Wendy Griffin is volunteering as a Pre-school Assessment Adviser to the Vanuatu Ministry of Education, based in Port Vila, Vanuatu. She will complete her assignment in August 2017.
Published on 1st March 2017
In her second blog post from Vanuatu, Wendy catches us up on events of the past two (very busy) years on assignment.
Did they really mention at the VSA briefing that we may get too busy to write blogs, that evenings may consist of house loads of locals with stories to tell, things to show and questions to ask?
This is my second blog. I am now exactly two years and five months into my assignment in Vanuatu and I love it.
Each day, different moments still make me laugh and enjoy the day. The bus ride to and from work is on buses that get more dilapidated the longer I stay, but the cheerfulness of the drivers, the music they play and the various homely conversations I have with other passengers is sometimes the funniest part of the day.
Roads are being repaired so there are less bumps and bruises and it’s fascinating to see the changes as buildings are repaired and new developments are done. Cyclone Pam scared us all and meant I was run ragged to support the data collection, assessment of kindies for repair and relocation including getting US Marines to rebuild a kindy, (wow can they work, in nine days it was done). Plus I designed and facilitated workshops all over Vanuatu under the heading of Psycho Social Support.
My neighbour for the past 2.5 years (Jill) has now returned to New Zealand and I am still getting used to not going over to her flat frequently for coffee and goodies and great long chats. A local couple and their three year old are there now and working hard to keep Jill’s lovely garden in good shape. My house remains a cool place to be.
My cat Christopher Robin (neutered) is now nearly two years and had to have his own private baby sitter while I went to New Zealand for a month at Christmas. He was given to me after a workshop in Malekula in a rice bag, his big blue eyes taking it all in when we flew back from his home to Port Vila. As a cat he is pretty cool, likes only cat food, sleeping across the bed and jumping in and out of the window where he broke through the mosquito net.
I have learned to snorkel and watch movies in the open air café, speak the language, fish off the reef, paddle the canoes and sleep in tents, classrooms, huts and local houses, eat rice, taro, mangos, manioc, mud crabs and good coffee when I can. Wine, cheese, lamb, nuts and raisins, chocolate and nice juice are just a dream away. But am I getting thinner? I don’t think so!
I am with early childhood care and education and we seem to be moving at such a fast past that I can hardly keep up any more. Kindies are being rebuilt by generous donors and donated resources have at times made it impossible to move in our tiny office. Our team is busy doing University of South Pacific (USP) Courses, training and planning so that our goal of Early Childhood Care Education (ECCE) teachers with ECCE certificates, diplomas or degrees is on the way. Over the years, VSA has done fantastic foundation work with ECCE to enable this to be a reality for Vanuatu.
We were given a beautiful Hilux Toyota truck late last year and I had fun working with the team and graphic artist to cover it with messages in three languages for early childhood. Now we are mobile and able to deliver resources and visit the teams. The key for the truck sits above my desk, along with the log book for its movements. This has created an unexpected advocacy, because other Ministry of Education staff come to get the key and use the truck for official work and they report on how they enjoy people reading the messages and asking them about ECCE also.
2017 looks brighter for this assignment and the work I am delighted to do. Sometimes I wonder where the energy comes from but I guess it is the tranquil blue of the sea and the smell of the flowers after the rain and the positive nature of the people of Vanuatu, who always have hope in their heart that all will be well in the end.