Service Trip to Vanuatu

July 27, 2015 at 1:13 PM

With thanks to student reporter, Aimee Blake

The 15 students who accompanied Mr and Mrs Goebel on the service trip to Vanuatu all felt extremely lucky to have been chosen for a journey that opened their eyes to village life on a Pacific island away from the tourist resorts. In the wake of Cyclone Pam that tore through the island group earlier in the year, they weren’t exactly sure what to expect but they soon discovered Melanesian hospitality and were quickly made to feel at home as they set about their tasks for the week.

Student, Aimee Blake reported on the trip of a lifetime:
‘We spent seven days on the beautiful island of Vanuatu with five of those at Sama Sama Rainbow School. As we made the journey from the airport to the school, we were all shocked at the devastation left from the cyclone and it was clear that Vanuatu still has a long way to go until they fully recover. The early van ride was spent in silence as we all felt confronted by what we saw as we passed through the villages but excitement and anticipation grew as we approached our home for the next five days.

On arrival we were greeted by Principal Ruth and the first afternoon was spent unloading the books, pens, paper, games and sports equipment that we had brought with us. We were pleased by how much we managed to bring and quickly came to realise how much of a difference it would make.

Our living quarters consisted of two classrooms and an office. We laid the mattresses down on the floor at night and then cleared them away each morning ready to teach the children. We had two toilets and a cold shower, as well as a deck which had tables and an oven. We woke to roosters crowing and dogs barking each morning and then quickly packed away our beds and mosquito nets.

School started at 7.30am and the smiles and greetings we received were truly heart-warming. The day began with songs and prayers, bringing some of us to tears with the beautiful words they sang and spoke. The school motto was ‘Put God First in Learning’, and it was quickly bought to our attention how Vanuatu is a very spiritual place. We taught and had fun with the 50 children that attend the school, who had two classes each day dependent on age and ability.

We distributed the work each day between our group with a variety of activities including building tables and a volleyball court, painting murals as well as taking the classes. As the children ranged from 4 to 13 and English was not their first language, teaching English and maths was interesting at times but the children were easily motivated and so well behaved. The amount of laughing, smiling and the love we felt over the seven days from the adults and children alike was something none of us will ever forget.

The happiness these children showed from receiving our simple gifts was incredible and it was amazing how these children were so grateful for all those small things we take for granted every day.

We enjoyed staying on site at the school with Ruth and her extended family. We were able to form close relationships with them and each night before bed we all gathered together to sing and pray, which was an amazing experience in itself.

The final night at the school came much sooner than expected. It was full of emotion, with singing, dancing, crying and delicious fresh produce Ruth and her family prepared for us. After we left, we were lucky to go to a beautiful waterfall for a swim, which was perfect to raise our spirits.

The following two days at the resort were good to reflect on our time at the school. We travelled to Hideaway Island where the water was crystal clear and we were able to go snorkelling, see beautiful fish and enjoy a lunch by the beach.

Saying goodbye at the airport was touching. We were surrounded by our new friends who all came to farewell us, giving us gifts that we’ll cherish forever. It was such a nice reminder on what is really important in life. It was truly inspiring to be surrounded by such beautiful, loving, happy, caring people and it was an experience to never be forgotten. The children were wonderful company and it was clear that what we donated would make a big difference for Sama Sama Rainbow School. It was a large life lesson to us all, coming from a society fixated on social media and a lot of superficial things. It taught us that we shouldn’t need a lot of possessions to be happy. It was a good reminder for us not to take things for granted and really appreciate what we have in life. 

The Vanuatu service trip was amazing and we were really glad we were able to help the school, especially after the cyclone. Overall it was extremely rewarding and truly life changing; a trip to never be forgotten.’

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