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A Student’s Perspective

From the moment we arrived in Vanuatu, our team felt so welcome in a foreign country where we were expecting to feel out of place. Despite our Melbourne clothes being far too heavy for the humid conditions, we settled in nicely to our accommodation and had made contact with so many lovely NiVanuatu people.

The highlight of the trip for several of us was working in the schools. We were lucky enough to visit seven schools, with GLC teams working with students on academic tasks such as reading and writing. Of course, there were plenty of fun activities – swimming, painting, sport and games and “What’s the Time Mr Wolf?” being a favourite at every school!

Experiencing classes at all year levels, from Kinder to Year 12, gave us great insight into the Vanuatu education system and we were able to draw many comparisons between both the Vanuatu and Australian curriculums. In Vanuatu, the quality and condition of education spaces and the amount of education resources are in stark contrast to ours in Australia. We are fortunate to have access to state of the art education spaces and an abundance of learning resources to support our studies. Yet the people of Vanuatu are so appreciative of everything they have. Most of the schools we visited taught English from Grade 3, with students also learning Bislama (the native language), plus an additional language such as French or Japanese.

During our time in Vanuatu, we were able to carry out a range of different projects, immersing us in local life and giving something back to the people who were giving us so much. Projects included Australian music, swim safety, oral hygiene, building a chicken coop, sport clinics, Aboriginal art, cooking and Australian culture – all of which the students engaged with and enjoyed.

As well as visiting the schools, we were also able to visit three cultural villages, one of which we stayed in overnight which was a new experience for all of us. An early night was needed because, of course, huts lack electricity, meaning once it was dark we were unable to see. We also needed all the sleep we could get to wake up and face the Millennium Cave the next day, which was to be a challenge for us all. Other activities included zip lining, snorkeling and visiting the Blue Lagoon. These activities helped the team bond and grow as a ‘Vanuatu family’, as we ended up calling it.

By the second day of the trip, all of our possessions had become ‘communal’ as we integrated some of the Vanuatu community lifestyle. Our intention was to savour every moment we had in Vanuatu. Whether we had our music blaring on the ‘Party Bus’ or merely making sandwiches for the next day, our constant positive vibes added so much to our cultural adventure.

One other highlight was meeting Mr and Mrs Jewson on our final day. They shared a devotion in the Melanie Jewson Chapel which was a very moving time for us all. We also toured the Hospital and gained insight into the contrast in conditions of the medical facilities compared to those in Australia. It was great to be able to retell our experiences with them over dinner that night.

During our trip, we were able to make numerous connections with so many different people. Whether it was in a school, with a bus driver or a tour guide – we all came away astounded by the attitudes, family commitment and acceptance that the NiVanuatu people showed us. The values and selflessness these people display in their day-to-day lives was eye-opening for each one of us. It provided a fantastic reality check that the world doesn’t just revolve around us. The experiences we had in Vanuatu were invaluable, the team was able to learn so much about the culture and each other. The memories made will be cherished forever.

Kiara – Year 12