South Pacific Cyclones 2015:
Vanuatu has received only 23% of $5 million requested aid for urgent health and nutrition needs, the World Health Organization said April 15 . The funds are needed for safe water, food, and to fix the struggling health system for a population where 12,500 children are aged under 5 years. http://
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Below is a summary of all the things we were able to participate in while in Vanuatu.
Mere, my wife, has been involved with Eratap village which is a village located just outside of the capital city of Port Vila. The project Mere has been involved in has been a literacy project aimed at helping mothers from the village learn English so they can communicate better with the tourists and earn more money. She was able to collaborate with Dawna, who is a Peace Corps Volunteer, and get the program running again. The US government had given $5000 dollars for the program and the program is up and running now. This includes wages for local women who are the instructors which is a big help for families.
The village also had severe damage to their primary school and the Kindergarten along with the class 1-3 buildings are wrecked. The roof is gone and the wood structure is rotten. They have no school for these children and are looking for a tent or other public building that they can use temporarily. Mere has gotten this community in contact with Architects Without Borders in Seattle which is a non profit organization that supplies architects free of charge to help plan, design, and sometimes even construct buildings that match not only the physical location but also the cultural needs of the community. She heard back from them just today and they are taking on the project! This means that we are now looking for funding to help the village rebuild it's school. If you are in a position to where you would be financially able to help build a school please contact us. Also if you know of anyone else who might help please pass this information on. All donors names will be engraved on a plaque which will be hung permanently on the new building.
We also brought 30 solar flashlights from extendtheday.org to give to the school and it was a good thing because even a month after the cyclone there still was no electricity in the village. No light at night meant that people were relying on kerosene lanterns if they were lucky.
The village has no resources for student learning. Mere and I sat down with the school’s Headmistress and showed her and Dawna the OER (Open Educational Resources) available for free for them to use. The Peace Corps Office was kind enough to let us print some resources for them to use as well. Now students will have materials, whereas before the teacher used the blackboard for everything and students only had paper tablets to copy from the board.
Lastly, Dawna & the principal also gave us a list of school materials that they need because everything the school had was destroyed by the cyclone and with Mere's network in Australia, another NGO is providing school supplies and books, and they will be there to visit the school on the 28th of June. They will also be bringing fiction books for the Malapoa College library.
Malapoa College is the best English speaking school in the country and it is where Jason was a Peace Corps volunteer for 3 years in the 90’s. Jason was going to go and teach there because one of the math teachers had left his job but when Jason asked for a book he found out that they had no textbooks in the entire school. As soon as Jason found that out he told the principal that he can get free textbooks for them we began to look at textbooks instead of me teaching. Using CK12.org as our resource we were able to take the syllabus for year 10 math and create a custom textbook for that class. It worked really well and we had a customized math textbook that fit the topics required for year 10 math that day. We set up a shared group online and Jason is continuing to work with the teachers to create textbooks in math, science, social studies, and english.
We also brought 25 solar flashlights to give to students at Malapoa College as well. The principal called a school assembly and Jason gave a small talk to tell the students about the flashlights and that people in the world care about Vanuatu. The flashlights are now in the library and students can check them out like a library book and take them home to use to do their homework.
Jason also worked with the principal in looking at the main assembly hall at Malapoa College. They have one space where the whole school can come together and sit down for assemblies. This is the only place where information can be distributed to the school as a whole. The roof was in poor condition to start with and after the cyclone it was heavily damaged. When it is raining there is about ½ inch of water on the ground inside and they cannot meet in the hall. The principal and Jason worked on getting estimates on fixing the roof and putting together a letter to give to possible funding sources. We have a good lead already on a grant to fix the roof which will hopefully come through.
Jason also did some professional development with the principal around the use of technology with staff. We focused on tools to help teachers collaborate more, especially tools that are available online. Malapoa college has internet and small computer labs so this was of big interest. We decided that the school would go ahead and take advantage of Google apps for Education which would provide email and Google docs for the school staff at a minimum. Also, we are going ahead with setting up a website for the school with basic information to start with.
Lastly, we investigated the economy and especially the businesses outside the capital city. Mere’s family owns a tourist business that offers local tours to people who are visiting Vanuatu. The tourism industry has been hit so hard because no tourists are coming yet. We took Mere’s Mom and went around the island stopping at all the small businesses that are partners with her tourism business. The devastation was unbelievable. Every business was hit hard and as if the winds from the cyclone were not enough the eastern side of the island had tidal surges of roughly 30 feet. The stories from people were heart breaking and were difficult to listen to. At the same time the people will to clean up and start again was very admirable. By the time we were leaving Vanuatu there were signs of hope and a few tourists arriving. If people would choose Vanuatu as their vacation spot this year it would be a huge help to everyone there.
We still have some projects we are working on even now when we are back in the USA. We will be taking part in a fundraiser on Saturday in Seattle to raise money for relief held by Seattle Oxfam. They have asked us to speak at that event. In addition, we will be taking on raising funds for students whose family’s income has been hurt by the cyclone making them unable to pay for school fees. Keeping kids in school is a top priority.
All in all, the urgency for basic humanitarian relief efforts for food, safe drinking water and shelter is a big concern right now. The Vanuatu Government has issued a request lead by the United Nations humanitarian mission that is on the ground and to the public to get the word out to the international communities for help.
We took a lot of pictures when we were there and If you would like to see all our photos please visit http://
From this point forward, we will continue to work with both schools there through our non profit organization (www.melanesianwomentoday.org) in helping them recover so they can offer the best education possible for their students. We will also work towards replicating the literacy project in other villages in Vanuatu. We are also going to be putting together a volunteer trip in the near future for people to come and experience Vanuatu and help this wonderful place and people improve their lives. If you are interested keep checking on our website for details. All volunteer tourists will get free tours compliments of Island Holiday Tours of Port Vila.