Sunday, September 27, 2015

And Now for the Men

A happy skipper getting the bags of
clothing off the boat - finally!
A few of the younger men had grabbed a few items for themselves on the day the children selected their clothing. A bag of adult clothes made it to shore (along with a few other bags that were not to have been transported, i.e. Exercise books and Bibles) accidently.

The women had set a fine example of how to select their clothes without the chaos, so it was decided that the men would be called in groups by age with the elders going first.

Out came our sail again! Last time.
The sail was brought out again and we dumped bags by like items: pants, shirts, jackets and vests, hats, etc. Each person was asked to select one thing. We thought we had a lot of men’s clothing, but we were stunned by the number of men who showed up. Where had they all been last year? It seemed like they had dropped in from the tree tops!

There were not enough clothes for the men.
As it turned out, there was only enough for one item per person! I felt bad about that, but it was out of our control. We had what we had and that was all. So the need is still great as there are men wearing shorts with holes in the back so their underwear hangs out – if they are lucky enough to have a pair of boxers or briefs. Again, we encourage cruisers coming here to bring clean used clothing, water in containers that can be left and food.

When one of the young men complained about the older men going first, Dennis reminded him that he was an older man and where we come from you show respect to your elders!

Everyone wanted to get their hands on something!
We heard several times that there are some “bad boys” in the village and they will take anything left out. The word “stealing” wasn’t used, but it was strongly implied. That was a heads up for us to not bring stuff ashore without the Chief overseeing the goods.

Dennis purchased a tool box with a lock for
the community and gave the key to a chief.
We learned a lesson in Tanna on dispersing tools. Dennis had put together a couple of sets of tools for the village at Port Resolution, Tanna. When we arrived and he was offering to help someone fix something, he learned that there was a Phillips screw driver here and a flat screw driver in the house over there and a hammer somewhere else.

Chief Kaisa loved this oil-skin coat!

They don’t seem to get the concept of keep things in sets and sharing the whole set when tools are needed. He would like to be able to use the set of tools when working on project while we are here. Dennis spoke with the chiefs and Chief Nawa will be put in charge of keeping the tools together. Hopefully he has the authority to have the tools returned to the community tool collection.

Vincent's father received a yam shovel.
Each of the four tribes received one. It 
must have gone to the elder in this case.

In Avokh, Dennis stressed to Chief Kaisa and Vincent the value of keeping the tools together. They seem to have gotten the idea, but we are not sure the whole set will come back after someone has used it. It is out of our control so we should stop thinking about it. It is amazing what thoughts wake us up at night!

This man is known as "the boat builder" as he has carpentry
skills. It does not appear that they teach the younger men the
various skills and trades needed on the island. They believe
God has given you a talent and it can't be developed otherwise.
We also shared with Chief Kaisa how they disperse gifts on Tanna. There each Chief and his tribe sits in an area and items are equally dispersed among the four chiefs. The chiefs then divide the items up among their people. There was no grabbing and chaos there. Maybe it will make a difference on Avokh in the future. At least, Chief Kaisa seems interested in what life is like on the other islands we have visited.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Big Day for Dresses and More

We had told the women that there was a surprise for them and that the men must stay away. Again, the men had a difficult time with this concept as the whole community tends to participate in everything.

When Dr. Elizabeth was making house calls in the village, everyone followed her from house to house to watch the proceedings. I guess the patients are accustomed to this and don’t seem to mind. It makes for Live Action News!

The dresses were arranged in piles of Small, Medium and Large so they could find their size and choose a color or pattern they liked. This time we used a table instead of the sail on the ground. The ladies lined up and stayed relatively orderly except for a few who don’t understand English – and apparently, don’t pay attention to instructions in Bislama either!

The dresses were colorful and crispy new. The style is basically the same for all. I could guess which color a woman wanted after a while as they each tended to pick the same color they were wearing. Just like we do! We know what we like and what feels right on us. So do they. It was an interesting study in human behavior.

The women were actually giddy and giggly over the new underwear. Some were embarrassed which is why the men were told to stay away. Most of the women wanted the bikini panties that were for the younger ones. The medium sized were lower cut too, but that didn’t seem to matter.

I had to hide the bikinis until the younger girls came through as we started with the most senior women first and worked down the age ladder. I know some of the larger women cannot get their bums into the panties they chose and if they do manage, the elastic band will be very uncomfortable! No one wanted the larger panties even though I could tell you who needed them!

Then there were the bras! Some were very excited to get one; others, not so much. After all, they had gone without for years so why now? The bras were more difficult because there was no way to get the right size to them so they held them up, picked one and left.  It seems that color was more important than the fit! I imagine there will be some trading among the women. At least, there was the option to have one if they wanted it.

We had 100 dresses and were told there were 68 women age 15 and up. In the end, twelve extra dresses were selected by some of the younger girls. That was fine and why I had extras made as I did not want to be short. The remaining dresses will go to the ladies on Awei and others we meet. None will be coming home with us.

I felt great joy watching them get their new clothing. I can’t thank those of you who donated to Dresses for Dignity enough. Your contributions really meant that we could do more for the village. With the matching funds we provided, we were able to buy the underwear, additional household items and food for the families.

A number of you have asked how you can help.
We are still accepting contributions as we intend to fill the boat once again with food in Port Vila and take it up to Avokh and Awei before we leave Vanuatu. If you wish to contribute, please send a check to Sherry Day with Memo: Avokh to PO Box 348, Port Austin, MI 48467. It will be deposited so we can access the funds via ATM.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Oh, Happy Day!

The day had finally arrived when we were to start unloading the boat! Yeah! We are happy to see the bags and containers leave so we can have our space back. The villagers are waiting in anticipation for what surprises (as they often call “prizes”) we have for them. Since there are so many bags, it was decided to start with the rice, milk and household items first.

We gave them our old mainsail plus three other sails that had been donated. Of course, they will cut them into smaller sails for their outrigger canoes, but for now our sail will serve as the staging area. Picture a snow white sail laying on the dirt about to be trampled by 200 dirty bare feet. What a sight! But it is a great use for a retired Hallberg-Rassy 46 sail!

The Community Committee was in charge of dispersing the goods fairly. They went about setting out 50 bags of rice (5 kg each), a bucket, bowl or dishpan and a can of powdered milk. Then they dropped in one teaspoon, a single cooking utensil, plates, cups, etc. and one of anything they could spread around. The concept of keeping a “set” of anything together for a family was beyond them. So much for my careful shopping! In the end, everyone had a number of things – a pot in one household with its lid in another! My western mindset doesn’t translate well here and I have to keep reminding myself of that.

The people were happy and it pleased the chiefs that there was food for all. Hunger is a big concern for the chiefs. There is not much they can do until the harvest is ready, though. And, of course, safe drinking water is a huge concern. I don’t know how these people manage in the warm climate and sun without much water. They must be dehydrated. And this is winter so it is cooler now, but with spring and hot summer coming soon, the situation will be more severe unless they can get help with the water issue.
Next we started dumping the bags of children’s clothing. We put boys at one end and girls at the other. The bags had been labeled by ages so we tried to explain that, but totally missed! Everyone waited for it all to be placed on the sail and for the Chief Kaisa and “Mr. Dennis” to speak, then it was a free for all!

The instructions were for the little ones to go first with the mothers and each get something to wear – one or two items only. Right! The little ones and the big ones and the parents just started scooping up by the armful. These people are so desperate for food, water and clothing that they could not contain the excitement and control themselves. It was wild! I have a wonderful video of it all!

In the end, the children’s clothing was gone. Only one family missed out as the mother was the Kindy teacher and not there for the chaos. She has six children. Fortunately, we still had a lot of things on the boat designated for Awei so we able to meet her and her six children and give them clothing a day later. We hauled a large bag of goods up the hill to their house and handed out several pieces of clothing to each of them.

Unfortunately, in the distribution process, we could not keep track of what was being put out into the lots of 50 rice piles and we lost a few things that were designated for other areas. The big bag of red exercise books intended for the school were grabbed up by the adults! They are so hungry for things to call their own. We also lost track of the New Testament Bibles donated to the church so hopefully they ended up in the hands of those who will use them.

We learned a lesson on this one, so we strategized on how to deliver the dresses to the ladies and the adult clothing to the men in a more orderly fashion. And it was decided to be done on other days – one for the ladies and another day for the men. I personally enjoyed making the men wait to the end as in this society, the men always are first!


Thursday, September 17, 2015

My Heart Is Breaking

The landing area in 2014. Note the building on the left.
After a nice sail to Havannah Bay area on the west side of Efate, we spent the night at anchor. S/Y Caduceus joined us later in the evening. We both headed out at sunrise to make a one day sail of 75 km to Awei, northwest of Efate.

Good wind made for a good sail! The anchorage at Awei is always a welcome site, as it is protected and relatively calm.

Unfortunately, there were three boats plus Caduceus already anchored, so we couldn’t get behind the island. We anchored in deep water which makes for an uneasy sleep. Our plan was to move in when someone leaves as no one stays in one place too long.

Same area in 2015. That is the same building as the one
on the left of the photo above.
Having tried to contact Vincent (cousin of Chief Kaisa on Avokh) unsuccessfully, we decided to go ashore with a tank of petrol (gasoline) for their generator. Instead of bringing kava to the Chief, we like to take something more useful. Petrol (which we later learned they call "benzene") is difficult to come by so it will be graciously accepted.

And Dennis wanted to assess the generator situation. Last year he told them how to maintain it since it looked like it had never been serviced or had the oil changed. We will see …

Structures in 2015. They lost 11 houses, but no deaths.
Dr. Elizabeth and Martin joined us on our shore trip. She had been there several weeks before and wanted to follow up on a patient with heart failure and edema. She had also told us of the need to clean and disinfect the Aid Post so we purchased a broom, mop, bucket, sponges, rubber gloves and disinfectant solution.

The plan was to have the women take interest in the well-being of the community by learning to keep the Aid Post clean for visiting doctors and nurses. There is an Aid Post Committee, but apparently all they do is meet!

Structures in 2014
And since they are all men, I doubt they will take up the mop and bucket! We will see if this will communicate!

Chief Kaisa took us around the island to see the patients, as several more had conditions needing a doctor. One young man had a nasty hole in his ankle from a sting ray sting and it was severely infected. The heart patient’s legs where so swollen that they were oozing fluid and his left arm was huge with edema. 

First stop: Aid Post. This place needed a thorough cleaning on
 the examination room side. We gave them the tools to do it!
Several others had infected injuries that needed treatment. An elderly lady who had broken her hip several months ago wanted help. Since the break had mended itself with the leg twisted to the right, there was nothing Dr. E. could do. She had consulted with the hospital in Port Vila, but there is no one with orthopedic expertise or experience there. Other than pain medication, nothing can be done for this lady. It is a sad state of affairs, indeed.
Dr. E. checked the supplies only to find there was not much
available. She will send more up with us when we return.
While Dr. E. was busy with patients, Dennis and I talked with Chief Kaisa about the needs of the village. My heart was aching from the destruction caused by Cyclone Pam. This beautiful little village is in bad shape. It brings tears to my eyes every time I think of what was here and wonder how they can get it back together. They have begun to rebuild houses, but there is so much to be done!
Many infections are from cuts that get wet in
the salt water. The flies attack the flesh and
often a nasty staph infection will develop!
The village was very neat and well-kept last year even though the people are so poor. The cyclone destroyed a number of homes and fences, took down many, many trees – including the large breadfruit trees – and took the roof completely off the community building along with half of the rafters. That was a lovely building where we had Kae Kae and Kava tasting a year ago.
George is in heart failure and not much can be done here.
The hole in Owlen's leg from the stingray is badly infected.

Don't mess with string rays! They come out at night!

Lots of vegetation in 2014.
The gardens have been planted and some harvesting is being done; the trees have leafed out, but there are no fruits and few coconuts, which provide clean and healthy hydration. It will be a year before they will be abundant again. There is no clean drinking water on Avokh as the collection system has been damaged and cisterns contaminated. The villagers carry drinking water from the streams on the mainland in their canoes.

The beach in 2014.
The beach this year.
Surrounded by salt water, the village is dying for clean water to drink. We had been saving Coke and tonic bottles to transport two liters of water in each. As long as our water maker holds out, we keep refilling the dozen two liter bottles and taking them ashore where the people pour them into other vessels and return the bottles for a refill.

This is someone's kitchen now.
Dennis and Martin surveyed the water situation on the island. One of the cisterns needs serious cleaning and decontamination. One is okay – somewhat brackish, but usable for cooking. Dishes are washed in the sea. People bathe in the sea – and loved all of the bars of soap donated by the students at Wentworth College in New Zealand. The same students had donated many toothbrushes which we handed off to Donna and Jonathan on Chez Nous for the dental clinic that moves through the islands.

The kids are always adorable!
The island needs gutters on some of the buildings to collect rain water and direct it into the cisterns and water tanks. Some of the natural roofing materials make the water undrinkable so only certain structures are used to collect water. The connections are insufficient for getting the water into the proper holding areas. Dennis is going to see what he can do to remedy the situation and we will go back to Port Vila and buy gutter material and supplies. It looks like we will be spending several weeks here working on projects.

Now destroyed, this was one of two baking ovens here.
We brought a lot of stuff, but it is only enough for everyone to have something. Some of the goods will be used by the community for gatherings and events that bring in some money. They are still performing the Kastom Dancing and Kae Kae and Kava Tasting for visiting yachts. It brings in 3500 Vatu per person. At two to four people at a time, it is a very slow cash flow. I will use my Publisher program to update their tourist brochure and suggest several ideas for marketing their island to passing yachts.

My little buddy, Nella in the middle, with her cousins.
The village has to pay for the teachers, vaccinations and taxes to the government (even though they are not getting any help in return) with the monies they generate. They sell fish to the boat that comes by on Thursdays to pick it up. Other than that, there is no income. I am not sure where the fish go, but it doesn’t appeal to me that it has been sitting in coolers with no ice for several days before being put on Big Sista, the boat that delivers throughout the islands in Vanuatu. It is also a passenger ferry, if one can afford the fare.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Dresses for Dignity Success

Thanks to the many of you who donated to my Dresses for Dignity initiative, we managed to purchase 100 Mother Hubbard dresses for the women on Avokh and neighboring island, Awei! Thank you! Thank you! With the matching funds I promised, we purchased underwear (panties and bras) for them as well.

Working with the Vanuatu Women’s Council, local women made the dresses for us. We were happy to pay them to make them so they would have money for their families.

It was an exciting day when the ladies arrived with their bags of dresses. The local paper took photos and will do a story with us when we return from our assessment of the conditions on Avokh and Awei.

It was a happy day when the dresses were delivered. I was filled with joy that my vision actually became a reality. The ladies were thrilled to have cash in their hands! And the Vanuatu Women’s Council was pleased to have connected us. Their executive director, Liz, and several other officials from the Council and government joined in the photo session. After we deliver the dresses, we are to be interviewed by the local paper in Port Vila.
The next happy day will be when we deliver the dresses to the island women. If it is anything like we experienced in Tanna, all of the goods we have collected and purchased will be evenly distributed in some form among the villagers. Although the mounds of used clothing and goods is filling the boat, it will only be a small drop in the ocean of need in the outer islands. I hope we have enough so that everyone will have a thing or two. That may not seem like much to us, but a new-to-them shirt or a pair of shorts is a treasure to these people.

We have collected, sorted and moved bags of clothing from place to place on the boat for six months! It will be nice to have it offloaded and enjoyed by others. We must thank the Whangaporoa Rotary Club, Wentworth College and a number of friends we met in New Zealand for assisting in this project. I

t is our hope that yachties who make the trip up to these islands each year from New Zealand and Australia will continue to bring food and clothing for the outer islands. The people have no reasonable or affordable means of transportation to the larger ports and they have no money to buy things when they get there.

Are we ruining their culture by bringing them help? I can’t allow that thought when I see the hunger in their eyes even when they are willing to give you their food as a gesture of friendship and goodwill. They do not beg or barter, but there is great need for the basics about which we don’t usually think: water, meat, rice, flour, seeds, medicine, containers to hold clean water, containers to hold the rice, etc.

Unfortunately, we are contributing to the Cargo Cult mentality here. After all of the cargo dropped and left behind in the South Pacific during WWII, the natives believed that good things just fall from the heavens! They pray for it to fall - and they are very serious. So here we come answering their prayer and reinforcing their believe!
I will be happy to see this mess head to shore!
So after saying “goodbye” again to members of the WARC 2015 fleet and our New Zealand renegade pals from WARC 2014, we were left behind in Port Vila with Caduceus and Chex Nous to fill our boats and head north to lend a helping hand. Four days of shopping nearly did us in, but we managed to get the things for which we were hunting and gathering. People in the restaurant on the quay where we were berthed were amazed at how much stuff we kept bring back and loading onto S/V Trillium! Now we are ready to set sail to the Maskelyne Islands of Avokh and Awei. We just need a day of rest and then we will be off.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A New Form of Shop Until You Drop!

All of this fresh lettuce for 300 Vatu or $3 USD!
Unfortunately, we did not stock up in Fiji as we had intended. Our plan had been to go to Musket Cove to spend some time with our friends in the World ARC, then go back to Vita Levu to provision and buy food and goods for the Cyclone Pam victims. The WARC spirit moved us to make a quick decision to go to Vanuatu with them. This meant no time to shop in Fiji where the prices are the best in the area.

So now we are in Port Vila, Vanuatu where there is a shortage of fresh foods and the prices are high. The building materials and tools are in great demand so that impacts the price, too. Since they are also recovering from the storm, they see no need to give us a discount for items we are donating to the outer islands. We have plans to take solar energy and tools to Avokh.

This lowered our waterline!
We have heard that Avokh has received no international or governmental aid at all! We are not sure what we will find when we get up there so we decided to take rice and powdered milk.

We went to au Bon Marche warehouse and bought 300 kg (over 600 lbs.) of rice and 72 cans of powdered milk for Avohk and Awei Islands in the Maskelynes. Thank you to those of you who donated money to help buy food. Although this sounds like a lot of rice and milk, it will only last a week or two as there are 50 families on Avokh and five on Awei. We will need to replenish their supply before we leave Vanuatu.

We had a nice lunch break at a French Café on the water.
In addition, we purchased yam shovels, seeds, tarps and a lot of tools to take with us. We have a store of nails, fishing line and hooks, used tools donated in NZ and all kinds of clothing for men and children.

In fact, the boat was so full and listing to the port once we stacked the rice on board! The V-berth, crew cabin and crew head are pack full of items for Avokh Island. They needed assistance before Cyclone Pam, so this may not even make a dent if they have been hit hard.
This is just the saloon.
And you should see the V-berth, crew
cabin and crew head!
Our plan is to head north to Avokh Island, located at the southeast end of Malakula in the Maskelyne Island group, with what we have, assess the situation and return to Port Vila to get things they need. No one has been there to give aid or assess the damages or living conditions.

Avokh Island is located on the SE corner of Malakula.
We are working with two other WARC boats: S/Y Caduceus (Dr. Elizabeth and Martin) from the UK and S/V Chez Nous (Donna and Jonathan USA – although, Jonathan is a Brit).

Caduceus decided to spend three to four months in Vanuatu working with the New Zealand-based Butterfly Trust giving medical care on the outer islands.

Chez Nous has been working with Sea Mercy, helping to coordinate and deliver medical teams and equipment to the islands.

In addition, all of us are trying to help get safe drinking water to the people. I fear for what we will find when we reach the lovely village on Avokh.

Another World ARC sailor, Heather Sutton, who was crew for an Australian boat, decided to sail her own boat from Australia to Vanuatu to lend in the aid mission. We were happy to see her and her crew in Port Vila.

You know you have been in the islands too long when you let them braid your hair! Heather had quite a new look on shore!
Enjoying the sail. No seasickness this time!