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My low point so far is easy to pick – being seasick on the boat to Mataso, in front of the 166 people who live there! Getting to the islands we work on is never an easy task, but this is one of the reasons I enjoy working for Red Cross. Not many other organisations reach the remote communities we do, as logistics, freight and flights are complicated and expensive.
While the seasickness isn’t pleasant, it’s balanced by the work I’m able to do on Mataso. Our job here is cyclone recovery. I am developing a plan to build a permanent, high quality rainwater harvesting building and cyclone shelter, which will be the only permanent structure on Mataso.
There have been plenty of other high points. Along with Vanuatu Red Cross, we have helped construct and rehabilitate dozens of rainwater harvesting catchments on seven islands across the country. These catchments provide vulnerable households with a viable, long-term way to collect the rain and store fresh water. We will be building more community based systems in the same islands over the next year.
We are also engaging in a community-led programme to help promote health. Participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation is a powerful tool endorsed by many around the world. It helps increase community understanding of the links between health and hygiene. Before Christmas, I supported Vanuatu Red Cross to train a group of educators to help them facilitate the programme in their communities, and they’re all excited to start working on it this year.
Vanuatu has not escaped the strong El Niño being felt across the Pacific, and we are now facing drought here. So, despite running a recovery programme, a lot of my time is spent in emergency and coordination meetings, writing proposals and just generally helping Red Cross during this slow onset disaster. Mother Nature sent some rain, so we had a little break for Christmas, but we will be keeping a close eye on conditions going forward.
My family came to visit me for Christmas, which was great, although their plane from Auckland was delayed. Welcome to Vanuatu, I wrote to my mum, this always happens. This is quite normal, so no one here is fazed by it at all. When you are here, and everything is on island time, flight schedules don't really end up mattering much.