Published on 20th December 2011
In Vanuatu, the Christmas lights are up on the seafront in Port Vila, and an enormous blow-up plastic Santa is decorating the first-floor balcony of the VNPF building in Luganville.
“The Santa is accompanied by constant dance music blaring out at distortion levels from the balcony,” says volunteer Chris Smart, who is based in the VNPF building. “To the delight of the passers by looking up, the Santa actually somehow moves to the music.”
Port Vila also recently hosted what volunteer Keith Hambrook has described as the most “krankge” (crazy) Christmas parade he has ever seen. It included a decorated boat carrying a NiVanuatu Santa, and an impressive balloon-covered truck bearing members of Keith’s partner organisation, the Prison Ministry.
“We decorated it with beautiful flowers and banners painted in blue with inspirational messages,” wrote one of the detainees after the parade. “You could hear singing and laughing, music coming from a radio station and see people on the side of the road cheering. It was a fabulous experience.”
Meanwhile, in Bougainville, the Jandal Sisters – a singing group featuring several VSA volunteers – have been in hot demand in the lead-up to Christmas.
And in Tanzania, members of volunteer Anne Perera’s family were surprised to be presented with a live turkey to mark the festive season during their recent visit to Arusha.
Many of VSA‘s Pacific-based volunteers are returning home to New Zealand for Christmas – or heading to Australia. But more than half of our volunteers – including the last few still working in Africa – will be staying in-country during the festive season.
For them, it’s a chance to experience a different kind of Christmas, and to check out the local attractions. Among the activities they have planned are a trip to a dive resort in Papua New Guinea and a tiki-tour of South Africa.
In Vanuatu, several volunteers are getting together to spend Christmas Day at a boutique resort on the east coast of Santo, where they have a treat in store courtesy of Chris Smart.
“I hope to open a couple of bottles of New Zealand sauvignon blanc (Wither Hills and Oyster Bay) that I have saved especially for the occasion.”
* The VSA office in Wellington will be closed from 23 December to 9 January.