2010 West Coast Clinic Construction


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Oceania » Vanuatu » Santo
October 20th 2010
Published: October 24th 2010
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Dedication for the clinicDedication for the clinicDedication for the clinic

The sign actually looks better in real life.
As many of you know, I planned on doing several things with Project MARC while in Vanuatu this year. When I left the states this past July the number one item on that list was the construction of a Clinic/Dispensary on the West Coast of Espiritu Santo. In all honesty, I’d been trying to get this clinic built for the better part of the past 3 years.

My hopes were high and it appeared that we finally had the funding needed to get the job done. Some refer to the work I do in the states as: ‘Non-profit Fundraising.’ But others often refer to it as: ‘Hopeless begging from financially strapped individuals.’ Although I’ve had more people tell me, ‘NO’ than I can count (through incredibly imaginative means)…there were enough bright and shining stars that actually said ‘Yes.’

This Clinic project is their doing.

At the start of the season we had a pretty reasonable ‘Plan A.’ Yet as expected, we quickly needed to move to ‘Plans B, C, and D’ shortly after our arrival. After we ran out of alphabet letters (Mid August), we moved to AA, AA.5, AA.75, BB, BB.5, CC etc…

The title of
Changing the planChanging the planChanging the plan

This meeting re-worked the build schedule due to the ever shifting plan
our current plan resembles a European license plate.

Let me start this story at the beginning, however. Let me tell you of the long-gone ‘Plan A’ and then follow it with the reality of the past couple months. Hopefully you’ll get a good laugh.

Plan A:
Last week of July - Trip to Malekula for Meuzelaar business and past project updates.
August Week 1 - Site prep of Clinic in Santo
August Week 2 - Deliver construction supplies to site
August Week 3 - Begin Construction
August Week 4 - Continue Construction
September - Maternal Health Expedition
October - Wrap up and Head Home!

It all seemed so simple at the start, but after a few short days in the country I knew that nothing would work out that way. Lucky for me, I’d compiled contingency plans all the way to the ‘Plan G’ before I even left the USA.

By week one of August I was informed that our delivery vessel, the tall ship Alvei, was going to be a few weeks late. They needed to do some repairs in Fiji and wouldn’t be able to make Luganville until late August. Within the same week,
While you were out...While you were out...While you were out...

Nate and the kids moved the sand pile up from the beach while I was gone.
it became evident that the entire Maternal Health Expedition was going to have to be cancelled too. And just like that, plans A through G were out the window.

Everything worked out for the best however. We now had a lot of time to get done what we’d planned on doing. The delays were no longer detrimental, and we could all breathe a bit easier. The downside, of course, is that the volunteers came in with one idea of what they were going to be doing, but lived a very different reality to the ‘Plan A’ they’d signed on for.

The first week of August had some expedition prep and a site visit, as you may have read in “A Story by Nathan Brodie.” The second week saw Nate back on site flying solo so that he could work with the village to clear the grounds and begin the collection of sand and stone for construction. We needed a few tons of sand to make the bricks and a few tons of stone for the foundations.

Teams of men from the villages carried stones alongside teams of mamas hauling sand. I wish I’d given Nate my camera
JMC BoundJMC BoundJMC Bound

Dr. Dom and Andy went with me to get the sit rep from JMC.
for this, as I was back in Luganville awaiting the arrival of more volunteers.

Dr. Dom Wakefield is a MARC alum from 2007 and she joined our crew early in August along with Mark and Carola of MARC 2008 fame. Also along for the second trip to the West Coast was a Brit Baby Doc from Luganville (Andy was out with us for only a couple days, but he plays a major part later in the story). It was also at this time that Frank Zolnai made it back from a MARC delivery to Malekula, but I’ll let him tell that story himself.

The second weekend of August saw one team up at the Jungle Mountain Clinic (JMC) and another in Limarua for continued site prep. The job site still needed a lot more sand and stone, and I needed to get an update on the situation at the JMC. One report said that the clinic was closed and had been for 6 months, while another said that it was still operating. I had to see for myself.

As it turns out, the aid post worker Karaitin was very sick and had been for a month or
Ready for loadingReady for loadingReady for loading

The MARC team awaits the arrival of Alvei up the channel for supply loading
so. This was the reason for the temporary closure, but everything else seemed to be running fine. I did need to meet with some of the local leaders over some misunderstandings, but other than that things looked great.

When we returned to Luganville after this second trip nobody was left at the site. I’d finally arranged for the purchase of supplies through a local store, and with the Ministry of Health had arranged for a local head carpenter. Most importantly, Alvei would be making it to Luganville for the delivery of supplies.

It was such a highlight for me to see Alvei when we got back to town. I wished that I could have met the crew under different circumstances, but time was of the essence when they finally made it to shore. There was no time for niceties because the gang made it to shore with only 45 minutes left to the business day, and I had obligations to the harbormaster.

Luckily, we made it to the international warf in time, and all the arrangements were laid out. The following morning was full of work. Alvei weighed anchor at sunrise and motored up the channel to
Morning WatchMorning WatchMorning Watch

Dom steers us up the West Coast
meet the MARC team with the delivery trucks from Santo Hardware. The load started slowly, but eventually we got things moving and were wrapped up before noon. Ten tons of cement and a like share of other supplies, including a cement mixer made possible by the Brodie family. I’ll talk more about the awesomeness of that cement mixer later.

A day or two after the supplies were loaded we headed off for the West Coast. We were down a few crew but the trip was a nice enough ride. Sooooooo picturesque. The offload was also a breeze. Instead of using Alvei’s shore boat I opted to hire local water taxis to do the delivery from ship to sand. With three boats running the goods, we finished in a far better timeframe than I’d anticipated.

The villages and school had prepared a Salu Salu Ceremony for the crew and volunteers, which was pretty touching. I also awarded the Alvei Crew with the 2010 MARC uniform bandanas. And of course there were speeches.

After the crew departure, the other volunteers began the loading of all supplies off the beach and up to the storage house. This was a huge
Nate don't breakNate don't breakNate don't break

And judging by those muscles he doesn't need to.
amount of labor, but many hands made light work. When Alvei was lining up to leave, I rowed an outrigger canoe out to help weigh anchor. The crew had been working all morning and I’m sure their muscles were shot. Plus, after I came out, Nate showed up with a boat-load of huge NiVanuatu to help with the anchor too. Nate was the real hero, without the local team I’m not sure I would have lasted till the anchor was aweigh.

Back on shore the loading from beach to site continued, so Nate and I dove right in. All told, I’m guessing that Dr. Dom hauled as much as Nate and I combined. Wonderwoman should fear for her job when Dr. D’s in town.

The day after the supply loading was taken easy for our team, but I had some things to line up with local leaders. You see, I needed to get back into town to pick up our head carpenter and another volunteer flying in from the UK.

I hated to miss out on the following week’s festivities in Limarua. There was a big fundraiser for the school and then a ceremony for the end
Dr. GDr. GDr. G

I'd like to thank Dan Bragg and Ivan Oswald for getting her to Luganville without detrimental injury
of the school year. The whole Limarua School Day was documented by Frank and his amazing camera thankfully. I hope I can get some of those photos posted up too.

I caught a ride back to Tasiriki with the family of one of the school’s teachers. They were headed home for the holidays and I tagged along in their boat. As it turned out, Alvei was in Tasiriki still, so the teacher and family jumped on Alvei with me and tagged along on our trip back to Luganville!

Once back in town I had meetings with our carpenter and the Ministry of Health. Nate joined me a day later for a flight back to the states. It was sad to see him go, but that’s part of the job. Good friends and frequent good-byes. Also on this trip I picked up Dr. Georgina Osborne.

Doctor Georgi’s a friend of Dr. Dom’s that agreed to come out and do some rural clinic construction and some maternal health workshops. I was sorry to inform her that the maternal health expedition had been cancelled, but she was game to do whatever needed doing. As said early on, MARC volunteers need
Prepped for fillingPrepped for fillingPrepped for filling

Like an apple pie except with dirt instead of apples, and cement instead of crust stips.
to be pretty free flowing and easy going. Given the ordeal the Georgi had to go through just to get out of Port Vila, I was just glad that she made it to Luganville in one piece. But I’ll let her tell that part of her story.

It was while in town on this trip that I learned of another road bump in out plans. We had agreed to help the Ministry of Health with a vaccination campaign but complications popped up

If you’d like to read more on the Vaccination Campaign, check out the Travelblog titled ‘MARC 2010 Vaccination Campaign.’ Real creative title, eh? I was extra proud when I came up with that one.

By the time I arrived at the site with Dr. Georgi, the foundation was ready for filling with dirt. I had a great time working with the communities to get this done. I really wanted to be around for the finishing of the foundation. The completion of the slab was the one part of construction that I personally wanted to be a part of. Alas it was not meant to be. I had to race back to Luganville to put out
Bricks row one.Bricks row one.Bricks row one.

This is the delicate part. after this you just stack them up.
the fires of the Vaccine Campaign planning. Frank got some good shots though.

The slab was complete when I made it back to Limarua and the first rows of bricks had been laid for the walls. The doctors and I took a trip to publicize the vaccination tour and while we were gone, the walls had gone up. In the week of the vaccination tour itself, the roof was framed.

I hated to miss so much of the construction but it just went up so fast. It took 20 days from the beginning of construction to the structural completion of the building. Over 90% of the work was in the prep before construction even began.

Floor, walls, roof = 20 days. It’s hard to believe.

After the vaccination campaign our Doctor volunteers caught a plane for their next adventure while Frank and I prepped the naming ceremony for our VIP’s. Another hic-up to the plan came in the form of infection. Small cuts in the bush can turn into tropical boils quite easily, and one such cut on Frank’s back decided to do so. The infection spread quite rapidly and after some treatment it was decided
InfectionInfectionInfection

Here's Frank post surgery for re-bandaging.
that surgery was needed. Our own Baby Doc Andy (who was still working at the hospital) did the honors on Frank’s wound and patched him up pretty well. After the hospital work was done it simply looked like Frank had been shot in the back with a .22 (which isn’t so bad if you’re Frank Zolnai).

We scheduled the naming ceremony for after Frank was decent enough to travel again. Before that time came, however, I headed off alone to prep the West Coast communities for the ceremony and to settle a dispute between some local mountain communities and the coast communities where the Clinic was located. An issue had come up where the mountain communities felt that the coastal villages had stolen away the clinic that was rightfully theirs. The dispute was cause for a great deal of tensions between villages and I had to go and ‘Mek stret eriwan samtin.’

After the conflict resolution at the top of a mountain, there was still preparations for the ceremony but the morning’s hike up and afternoon’s hike down had wiped me out pretty good. Thankfully Chief Puha had everything under control.

When the day of the ceremony
Decorations for the CeremonyDecorations for the CeremonyDecorations for the Ceremony

The kids from the school did a great job.
came around, a cow was butchered and all the mamas set to making lap lap. The schoolgirls collected flowers for the salu salu wreathes and all the boys cut down bamboo to make a shade shelter for the ceremony. So much food, so many decorations, so many people….but no guests of honor, and it was nearly noon. I felt like every big party host before an event. What if it rains? What if nobody shows up? Oh wait, what if EVERYBODY shows up?

Chief Puha and I were making contingency plans for what to do if the Ministry of Health team didn’t show up by 3PM when we heard the sound of an offshore outboard motor. Our guests had arrived.

The ceremony itself was pretty short, but the speeches (as usual) ran a little long. After consultation with our greatest donor, Blessed Sacrament Church, we decided to name the clinic after one of Samna Province’s hardest working public servants. As you can see by the photos, the clinic was called the Joseph Mape Limarua Clinic. Joseph was in attendance at the ceremony too, which was extra special.

Joseph Mape started working for the Ministry of Health as a rural health nurse in Samna Province. At one time he ran his own dispensary on the island of Malo and at the naming ceremony we got to hear a story about his second day on the job.

Less than 48 hours after Joseph started his deployment on Malo he was required to deliver a baby. This was his job so he simply got to it. That child grew to school age during Joseph’s time on Malo before he was moved to another dispensary posting.

Eventually the child grew up, got married, and had children. This man’s wife was a teacher, and like rural health nurses, could be given appointments far from home. As it turned out, the teacher and her family were sent to the far off West Coast of Espiritu Santo to a school called Limarua.

The man’s name is Alona, and while the MARC team was staying in Limarua he was in charge of hosting us. When I caught a ride to Tasiriki, it was Alona’s family that gave me the lift. Likewise, it was Alona’s family that rode with Alvei back to Luganville.

Now, Alona’s family will enjoy healthcare from a clinic
Infamous AlonaInfamous AlonaInfamous Alona

Here's the boys.
near their school that is named after the man who delivered him so many years ago. This story is only one of two that Joseph told during his speech at the naming ceremony.

As it turns out, Alona was not the only grown man in the area that Joseph once delivered as a baby. You see, after Joseph had worked as a nurse for many years he transferred to the Malaria Prevention Unit of the Ministry of Health. This job required him to travel a great deal.

During one of Joseph’s malaria trips, he found himself riding in a boat up the West Coast of Santo. He was going far North to a village called Nogugu but as he passed the village of Wusi he saw a white sheet being waved from the shore.

It was obviously a distress call and Joseph asked the captain to stop. As it turns out, a woman was in the midst of a complicated and prolonged labor. She needed a hospital and Joseph was going to make sure that she got help. After picking up the expectant mother and turning the boat around they started to head South.

The little
West Coast's Next String Band West Coast's Next String Band West Coast's Next String Band

Since we were using the kindy for supply storage, we put these little guys to work mixing cement. They still can do it faster than me despite their size.
boat didn’t make it more than a kilometer before the situation dramatically changed. The baby was coming and wasn’t about to wait for a hospital.

Joseph delivered the baby in the rocking boat, just off shore, nearly a kilometer South of Wusi. They were miles and miles from the nearest clinic, but the baby and mother made it through the experience. After the delivery, the boat put to shore directly and dropped off the mother and child.

The delivery location was just offshore from the landing point, which is now the site of the Joseph Mape Limarua Clinic we have built together. The man who was delivered those decades ago was one of the clinic’s strongest builders. Today, there will be no need to deliver babies in the boat. This clinic stands strong just onshore.

When I first met Joseph, he was the Ministry of Health Provincial Manager for Samna Province. Today he is the MoH Acting Director for the North District. Simply put, he’s the guy in charge of the Northern half of the country’s health care.

Joseph has put in a lifetime of service to his people with little public recognition. He wants to
Joseph's SpeechJoseph's SpeechJoseph's Speech

His stories are amazing
retire (and I think he’s even tried a few times, but was disallowed!). Our clinic bears his name and I feel that it is made stronger for it.

I personally felt honored that we named the clinic after him. He is a well-respected man in both the mountain communities and the coast communities, and to Project MARC he has been an amazing advocate.

After the speeches and gift-giving there was a formal kava ceremony and some more speeches. Then came the food. Rather, I should say that the feast began….

The following day our camp was packed and good-byes were said. We loaded into our shore boat and headed back to Tasiriki for a long drive to Luganville. Farewells have become a common thing in this job, but that doesn’t make them easier. Living on a project site for two months feels like living in a home for a year. And it’s always strange that I can pack up my home in under 15 minutes if need be.

I’d like to extend an invitation to my readers here, especially the Project MARC donors. If you ever get the chance, please stop by Wusi Village or Limarua
Family Family Family

Chief Puha and daughter with MARC team 4
School. Check out the Joseph Mape Limarua Clinic. Some of you have names posted on the clinic’s sign, and I have assurances from Chief Puha that if you do show up you’ll be treated like royalty.

Originally I was going to be back in the states by now. Plans have changed (surprise, surprise!). Now I’m hoping to build another clinic in the center of the Espiritu Santo. The village is called Sele and it’s close to another village called Butmas (if you do google earth). As usual, we can always use more financial assistance. If you’d like to get in on this clinic construction, please get in contact with me.

The plan now is for me to make it back to the states shortly after Christmas (Plan AFG26.7ii, but who’s keeping track?! I swear I’m switching to bar codes soon!). But that’s just the plan of the day, we’ll see how it works out in the end.






Additional photos below
Photos: 47, Displayed: 35


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Limarua School Limarua School
Limarua School

Here's a bunch of the kids with the crew and volunteers.
Team Santo HardwareTeam Santo Hardware
Team Santo Hardware

Joseph Mape of the Ministry of Health is Center with Brad of Santo Hardware his right, and Andrew Toyne at my left.
The structural ClinicThe structural Clinic
The structural Clinic

There was still the cosmetics to be finished but that bulk of the work was finished in 20 days.


27th October 2010

A Double-Portion of Generosity
Thanks so much for this entry. Now I have a better understanding of the photos you sent. The communal effort in building the dispensary is wonderful. And, I'd love to meet Joseph Mape! m
30th October 2010

Well Done
Seamus, Frank, Andrew, You guys and the rest of the team are doing a great job. Well done. Cheers Leanne

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