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Published: October 1st 2008
Tall ship of Aid
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Well everyone, I’m sorry for the lack of communication on my part but things have been very busy here in Vanuatu. For the past two months I’ve spent most of my time in the very remote regions of the islands and therefore haven’t had access to internet. With the expeditions wrapping up for the year, I now have a few brief moments to catch everyone up.
First off, it was July of this year that I left the States again to join the Alvei in Fiji. I was returning to the South Pacific for three reasons mainly: 1} to sail on Alvei again; 2} to head up an expedition with Project MARC (an NGO that I worked with last year); and 3} to sail down to New Zealand where I would work for a year on a travel work visa.
The state of affairs now has me as one of the new directors for Project MARC. I no longer plan on sailing with Alvei back down to New Zealand, or on staying there to work for a year. The new plan has me scheduled to sail to Australia near the end of October, and then to
These are the volunteers of the SV Alvei with the local children of Retur Village.
spend the following month fund raising there along the East Coast. Hopefully I’ll make it back to the States by December to begin my work back home.
With this new job comes a massive amount of work that I’ll need to do, a mountain of responsibility, and absolutely no pay whatsoever. “Why would anyone do that?” you might ask. But the answer to that question is not easily conveyed with words. The best way to understand why anyone would do this is simply to take a little trip. Come to Vanuatu and go to the Island of Espiritu Santo. Find your way to the Tarwalapa Aid Post in the Pareo Valley. Stay in the village for a few days and enjoy the hospitality of the people. Sleep in the shelter of the nakamal, enjoy the kai-kai with the families, play with the children, and then you’ll know. You’ll more than just know why someone would do such a crazy thing, you’ll sign up to volunteer.
These people will change your life, and no matter how much you give, you always receive much more.
Project MARC had planned on shutting down this year. With new leadership we’ll continue
A water system
Here's Nic fitting the filter grate to the newly build weir. Marc is splicing pipes in the background.
our mission. Possibly we’ll continue under a new name (ORCHID), possibly not. There’s still a lot of communities that could greatly benefit from our help, and a lot of projects that I’m planning for the future. Now, I just need to get some funding to support those plans. If you donated money for my water project this year please be patient a little longer. A full report of how I spent your money is still forthcoming. Hopefully after reading said report you’ll realize that together we did a lot of good.
There are a hundred stories I could tell about what happened in the past few months. And I’ll try to tell them all in due time. You deserve to hear them all, for sure. Some stories, however, are best told in person so I’ll save those till we meet again face to face. The short version of how I’ve spent my time is simply as follows:
During the short time I had in Port Vila (the Capitol of the country) I purchased supplies and prepared the logistics for the Banem Bay Water Project . It was here that our super-hero team of volunteers assembled and prepared to
Here's the three teams of Doctors, Med Students, Midwife, and Founders....Be a Dragon.
set sail for Malekula (the island of our first expedition). We left the harbor with a full cargo of humanitarian aid, high spirits, and a little sea-sickness for the rookies. The month that followed (August) saw the restoration of the water system above and beyond the goals that we had set. Our MD volunteer held clinic days at the aid posts, treating dozens of patients (many of whom had never seen a doctor in all their lives). We taught in the schools to the joy of the teachers and students alike. And with a crack team of volunteers I got to survey the surrounding areas to establish the current state of the health infrastructure.
This survey turned out to be truly eye opening. There is so much that these people do without. Simple things that we take for granted are near impossibilities for many villages here: clean running water, a roof that doesn’t leak at the aid post where all the village’s health care takes place, a light in another aid post where many childbirths happen at night, a cement floor at this clinic or that …the list goes on.
September was spent on another island altogether. The
The current state of affairs
This village could use a new water tank. Don't you think?
second batch of expeditions took place on the island of Espiritu Santo. In Luganville (the country’s second largest city) the ship loaded on three teams of doctors, a pile of medicine, and several sets of camping gear. The teams spent the month providing health care to dozens of communities and treated hundreds of patients in the remote regions of the island. None of the villages we visited had access to roads and many could only be reached by sea. The teams camped in the villages and worked with the locals, trekked over mountains and slogged through the mud. We had some dicey moments along the journey but we laughed a lot along the way too. I don’t think that there was a single beach landing where we managed to keep the gear dry. All-in-all in was an adventure of the extreme sports variety.
We did a lot of good, but we can do so much more. This is why I need to come back. When you visit a place like this you become aware of how much you can help. And then inevitably, you become morally obligated to try and provide that help.
There is one little story
Here's Dr. Jarman treating a baby with scabies during a clinic day in Banem Bay. We saw a lot of this in Santo too.
that I’ve been told I need to share. I’ll try to tell it quickly, but you all know me. Here’s an excerpt from another letter I wrote recently.
“The people here have come to know me as ‘Direkta Sims’ as word gets out that I'm the one taking over for Project MARC. A few days ago I helped deliver a baby. It took place in a grass hut on the south side of Peamatsina village. One of our med students performed the actual delivery; I just kind of backed her up (like a lab monkey that can do menial tasks). It was a difficult delivery and the mother was in labor for over 30 hours. The head had not tuned and the baby's back was toward the cervix. We didn't have the equipment to do a Cesarian Section, but the situation was worse than a breach birth (feet first). In the end, everything came out all right, but for a few moments during the night it looked as though it could turn into a life and death situation. By 'life and death situation' I mean what I say quite literally. With a transverse birth like that, and under those
One hell of a long night
During the 30 plus hours of labor, the mother made no sound (even during contractions). The NiVanuatu Mamas are made of tougher stuff than you can imagine.
conditions you might have to make a choice: which one of these two people will live and which one will die?
Thankfully it didn't have to come down to that. The baby was born happy and healthy after the rough delivery. Then, after the deed was done, I checked the plecenta for any breaks or rips for fear that there might still be pieces inside the mother. As I did this, I heard the local women talking amongst themselves with Dr. SueLin. They had named the baby then and there. He’s a little boy, and his name is Seamus.
Something inside me kinda broke right then at that moment. A lot of people have a lot riding on me now so I can't screw this up. It's pretty intense. I just hope that I can handle it.”
Thank you all for the support and love that you all have given. You’ve all influenced who and what I am in very major ways. Hopefully I can make you all proud.
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