Tag Archives: port narvin

Stand With Vanuatu: An Update

Has it really already been a week since Cyclone Pam tore through Vanuatu? I suppose it has! As is always the case, there is good news and there is not such great news.

First, the good news: so far, there are minimal casualties in all of Vanuatu! I have directly heard back from almost all of my friends and family who live on the main island, and all of them are safe.

The bad news: There is still no word from the island on which we served for two years, which means no knowledge of how our host family is doing. This is the case for countless others who are counting the days since they have heard from their loved ones. Also, while the people endured in the face of a Category 5 cyclone, it has yet to be seen whether they will endure now that their livelihoods have been destroyed. Most of Vanuatu’s population, including everyone in the village we lived in, feed their families solely with their gardens as subsistence farmers. Those gardens are now gone, and will take months if not years to fully recover. Now they not only must rebuild their homes, schools, clinics, and churches, they need to recover any source of clean water that was destroyed, and start from scratch in cultivating their gardens.

Port Narvin, our village, before Cyclone Pam.
Port Narvin, our village, before Cyclone Pam.
Port Narvin after Cyclone Pam.
Port Narvin after Cyclone Pam.

This is where some of the good news comes back in: You, Me, and Everyone even so far away, We Can Help! Here is one way you can help if you live here in Utah:

In light of Vanuatu’s massive losses after being devastated by Cyclone Pam, we are holding a 10 Day Kakae this Sunday, March 22nd, where we will:

  1. Give you a chance to taste the Pacific region’s most famous custom: kava! (If you want, that is.)
  2. Provide a small assortment of the SALT Bistro’s tasty treats
  3. Stand With Vanuatu by making contributions to the organizations that are giving emergency assistance and will be helping them rebuild. There are prizes!!!
The first person to donate $30 at our 10 Dei Kakae can choose a
The first person to donate $30 at our 10 Dei Kakae can choose a “lavalava,” such as this one!
The first person to donate $60 at our 10 Dei Kakae can take home this shell necklace, handmade by people in our village from shells on our beach.
The first person to donate $60 at our 10 Dei Kakae can take home this shell necklace, handmade by people in our village from shells on our beach.
The first person to donate $90 at our 10 Dei Kakae can take home this pandanas basket, hand woven by people in our village, made out of pandanas grown on Erromango!
The first person to donate $90 at our 10 Dei Kakae can take home this pandanas basket, hand woven by people in our village, made out of pandanas grown on Erromango!

Please join us at the Salt Bistro at 209 E 500 S in Salt Lake~ We will be there from 12:00-3:00pm, so drop by whenever you can!

Not available? You can still Stand With Vanuatu. Scroll down and choose one of the organizations below and make a donation now, while you have a minute! We will have a shell in your honor at our 10 Dei Kakae. 🙂

These are the organizations currently working with Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office to provide aid and recovery to our family and people like them. Click on a link to go directly where you need to be to support victims of Cyclone Pam:

  • OXFAM works to help governemts, businesses, and communities be as prepared and strong as possible. They assist organizations in working together to build a stronger future.
  • The Red Cross focuses on first aid training as well as responding to crises, helping under-resourced communities across Vanuatu.
  • World Vision staff assess damage and distribute pre-positioned relief supplies including food, clean water, shelter materials, hygiene supplies, and cooking sets.
  • UN Women in Vanuatu supports the protection of the women and girls affected by this disaster, and invest in reconstruction that will benefit women and their families
  • UNICEF works to ensure that communities have the knowledge and resources necessary to provide for the needs of their children.
  •  CARE works in communities across Vanuatu, preparing the people to face disasters such as this, and gives them the skills they need to respond and rebuild.

It is Vanuatu’s cultural tradition to mark the end of grieving with a big meal 10 days after losing a loved one. For the 10 days leading up to this meal, the family is cared for by the village, giving them time and support to grieve. On the tenth day, the family gives gratitude with their “10 Day Kakae,” feeding everyone who has been so supportive, and allowing them to return to their work. On Sunday, we will have our our 10 Day Kakae, marking our support in the country resuming their hard work, moving forward, and rebuilding a new paradise in Vanuatu.

Click here to see how some of the amazing people you are helping get down.

Advertisements

Sending Out an S.O.S.

While we were living in our little bamboo village on Erromango in Vanuatu, I don’t know how many conversations we had with our friends and family there about the environment. While the rest of the world is still debating whether climate change is real or not, places like Vanuatu can only try to learn to cope with the effects it sees from climate change on a regular basis. Things like rising sea-levels, rising temperature of air and ocean (affecting gardens and sea-life), and an increase of extreme events, such as Cyclone Pam, are an inarguable reality for them.

What remains of a concrete house near Port Vila.
What remains of a concrete house near Port Vila.

But that doesn’t mean they have the funds or materials to build adequate precautionary infrastructure, such as we would have in the western world, to face these catastrophic circumstances. Today I am writing regarding Cyclone Pam, one of the most monstrous cyclones in the history of the Pacific.

A concrete house in Port Vila that lost its roof in the midst of the strongest rain and wind the structure had ever seen.
A concrete house in Port Vila that lost its roof in the midst of the strongest rain and wind the structure had ever seen.

Pam tore through Vanuatu and is still on the move. Images are now pouring in from the capital of Port Vila, a city made mostly of concrete, showing heart-stopping destruction. Meanwhile, I’m wondering when we’ll begin to hear from the outer islands like Erromango, where we lived and served for two years. They have some concrete buildings, but the majority of structures are built from bamboo and leaves.

A bamboo structure, or what is left of it, after Cyclone Pam.
A bamboo structure, or what is left of it, after Cyclone Pam.

Please share the links to the organizations that are providing immediate relief to bamboo villages like ours. If you have the means, choose your favorite organization below and make a donation. They will need all the help they can get*.

Thank you so much for your time and generosity. My Vanuatu family thanks you.

DSCF1734

*Please note, these websites will convert your donation to Australian dollars. You can use google to see exactly how much you are donating in your own currency.

Capsule Stories VI

Repulsive Rumors Result in Critical Culture Confusion church in Port Narvin, 2013

That time in church when the pastor told his audience that Americans were getting implants that would allow the devil to always track them. I look at one of my all-time favorite people, mama Sonia, who is looking back at me with a look of desperate confusion, like “Is this true? What can this mean?” and I don’t know how to respond except to shrug my shoulders, suggesting I haven’t heard this big news yet. We stopped going to church before long.

Somehow I went two years without ever taking a picture of a church. But this is the set up right next to the Seventh Day Adventist church in preparation for a wedding!
Somehow I went two years without ever taking a picture of a church. But this is the set up right next to the Seventh Day Adventist church in preparation for a wedding!

The Point of Peace Corps? Perspective (also probably my favorite story ever) Port Narvin to Ipota, November 2014

Walking out of Port Narvin for the very last time, we are accompanied by several of our brothers and sisters. We brought small candies to share with them, but were horrified as they would unwrap them and toss their garbage onto the beautiful rainforest floor. Had we taught them nothing??? Peter and I rushed around to pick up the garbage. We were giggled at for our efforts.

Then, halfway to Ipota, we stop to enjoy the most beautiful watermelon I have ever seen. Hungry, thirsty, and in need of the liquefied energy boost, Peter and I dug in happily, spitting out the numerous hard black seeds as we went. Before long our 8 year old sister was running around us, collecting the small seeds off the rocks, again looking at us like we’re crazy.

So we’ll carry collected garbage with us on a 10+ mile hike, but carelessly toss the seeds of future nourishment? Thought provoking, to say the least.

That was one of the sweetest watermelons I have ever tasted~ and look at that color! Beautiful!
That was one of the sweetest watermelons I have ever tasted~ and look at that color! Beautiful!

Unforgettable Gratitude Mama Sonia’s kitchen, November 2014

We enjoyed a small “last kakae” (customary last meal) with Daddy Bob, Mama Sonia, and their family before Mama Sonia left for the capital to deliver her baby. As is the norm, plenty of time was spent giving speeches. Every adult in the room (5 or 6 of us) was given as much time as we cared to take to comment on the honor of the occasion, the memories from the past two years, and share our grief that the time was coming to an end. Each oration was heartfelt and touching. Nearly every one of us spoke with tears running down our face. All the while, our two little brothers, Patrick and Avi (7 and 5 years old, respectively) sat quietly, watching us strange adults go through this lengthy custom.

When all our sentiments has been exhausted, it was announced that we would commence with the feast…but before the announcement could be finished, Patrick whispered something to his mom, who then said that there would be one more “toktok,” given by our seven year old brother.

I briefly reflected on my history with this little boy. During our first year in Port Narvin, I taught at his pre-school where I saw this crazy fire-cracker of a child bounce off the walls uncontrollably. But you couldn’t be mad with him for long with his unbearably adorable smile. After I spoke to Mama Sonia about his behavior, he began joining me in my kitchen after lunch each day to practice his alphabet and be read to for an hour or so, then rejoin us in the evening to study some more. Initially shy, he worked hard and was always eager, never lost his playful and goofy spirit (especially when Avi was around), but learned to control himself in appropriate contexts. Before long, I could hear him trying to read borrowed books at his own house.

During our second year in Port Narvin, Patrick was the star of the first grade, blowing everyone away as he outperformed even some of the students from Class 3. He continued to study with us during our evening study hour. By the time of this last kakae, he had matured into a handsome, smart, well-mannered young boy whom I am proud to call by brother.

Here in front of me I saw all the shy he had ever displayed swarm back to overwhelm him, but he recovered quickly. He straightened up, looked at me, then said, in slow English, “Thank you Nompunvi and Nesi for teaching me and helping me.” Then there was that gorgeous smile again.

Tears started streaming down my face all over again, as they are now.

Patrick, having already mustered the courage and said his piece, feeling free to chow down on some New Yam laplap in Mama Sonia's kitchen. <3
Patrick, having already mustered the courage and said his piece, feeling free to chow down on some New Yam laplap in Mama Sonia’s kitchen. ❤