College Service Trip to Vanuatu

July 30, 2014 at 2:23 PM

With thanks to Year 12 student reporters, Keshini Ketheeswaran and Jonathan Baskett

When our group of 14 Year 12 students arrived at the airport bound for eight days in Vanuatu, we can honestly say that we had no idea what type of an experience we were really in for.

Arriving at Erakor Bilingual School in Port Vila was definitely a shock for all of us. Seeing the standards of the school in comparison to our own campus acted as such a huge reminder of just how privileged we all are here at Saint Kentigern College. There were a minimal number of classrooms, all  half the size of ours, and it didn’t take us long to recognise that the resources available were simply not enough for the number of students.

The experiences we shared with the children within the classroom were amazing and the moments we shared outside the classroom were even better. We were a bit startled when first communicating as we realised that their English was very minimal, making conversations very difficult. So we were surprised with how close our relationships became in such a short period of time. The different languages that we spoke soon became irrelevant because we managed to make them smile and teach them regardless.

Our days with the children consisted of teaching English in the mornings, PE after lunch and subtraction in the afternoons. We all felt a great sense of accomplishment when the students finally understood what we had been teaching them all week. Taking something they knew very little about, to gaining 100% in their test results in only four days was immensely satisfying. After school we swam at the beach next to the school grounds and played hand games and their favourite - soccer!

One of the most touching aspects was just how much the small things in life meant to these children and how we constantly take simple things for granted. Seeing how happy that items brought from the $2 Shop made them was so heart-warming and really taught us about how we need to be thankful for how blessed we are. We went to Vanuatu to teach the children as much as we could, but realised that they actually taught us so much themselves about the lives we live.

Before leaving we handed out our gifts for each child – a tennis ball and whistle, and gifts to the teacher – resource books, chalk and reading books. Much to our surprise, the children also had gifts for us. This was an incredibly humbling experience, seeing these children that have so little offering so much to us; lava-lava’s, leis, necklaces, plates, mugs, wristbands, even hats.

On our last day at the school we met in the administration building and were presented with matching shirts for the boys and dresses for the girls before the children sang songs which reduced the majority of us to tears.

Once we left he school, we were able to experience a small slice of tourist life and caught the ferry to Hideaway Island where we snorkelled through the incredible coral reef marine life and visited the unique underwater Post Office.

Waking up on Sunday we realised we were leaving this beautiful place and wonderful people. At the airport we were greeted with some familiar faces of the school children and it was with a heavy heart that we said our final goodbyes. This was one of the most amazing experiences we’ve had and we will all remember it for the rest of our lives.

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