Year 13 House Building Service Trip to Vanuatu 2018

August 08, 2018 at 3:32 PM

With thanks to student reporter, Grace Jordan and Kirsten Swindell 

As many of us have probably been more than fortunate enough to visit a tropical island in our time, we thought we had an idea of what was ahead of us but this was truly a different experience for us all. We knew of the devastation cyclone Pam had caused, but the reality of it all was awaiting on the other side of our flight. Equipped with mosquito nets, tools, gifts and a whole bunch more; we began our journey, very much unaware of the incredible experiences that lay ahead. We settled in easily on the plane and were served unknowingly what was to be our first of many meals consisting of rice and mystery meatballs. 

Arriving in Vanuatu in the early hours of the morning with a van ride full of both blasting Vanuatuan music and attempted sleep; we arrived in the village of Emua, mainland Vanuatu, to settle in for an hour or so of sleep before an early awakening by the roosters and barking outside. 

Monday started with a welcoming sea of smiles from the local villagers, and a welcoming by Chief Johnny at a gorgeous breakfast banquet looking out over the waterside. This group of locals were to be part of our family for the next five days. Our group of 16 was to be split in half, one building site being a two kilometre walk and the other a mere five minutes from where we had settled. Here both groups were orientated at their sites by a local Vanuatuan building company, who introduced us to the term ‘Island Time’. Through the humidity and lots of laughter, we started making the frames and shovelling our foundation holes through the coral. This was a hard days work on very little sleep and adapting to the change in climate. We ended our day by jumping off the local wharf into incredibly clear waters to cool off and playing the local favourite, football, on their field. After the sun had set, the Villagers would begin to bring in a plate of food from each family to form a banquet for us. The food ranging from chicken to eggs, to beef stew and a large amount of rice; and of course, we could never forget the endless ways in which a banana could be cooked and served. 

Come Tuesday, we started putting up and assembling all the walls and we began to mix the cement with shells and sand collected in wheelbarrows from the beach. Using spades and a wheelbarrow, giving our arms quite the workout, we filled in the foundation holes so that the frames were standing. Here, the nail gun saved us a little of the hard labour. We spent the rest of the day focussed on nailing up the walls and up on ladders putting on the roof. That evening we were treated to dinner at a local restaurant, ravenous from a hard days work, the exquisite banquet was devoured, finishing up with fresh coconut ice-cream and papaya. 

By Wednesday we were all eager to finish the houses and hand them over. Our finishing touches consisted of filling countless amounts of bags of soil to level the interior floor, pouring concrete inside as well as painting the exterior with about one hundred coats of white paint. At my building site we even made a block of concrete out the back of the house where we all put our handprints in. It was a wonderful feeling seeing what our hard work had accomplished within the few days we’d been on the island while we handed it to such welcoming, kind and deserving people like Isaac and his family.

Our final night at the village was one of the best as we celebrated finishing the houses by having a delicious feast where we were gifted traditional Vanuatuan dresses and shirts kindly made by the Mummas at Emua Village. After dinner all the kids from the village excitedly grabbed our hands and we began dancing along to the village band; even the teachers joined in! Afterwards we spent some time with the kids down at the beach where we played games and some of us even daringly ate isopods with them and chased around hermit crabs! The bonds we made with them will surely be never forgotten. 

Our last day at Emua village began with breakfast filled with donuts and once we had all packed up we went to the village ceremony where we gave away one of the houses we had built. Upon arrival we were given beautiful handmade lays and once inside we listened to many moving speeches spoken in various different languages. We could all see how much this home meant to this community and how grateful they were. For me personally this was the most emotional part of the trip, I felt so proud and honoured that I had been given this chance to be of service to this community. They were nothing but kind, welcoming and grateful to us from the moment we arrived as they accepted us so graciously into their community. It was truly life changing to meet a group of people who, despite having so little, had such happiness and a sense of pride and love for one another. 

Once we had said our goodbyes to everyone, we hopped into the van and began our trip to La Vila Chaumières in Port Vila. That afternoon we were lucky enough to travel over to Hideaway Island where we got to play volleyball, sunbathe, swim, snorkel and some of us even dove down and discovered their underwater Post Office! That night we went to a restaurant called The Reef Beach Bar where we watched a spectacular fire show. The following day we ventured to the Blue Lagoon, a beautiful blue water spring with scary rope swings and trees to jump off all around. Some of us were definitely more graceful on the rope swing, with some back flipping and others face planting; it was a great day spent all together. On our last day we went shopping in the morning before it was time to head to the airport and fly home. 

Our trip to Vanuatu was nothing short of unforgettable. We learnt how to build (some of us had a more natural knack), we formed new friendships and we even ate new and strange things. Most importantly, we got the rare and privileged chance to fully immerse ourselves in such a happy and welcoming culture that is filled with amazing people and we found out what it truly meant to be of service to others. I’m sure if we all had the chance we would go back to the beautiful country of Vanuatu in a heartbeat, even though it might take us ‘Island Time’ to get there. Thanks to the 2018 Vanuatu trip family, you guys were awesome to spend this time with and I’m so glad we made these memories as well as some inside jokes together; including Mr. Swart, Miss Aitken and of course Mr. Lidstone.


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