Published: August 21st 2010August 10th 2010
MARC team #1
Here's the first team that headed to Limarua a the beginning of the month.
The first week of expeditions have been a bit slow moving, but maybe that’s just because I’m still getting acclimated to being in Vanuatu again. No matter how many times I want to push things to go faster, I keep getting taught that you don’t rush Vanuatu.
We’ve had a few speed bumps, but I dare not call them ‘obstacles.’ Over here we like to refer to them as ‘New Opportunities for Creative Management.’ When life in Vanuatu decides to throw you a REAL obstacle, it usually involves a natural catastrophic event (i.e. Tsunami, 8.5 Earthquake, Unexpected Volcanic Eruption, etc…All of which happened in 2009).
The first day of the month presented one such issue. Due to a communication error on my part, there was a missed connection for one of our volunteers. I was one digit off in one of many calculations and it left a man stranded. Arrangements had been made for an American, Nathan Brodie, to be picked up in Vila and housed for the night with one of our operatives there. Then, he was to be placed on a plane the following morning for a flight to Luganville. It was all lined up.
Ebenezer Stage Under Construction
This is Mariel Street of the US Peace Corps at her site in South Santo.
datelines are a hell of a thing when you’re working numbers on a calendar for flights. Nathan landed on the day he was supposed to, but the support team on this end was prepped to receive him the following day. Undeterred by the lack of welcoming party, the man took care of business and got where he needed to be. It should be mentioned, however, that this fella got his passport just to come on this trip (and Port Vila isn’t like showing up in a 1st world country).
When Nathan and I finally met up in Luganville we started with the pre-game work for taking a team into the bush. Supplies needed to be prepped and purchased, and I needed to introduce the rookie into life on the island before I took him to the West Coast. These two prep days introduced me to the next little hic-up.
Apparently since our last visit to Luganville there was a burglary at the North District Hospital. The thieves broke into the fenced-in section of the grounds where the warehouses, workshops, and containers are kept for the Hospital. The workshops were stripped of tools, the warehouses and containers were entered
The Baby docs
Emma and Kate joined us from Southampton Medical School.
and then emptied of almost all contents. Project MARC’s container stored on these grounds was not spared the ransacking.
All-in-all things could have been worse. The container was still in one piece and
above water. So we have that going for us…which is nice.
By the Thursday of our first week we loaded into our truck to head to the West Coast. Along with Nathan, we packed two more volunteers for this first foray to the West Coast. Kate Beard and Emma Davidson are both from the UK studying medicine at Southampton University. They had been in Luganville working at the Hospital, but were keen to see some of the rural areas.
Great weather made for a relatively easy trip. What amazed me was the frequency of transports that ran to Tasiriki from Luganville. A few years ago there was only one truck a day, and that was only on days that the road conditions were good enough. Now, there’s half a dozen trucks doing the run and some make multiple trips in the same day. Boat transport from Tasiriki is the same too. The access to the West Coast communities has certainly improved ten-fold since Project
Here's the evening view from the site.
MARC started visiting the area.
Once we made it to the Limarua Center School where we would be staying, it took the usual amount of time for the awkwardness to wear off. It is for this reason that a musician among the volunteers is worth their weight in gold. Our team played some volleyball with the school kids and teachers and just like that we seemed like family.
We made this first trip to the project site for several reasons. First, we needed to see if there were any changes to the situation on this coast before going ahead with the plan that we’d put together a year earlier. Indeed there were a few changes, but nothing too drastic that we’d need to rework the plan entirely. The second reason was to make a contract between the communities, Project MARC, and the Ministry of Health for the construction and support of this dispensary. Thirdly, the MoH wanted a Dispensary Committee formed before the construction began.
The whole to-do list only took a few days of meetings and it really gave the volunteers a chance to see how things really worked out on the West Coast. It was
Chief Puha, Alona, and Salven Rosen took great care of our team.
great for me personally to see how our volunteers bonded with the local folks in the area. When a person comes out to rural Vanuatu, it is always the first village that they go to that they fall in love with. For me, this took place in South East Malekula. For these volunteers it was West Coast Santo.
I often forget the magic of a first visit to Vanuatu. It was great to see it all happening again for someone else.
With contracts signed, we hustled back to Luganville for the purchase of supplies. We picked up Sgt. Frank Zolnai and Dr. Dominique Wakefield who will be staying on with us through September. I also sent Nathan back to the West Coast for the preparation of the site grounds.
We still wait for Alvei’s arrival into the country, but when she finally gets here we’ll be ready to roll.
P.S. Took over a week to publish this one. Since it's writing there was an 8.5 earthquake right near Port Vila, the country's largest city.
There are more photos below