Projects Completed 2010

It has been a very busy and successful year for New Zealand Children’s Health & Education Trust   and Palm Project. I am writing to you from Port Vila where I am completing this year’s work. I have been based on Uluveu Island living at Peskarus Village where Palm Project is located.

This year saw the building of the Palm Project Uliveo Builders Workshop, something we have been planning for two years.  The Palm Project Workshop is a substantial building constructed from timber, cement and corrugated iron. It was built by the young men of Uluveu, all graduates of the RTC (Rural Training College) which is located on Pellonkg Village Uluveu island. The Workshop was initiated and supported by the villages of Uluveu island and many people helped us build it. It is on the same land as Palm Project Soap Factory and this land was also donated by Akurkura Nakamal.

Shortly after the building was complete, the tools arrived on board S.V Ranui, also on board was Sally Peet, Registered Nurse, and Kay Adams, nurse aid. Luckily for us they had on board a building teacher named Ian, the timing of his arrival was perfect and he helped the young men unpack and assemble the tools. He also taught them tool safety; which I was glad to see because power tools are completely different to hand tools. Ian was wonderful and had an instant rapport with the young builders. His vast experience teaching young people was evident from the outset and we hope he will return for further training.

Sally Peet has worked with NZCHET for many years now and the people of Uluveu know, love and respect her. This was the first year for Kay, but they both went straight to work and temporarily took over the workshop office, turning it into a surgery. Sally and Kay saw over 2000 patients and they worked every day from 6am to late, even midnight calls on several occasions; some joyful, like delivering babies and others not so joyful. We delivered a beautiful baby boy early one morning in the bottom of a fishing boat because the mother had come from across the lagoon and was unable to make it to the surgery. No matter where Sally performs her profession it is with love and joy, and along with Kay, myself and the women of the village we clucked and sang!!

In 2005, while Sally and I were running a clinic at Uliveo, we met a one year old baby named Kylie Cyrus, a beautiful little girl who was born with a malformed leg. With much effort from Sally and x-rays taken this year, I am thrilled to report that Kylie has been accepted into the programme in Australia to have her leg operated on. This was such good news that the whole village celebrated and I am so happy that Kylie will finally be able to walk properly again. I hope that the operation is a success for Kylie, and her parents finally get the help they have prayed for.  You might think that it would be easy to get help for this child, but it has been a long and hard battle.  Sally has seen to it that all the expenses will be paid for and she will be in the care of Sally and her daughter Sam, who is head nurse at the children’s ward.

With the workshop built and the tools in place, the builders went to work making furniture and they instantly received work from the villagers. The carvers were invited to join in as we had made sure we had plenty of carving tools. Everything was new and there was much experimenting to be done.

About this time Ivon Duurloo arrived with his box of tricks and he put together the prototype solar systems he had developed. These were given out to people to use and trial. The solar systems consist of a small solar panel, battery, light and phone charger. The only form of lighting on the island to date has been kerosene, which is expensive and extremely harmful to inhale. Palm Project also purchased some prototype gasifiers to be used and experimented with. The gasifiers are able to produce gas from dried organic material such as coconut husks. Once the gasifier is packed you can get up to four hours burning, which means, fires don’t have to be tended and trees cut down for fuel. I used the gasifier to cook on and found it very efficient and the constant heat made cooking much easier. Ivon did many other things while he was there and he had a constant pile of repairs and solar systems to repair and maintain. He spoke with the people and discussed their power needs and how they could be achieved by using solar power. Ivon also assisted the men in the workshop with the tools and their maintenance.

While all this was happening Palm Project Soap Factory was in full production, making soap, body oil, shampoo and conditioner. Palm Project has been approached by ACTIV; an association working in Vila to buy and export Vanuatu products. They now have Palm Project’s full range of products and are finding markets overseas. Palm Project products have recently been taken to the Kanak festival in New Caledonia, with another festival in New Caledonia later this year. Palm Project is pleased to be associated with ACTIV as their association helps the remote villages to sell their product to a much larger market.

Meanwhile back at Uluveu, there was in the next village of Pellongk, a Presbyterian general assembly, bringing one thousand Presbyterians from all over the world to Uliveo. Palm Project was asked by the organising committee to supply washing soap for the assembly but we also supplied shampoo and conditioner free of charge. In the week that followed, Palm Project set up a shop and we sold over 100,000vatu of product. All the visitors wanted to come to Lohvari and see the new workshop and soap factory. Rolini, who is a confident orator, showed everyone around and explained how the soap was made. I am confident that Palm Project has developed its products to the point where they are perfect and we are more than ready to be taken to the world market. More importantly, Palm project has empowered not only the women of the villages, but now the young women of Vanuatu.

Rolini, a smart young woman, with a thirst for achievement and a head for business, along with the ten other young women who work alongside her, have made Palm Project what it is today. Palm Project has put back into the community in just one year 277,325vatu, buying coconut oil and paying wages. At the annual oil makers meeting this year. Rolini was thanked and commended for her performance by the oil makers. The local government department of the Malampa province awarded Palm Project a 30,000vatu grant for outstanding achievement by a young Ni-Vanuatu woman.  Rolini is in Vila with me now and has been booked for a live radio interview and also a newspaper interview.

Shortly after Ivon arrived we had to start to prepare for the arrival of James Brodie. James is an architect and had offered his time to work with the young men to design a house made of local materials that would be solid and elevated. I have often spoken with the women about the problems of living with a mud floor and we have discussed the possibility of a house with a wooden elevated floor. The airflow would improve the hygiene and make it easier to keep clean.

To prepare the coconut wood we had to mill it into planks, then, using an old canoe, soak it overnight in borax. We also had to select, cut and soak the bamboo. Everyone helped and by the time James arrived we had all the materials dried and ready. The arrival of James and the building of the bamboo house was anticipated with excitement because James had prepared beautiful architectural drawings for me to take and we had been showing these around for a few months.

The preserving of the coconut wood is useful for many building jobs and it means that there is a sustainable source of timber that is available and in plentiful supply, mostly already cut down and lying on the forest floor. It can be used for housing, but also furniture which can be built out of coconut wood and once preserved; it is a hardwood with wonderful texture and colour.

James only had a week but in that week the concrete foundations and bamboo framing, plus part of the floor was laid. James talked with the young builders and explained how to finish the house which will have a split bamboo roof that will catch water plus a concrete slab at the back for the gasifier and also one of Ivon’s solar systems. I have heard since I have been in Vila with Rolini, that work is proceeding on the Bamboo house and I look forward to seeing it and staying there on my return. James, Tom, Wesley, Philip, Ravi, Steve and Masing laughed and sang all day as they worked and James made the learning so much fun. James and his project was the icing on the cake for Palm Project this season and we finished with a party and much dancing.

In my opinion, it is not what you give or how much you give,  it is the way you give, the love and respect you show the people you are giving to that really matters.

As the Western financial markets break down, so do the living standards in the so-called Third World. Due to the changing weather patterns, Uluveu Island was without water for three months while I was there. Once the rain water in the tanks ran dry we had to go each day to the mainland to collect water from the natural aquifer. The last two weeks of my stay, while the bamboo house was being built, I was busy taking all Palm Project water containers and sailing across the lagoon with the boys to get water.  The women and children of the islands do not have the resources to get clean water for themselves and would otherwise be drinking the infected well water. This is the first time I have experienced this kind of draught and the lack of resources to combat it or indeed put anything in place to assure it doesn’t happen again. There is still much to do here and we have already started to look into ways of ensuring this never happens again.