a memorable experience, and from Hideaway Island, we went out by boat to snorkel deep in the sea with an even greater array of fish.
The friendliness of every student, teacher, and local made us feel like one of them. ‘Vanuatu time’ seemed to pass slowly and allow us to soak up every joyous moment. On one of the last few days, Mrs Robinson said, ‘People at home seem to think, ‘I’ll be happy when…’ but here in Vanuatu they are happy with the smallest of things.’ Modern society, not only NZ but around the world, is rarely satisfied with what they have and are always wanting more. From this trip we were able to actively make a difference in their community - by giving the students and teachers resources that have the ability to change the school for the better. Memories such as this last a lifetime