In 2014, I stayed in a luxury villa with my family on a holiday thrown for us by various donations. It was a surprise holiday that was much loved by all.
So when Cyclone Pam hit, you had memories of the people you had met and their struggles. You could picture it. It was like a bad thing had happened to my family.
My nine year old daughter felt it more. After watching the News one night she glue sticked posters on the dining room wall. They were pleas of help. Little ad campaigns. To no one else, but our family.
I ate meals every single day looking at those heartfelt drawings by my daughter and I wondered what our family could do for Vanuatu. One idea was to have a fund-raising concert called ‘Van for Vanuatu‘ where Hamilton musicians would play the songs of Van Morrison and Van Halen and maybe the odd Vangelis piece…that didn’t happen luckily.
What did happen was that my oldest son Jackson and I went to Vanuatu for ten days. We volunteered with a bunch of New Zealanders from Gisborne and ended up in a squatters village in Port Villa. A collection of hustled together sheds/shacks with dirt floors and lots of rusty buts – home to a village of people living hand to mouth.
We played up our soccer skills and down played our importance in being there. We negotiated with the chief and the elder of the village and soon sussed out the needs and got to it – with the help of the locals. We made roofs secure and water tight. We made walls for a widows house, chainsawed a fallen tree out of the stream causing a dam, dug new toilets and made a shelter for our doctors and nurses helping the locals.
It was another world and one of the best weeks of my life. Other worlds are great to visit. To see my son, with all privilege of western culture engage with people that have so little – but have so much in terms of spirit and joy, was brilliant. Unforgettable. To see him sweat alongside and make friends with his Vanuatu brothers on iron roofs is worth the ongoing malaria pill swallowing. Other worlds make you reflect deep on your own world – maybe it just isn’t what its cracked up to be
Vanuatu is a great holiday place. But many tourists would never feel what it’s like to be part of life in a village. I’ll definitely be going back – and I’ll taking as many as I can with me.
Written by Dave White – Incedo community worker