Sunday, October 18, 2015

Let the Games (Opps, I Mean Work) Begin!

Removing and repairing the school guttering was the first job.
Now that we had solved some of the monetary issues that had the village at a standstill, it was time to get the projects underway. Chief Kaisa stayed in cell phone contact with the other chiefs on the island while we were in Port Vila to keep them up to date on the activities.

They are dependent on rain water for drinking
and cooking. Many of their catchment systems
were damaged by Cyclone Pam in March 2015.
Once the roofing materials were acquired, he directed the Community Building Committee to start preparing the wood for the trusses. The sheet metal was en route and its transfer to Avokh Island was arranged. It was exciting to see action!

Chief Nawa is learning to use the electric drill.
The way they show appreciation for those
who work on community projects is to
provide a lunch as it keeps them on the job!
There was only one problem: George, the man with the failing heart had died just before we left for Port Vila. In this culture, the mourning period is lengthy. It seems that for 20 days after someone dies, they cannot do any major work and they don’t “cleanse themselves.”

I am not sure what that means other than I know they do not shave their beards or wash their hair during this time. Vincent and Chief Kaisa did shower in the marina, but maybe they don’t on the island. It is interesting, but frustrating as the work on the Community Building will not begin until after we leave! We so wanted to see it roofed and put in the solar lights.
Chief Nawa is the keeper of the tools now!

A decision was made to put the solar light in the church instead. During the cyclone, the whole village of 200+ stayed in the church as it is the strongest building. It is made of cement blocks and has a metal roof attached with roofing screws. They have been using the church as the community meeting place since the storm.
Many of the younger men were interested in learning.
Dennis worked with the men repairing the gutters at the school. In the process, he was teaching them how to do it and how to use the tools that had been donated in New Zealand and by us. Some of the young men seemed very interested in helping and learning. That is a good sign.

Their curiosity was entertaining. Everyone handled and examined the tools. Some tried to use them in very inventive, but unsuccessful, ways. We did keep a watchful eye on our own tools to make sure they came back to the boat with us.
Now it is time to install the solar lighting in the church as
this was one of the top three priorities, along with clean
drinking water and the roof on the Community Building.
The only problem was back to the issue of things being free here! When tools were taken ashore when we first arrived, men just helped themselves.

We call it “stealing.” Here  it is known as the Cargo Cult syndrome! People drop stuff off on the islands and it becomes every man for himself trying to grab what he can! It was very frustrating for us as we had a plan and specific uses for things.

Chief Nawa has been put in charge of the tools now and has tried to get most of them back together for the community to use. We purchased a large tool box with a lock to secure the smaller tools. Anyone needing to use the tools will sign them out with Chief Nawa so he knows where they are and how to get them back.

To help the community understand which items were donated to the community and not to any individual, we have created the Trillium Trust for Avokh. Everything that we have given is given in trust that it is for the community to share and that specific people will be responsible for maintaining the gifts.
People will be able to sign out a tool for personal use and sign it back in when returned. Hopefully that will keep the tools together for projects. We are labeling things Trillium Trust so they will be easily identified if an individual seems to keep them too long.

Quite a team: Mr. Dennis and Chief Nawa

This ties in with the idea that the benzene fuel is not "free" anymore. People will have a vested interest in maintaining things and making sure there is a way to replenish if they have to put in a little money, time, talent, etc.

This solar panel was donated NZ. We bought a battery and
all of the parts to make it work without having measurements!

It has been our decision to commit to working with one island, get to know the people and culture and make friends rather than hop through all of the islands visiting different villages. Our personal mission was to be involved with the people and experience their culture and way of life. And hopefully, we will have made a positive difference here, leaving it a little better than we found it.

The old gutters were carefully taken down to be reallocated
throughout the village. We bought a new larger guttering
system to replace it. It took several days and many hands.
Just as the last piping was put into place, it started to rain!
The sweetest music ever: rainwater coming
out of the pipe and spilling into the cistern!
As a result, we haven’t made it north of the Maskelyne Islands, but we have found this approach to be most rewarding. We have a vested interest in this village and hope to maintain contact with Vincent and Chief Kaisa over the years.

We won’t see all of Vanuatu, but we didn’t have time to see all of French Polynesia either. We do have a desire to get back to the USA and family and friends by 2018! So we will be moving on to New Caledonia once we finish here in Avokh.

And look at the smile as this boy fetches
clean water from the cistern with a hook
made from a tree branch lowered into it.
Sweet Success! Happy People - and tired!

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