Year 12 Service Trip to Vanuatu

August 08, 2016 at 10:53 AM

With thanks to student reporters, Josephine Crawford and Tom Hyland

The service trip to Eton School in Vanuatu was one that 14 Year 12 students were lucky to be a part of and one we will never forget. Eton is a small coastal village that was severely affected by Cyclone Pam. The village has no power, no running water, very simple shelters and not a lot else. The school is small with very basic buildings, two long drop toilets shared by 95 students and a field not of grass but of crushed coral.

On arrival, we were presented with beautiful leis of local flowers and the students performed two of their traditional school songs. We were then shown to our sleeping arrangements; a concrete-floored classroom each for the boys and girls. For showers, we took a dip in the freezing lagoon or dunked a bucket of cold water over our heads. Having seen the school toilets we were all relieved to see that Mr Robinson had arranged a portaloo for us. At first this limited accommodation seemed challenging, however, by the end of the trip we were all willing to give up our home comforts to be able to stay longer.

The team’s first day at the school involved putting ceilings in two classrooms. They were roofed only with corrugated iron causing hot temperatures which were unbearable for learning. After two days, we had completed our task and were amazed at what we had achieved. A few of us worked with Mr Robinson to calculate the BMI (Body Mass Index) of the children in the school. Some were around 13 on the scale which is worrying as a healthy child’s BMI should be between 16 and 23. We also treated around 50 students for boils and infected sores and cuts.

Over the next few days we went into the classrooms to teach the students. The children were some of the hardest working students we have ever seen. We learnt a new respect for our teachers because we found that teaching was not a simple task for any of us. On one occasion we taught them to sing ‘Tūtira mai ngā iwi.’  They picked it up quickly and soon we started hearing the song across the school. We also had them chanting ‘When the Saints go Marching in’ with great enthusiasm!

As a group we were surprised by how giving, loving and happy the whole community was, even though they had close to nothing. This may seem like a cliché, but seeing the amount of laughter and constantly being surrounded by the locals’ happiness made us think about what we value in life. How important are those luxury items when you look at the little that the people of Vanuatu have and the way they still find happiness?

During our emotional farewell from Eton School none of us wanted to leave. The school kids didn’t want us to go either. They ran after the mini buses chanting ‘When the Saints go Marching in.’ 

After six days at the school we were lucky enough to spend a day on Hideaway Island resort, where we were able to relax and go snorkelling! This enabled us to be able to experience both sides of Vanuatu. It is hard to believe these two extremes exist. Places like Vanuatu are not just a holiday island but it is a home for many people who have close to nothing, but are unfailingly friendly and generous. With the knowledge we have gained from this trip we all want to bring awareness of these people’s lives and their huge potential. This experience has created the feeling that it should be an obligation to do all in our power to be successful with all that we have. 



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