We use our yacht, Rireana, as a base for the work of the Butterfly Trust.
Rireana is an Owen Woolley designed yacht, 10.6m long, 3.0m in the beam, with a draft of 1.9m. She is sloop rigged with an added inner forestay. She is constructed of wood – triple skin, diagonally planked kauri – with epoxy and fibreglass sheathing. She was built by Ian Hyde-Hills and launched in 1990. We took over guardianship of Rireana from Ian in early 2006. Since then Ian has remained an integral part of Rireana’s journey.
With a population of 260,000, 32 doctors* and a shortage of nurses, access to primary healthcare remains a formidable challenge for the majority of ni-Vans living in the outlying areas of Vanuatu. Other hurdles slowing down access to quality primary healthcare are the cost of training, the lack of proper training facilities and personnel, and the problem of transport across 83 different islands, many of which are geographically isolated from the urban centres.
The majority of Vanuatu’s doctors are permanently based at 2 regional referral hospitals and 3 provincial hospitals. This, combined with the shortage of nurses, dentists and eye-care specialists, means that a substantial portion of primary health care delivery to remote areas is still being catered for by overseas medical personnel working as volunteers. Some groups return on a regular basis, either focusing on a single catchment area or rotating through different locations on subsequent visits. Others provide financial support in the form of overseas courses and placement programmes in a bid to help selected ni-Van health workers improve their skills. With a broad range of health aid currently being driven by the government’s development partners, local and overseas NGOs and churches, as well as individual volunteers, we want to ensure that our involvement at grassroots level will build on what has already been established.
We have been fortunate to have had a number of highly qualified and motivated doctors and nurses, dentists and dental therapists, work with us over the years. Some return each year and return to clinics and hospitals where they have forged relationships with the local communities. This is particularly so at Lamap and the offshore islands of southeast Malekula, and at Norsup Hospital in north Malekula. Our medical personnel have engaged in both clinical work and training and mentoring of local health practitioners.
As a result of the feedback we have received from all quarters, including our overseas practitioners, local practitioners and local communities, we have determined we can be most effective by increasing local community health knowledge. We are therefore concentrating on assisting local health educators become more proficient at teaching local communities about basic public health awareness eg. washing hands, healthy nutrition, and basic wound care.
*2010 figure as sourced from Vanuatu’s Annual Development Report
Butterfly Trust collaborates with Vanuatu Institute of Technology
With its main campus in the capital, Port Vila and 2 smaller provincial training centres, the Vanuatu Institute of Technology (“VIT”) is Vanuatu’s largest provider of formal technical and vocational training. It runs a variety of programmes in various trades, business, tourism, hospitality and computing. The Butterfly Trust was particularly interested in VIT’s rural training scheme whereby qualified instructors run intensive courses in a village environment. Designed especially for men and women with none or little formal qualifications, short courses can be customised to suit the technical level of the group taking part. As a VNTC (Vanuatu National Training Council) accredited organisation, where minimum standards are attained following course completion, individuals receive certificates recognised within the local industry.
The Butterfly Trust hopes to keep facilitating the acquisition of trade and vocational skills as an alternative form of continuing education for adults with little formal qualifications, to promote self reliance and to help generate income opportunities for individuals in the Maskelynes.
Before micro industries such as a coconut oil mill can be set up and run independently by the community, we believe that more groundwork is necessary to assist in the procurement of certain basic skills and knowledge. This is to ensure eventual success and sustainability of any project undertaken.
In September this year, the Butterfly Trust discussed future partnership with VIT Principal Kalbeo Kalpat, Deputy Academic Jack Graham and Course Co-ordinator Charley Manai. While there is plenty of organisation yet to be accomplished in co-ordinating the first course, likely to be a Vocational Foundation Certificate in electrical principles and workshop practices, the seed has nevertheless been planted.
Also on the agenda was the issue of providing assistance and further training to VIT’s instructors in the Port Vila campus. For this, the Butterfly Trust will be seeking the assistance of technical training institutes or experienced builders, woodworkers and electrical engineers from New Zealand interested in ‘Training the Trainers.
RTC students to benefit from coconut oil generator
The Butterfly Trust has now made the decision to donate the Listeroid generator, purchased in 2009 to run a coconut oil mill, to the Rural Training Centre (“RTC”) in the village of Pellongk. It came to the point where the logistical difficulties involved with setting up a coconut oil factory became quite major in the current state of play. Over the past 2 years, the Butterfly Trust has had numerous discussions with the promoter of the project, village chiefs and organisations in Vanuatu including World Vision and Volcanic Earth, in an effort to reach a workable solution. We have come to the understanding that, while there is still a potential for the industry to be developed in the Maskelynes, the chances of a functioning mill coming to fruition in the immediate future are rather slim.
Meanwhile, the Listeroid has been put to good use by the community and after undergoing minor repairs, has now been donated to the RTC for training purposes. The RTC, an accredited training institution, runs courses in carpentry, building construction and hospitality. RTC Director Alick Masing agreed that having the use of an additional source of power to run electrical tools for class demonstrations and practice would be of immense practical help to tutors and students. In addition, as the RTC is situated in Pellongk, the wider village community will benefit when extra lighting is required for community events and functions.
It was a matter of finding an interim solution that would provide the greatest benefit to all. The concept of the coconut oil mill has not been abandoned, just placed on hold as these matters can take time.
Despite having spent consecutive 12-hour days repairing generators from all over the Maskelynes, American sailor Brian Basura and his wife Claudia Richardson from SY “Skylight” did not hesitate when the Butterfly Trust approached them out of the blue with a request to run a course on generators and solar power.
On 26 and 27 July 2011, up to 15 men (and the occasional woman) from all over the Maskelynes showed up at the Uliveo Workshop in Peskarus village to attend an intensive workshop on the theory and practical skills involved in maintaining diesel generators and solar power equipment.
Brian deftly and succinctly explained the rudimentaries via blackboard diagrams as the men listened attentively and took notes. According to Brian, he was combining concepts usually taught at primary, secondary and tertiary level physics and engineering at various points during the course. “The men did very well and asked pertinent questions, which demonstrated a basic level of understanding.”
The Uliveo Workshop was a flurry of chatter and activity as tools and engine parts were scrutinised and passed round. There were field trips to diagnose the state of solar panels and batteries at the community hall at Lutes village.
Attendee Tom Nombong said at the conclusion of the workshop that he hoped there would be more courses such as this in the future, and added “..but they must be longer.”
We were very pleased to learn that in the weeks immediately following this workshop, a number of the men were busy fixing generators in the villages including one belonging to the Sangalai School.
The Butterfly Trust is very grateful to both Brian and Claudia for coming on board at such short notice.
We returned to Rireana in February 2011 (after a stint in far north Queensland looking after the vanilla farm of Fiona and Matt George-Allen). We then did a lot of maintenance work on Rireana, before heading south through the Sandy Straits to Mooloolaba and Brisbane. We eventually ended up at Scarborough Marina just north of Brisbane to ready ourselves for the sail back to Vanuatu.
We were a bit anxious about the trip east across the Coral Sea, it being against the prevailing south-easterly trade winds. However, in the end, the weather window we picked (with the help of Bob McDavitt) was even more placid than we expected. So placid in fact we motored almost two thirds of the way to Noumea. By the time we docked in Port Moselle we had 25 litres of fuel remaining. Luckily we had Ted Jordan on board for this trip who was great at calculating optimum engine revs and fuel usage.
We had a quick turnaround in Noumea, Ted flew back to New Zealand, and we sailed up to Vila, a trip of about 3 days.
After a month spent in Vila doing the bureaucratic side of Trust work, we again headed for the Maskelynes on an overnight trip. It is about a 17 hour sail and has to be timed so that we can enter the reef at Sangalai Harbour in daylight.
We lived at anchor in Sangalai Harbour for the next 3 months, although had to move anchorage on occasion to escape strong south-westerly winds which put us onto a dangerous lee shore in the harbour.
We returned to Vila, spent some more time on a mooring there, and then sailed again for New Caledonia. This was a relatively fast trip. After two seasons of sailing we had used up a lot of our long term supplies and reduced the weight on the boat. With relatively light winds forward of the beam and a slight sea, we averaged just under 6 knots on the trip to Noumea. That is quite respectable for a boat of Rireana’s size.
Once in Noumea, we decided to leave Rireana there while we returned to New Zealand for work. The reason for this being that ocean voyages, including the time spent waiting for suitable weather windows, take up a lot of time. We believed this time was better spent fundraising and working this year, given the effects of the global recession. So we left Rireana tucked up in Port du Sud marina in Noumea in early November and flew back to Auckland. Our friend Thierry Boujon is keeping close watch on Rireana while we are away. We hope to be back on board in mid-April and sailing back up to Vanuatu soon afterwards.
We sailed from Opua, New Zealand, in June 2010, with Tim Frost as crew, and headed directly for Port Vila in Vanuatu. The trip took about 10 days and was largely incident free. Lynn suffered from bad seasickness initially but in the last 2 or 3 days, when we were being knocked around by 30 knot winds and a very confused sea, she was luckily feeling much better. Tim paid off in Port Vila and flew back to New Zealand.
From Vila we headed north to the Maskelyne Islands. This was an overnight trip in relatively light winds with patches of rain.
We had Ian Hyde-Hills on board for this leg of the trip. Ian had joined us in Vila and spent most of the night helming Rireana. He eventually went below about 0500 hours after relishing the opportunity to steer his creation in tropical waters for the first time. Ian had generously offered his time to come up to the Maskelynes to provide vocational training in building skills and the use of power tools.
We lived on Rireana at anchor in Sangalai Harbour for the next couple of months (with one return sail back to Vila for Trust work). Then it was back to Port Vila to attend to more work there and to prepare for leaving Vanuatu. From Vila, we sailed south to New Caledonia. We cleared in at Lifou, one of the Loyalty Islands, and then made our way through the Havannah Passage in the south-east corner of New Caledonia and on to Noumea. We spent a couple of weeks on mainland New Caledonia, before setting sail for Bundaberg in Australia.
We were joined for the Australian leg of the voyage by Jim Hawke, an old sailing mate from Auckland, now resident in Queensland. We copped a gale halfway across the Coral Sea and at one stage were caught surfing down a wave at just under 14 knots. That’s not bad for a small boat with a maximum hull speed of about 7.5 knots. We made landfall at Bundaberg after about 6 days sailing where Jim left us.
We hauled Rireana out of the water at Bundaberg and returned to New Zealand for work and more fundraising. We were away for the period of the Queensland floods and luckily Rireana was on the hard (as Jim had advised). As a result of the floods, about 60 boats were lost out of Bundaberg, some never to be recovered. Rireana remained high and dry with our mate in Bundy, Judy O’Donoghue, checking on her every so often.
Avock is one of the 3 main islands making up the Maskelynes group, home to approximately 200 people. The majority of children from this island attend Namaru Primary School until Year 6. Although the school is attached to Avock, it can be reached by foot only at low tide. To get to school, children traverse coral and mudflats, cleaning up before attending class. At high tide, local transport involves paddling the ‘kanu’, local dugout canoes. The journey can be difficult during the rainy season or when the seas are rough.
Despite limited funds, the school committee is dedicated to improving facilities one at a time. It has organised repairs to a number of leaky classrooms out of the annual school budget. After a 5-year wait, the school finally received a water tank. Next on the list was lighting for 4 of the 6 classrooms and the administrative office. This has now been provided by the Butterfly Trust. With the solar power supplemented occasionally by a generator, a photocopier and printer are also in use. This has markedly improved the ability of the school to function effectively and improve the education of its pupils.
Click to view a video clip of the children from Namaru School.
The Butterfly Trust has decided to go ahead with facilitating the establishment of a new library in the Maskelynes. The main impetus for this project is to help improve the literacy standards of the community. Poor literacy standards are clearly a concern across all age groups. Mr Benson Tangou, the head teacher of Sangalai Centre School cited an urgent need for more literacy training for his teaching staff as well as an improved library with a trained librarian where students can have access to a quiet reading space and to carry out research activities. He stressed the need for reading programmes as a way of teaching students the value of reading for pleasure.
In Vanuatu, standardised tests of achievement in literacy and numeracy are carried out nationally every 2 years at the end of Years 4 and 6. Figures from the 2010 Annual Development Report indicate that only 17% of Year 4 (9 year old) boys and 33% of girls could read and write satisfactorily. The figures for Year 6 girls was 46% and 29% in English and French schools respectively.
Although the planned site of the new library building will be on school land, the school committee board, paramount Chief Kalmet Dick and the Butterfly Trust have jointly agreed that the proposed new library will also function as a resource centre for the entire Maskelynes community.
Apart from having to find a source of funding, the proposed project will require careful consideration of the different aspects of human resources skills necessary to ensure the facility, once built, will serve its desired purpose in the long term. This entailed visits to school libraries in urban Port Vila and the Vanuatu Institute of Teacher Education for guidance from ni-Vanuatu staff.
The estimated total cost of this project is approximately VT1.7 million (NZ$24,500). The Butterfly Trust has submitted an application to New Zealand Aid for the bulk of this funding with some labour and materials to be donated by the Maskelynes community as their ‘in-kind’ contribution. Construction will be carried out by a team of experienced builders from the Maskelynes and overseen by William Ennis, a tutor at the Uliveo Rural Training Centre.
Also required are the services of an experienced librarian both for the initial set up and also to provide training to a designated library administrator. Butterfly Trust will also facilitate any follow-up support as required from time to time.
The Vanuatu Ministry of Education has also joined our MOU with the Ministry of Health.
In Port Vila, we spoke to Roy Obed, Director of Education Services from the Ministry of Education (“MOE”). Mr Obed highlighted the need for further training in the areas of English literacy, science, mathematics, librarianship and school management. He cited that a lack of adequately trained teachers continues to be a major problem with schools in the outer islands worst affected. The lack of sufficiently trained teaching staff extends down to pre-school level, a concern shared by Benson Tangou, Head Teacher at Sangalai School in the Maskelynes.
Increasingly, teachers are encountering poor literacy and numeracy skills in children attending their first year of primary school. This then impacts negatively on achievement standards in the ensuing years of school and either leads to high repetition rates or students dropping out of the formal education system altogether. This problem coupled with the cost of fees means that a substantial proportion of children in the Maskelynes and other outlying areas have a disjointed education. Responding positively to the poor survival rate of students at primary level and beyond, this year Mr Tangou established a Year 1 Nursery class to assist young children meet the minimum standards set by the national curriculum board before entering Year 1 primary.
For a number of years, a major focus of Vanuatu’s Ministry of Education has centred on achieving universal ‘fee free’ primary education and improving literacy rates. In 2010, with the help of Vanuatu’s development partners, compulsory parental school fee contributions were phased out in a direct response to declining primary school enrolment rates. Parents no longer pay the annual VT6 800 (approximately NZ$100) per child contribution towards fees for Years 1-6. Second only to the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, ensuring every child receives free primary education remains a key Millenium Development Goal for the Vanuatu government. By 2015, it is hoped that boys and girls alike will be able to complete a full course of primary education.
It was as a result of these discussions with Roy Obed and other education officials that the MOE also decided to become a party to our MOU with the Ministry of Health.
Last year, the Butterfly Trust began its association with the Maskelynes Sangalai Centre School, a school serving approximately 250 students from Years 1-6 and the first 2 years of junior secondary school, Years 7 and 8. Currently the cost of fees for attending Years 7 and 8 are VT6 800 (NZ$100) per child and there are, as yet, no plans in place by the government to offer financial assistance to students wishing to receive further secondary schooling on mainland Malekula (Years 9-12). Last year, the cost of a year’s secondary schooling at one of the 3 main schools on the mainland was approximately NZ$600 per child. Costs have since risen to NZ$1 000 per child. With fluctuating copra prices, the harvesting of which is still a major source of income in rural Vanuatu, funding children’s school fees looks to remain a huge challenge for families every year.
With the guidance and oversight from representatives of both the MOE and MOH, the Butterfly Trust plans to maintain its financial assistance to Year 8 Sangalai School students in a bid to increase, gradually, the numbers of students attending and remaining at secondary school. We also hope to provide assistance with sourcing and facilitating teacher and literacy training workshops in the Maskelynes, building on existing programmes and improving access of teachers to such programmes on the mainland where these are available.
The overarching objective is quite simply to enable every boy and girl to receive an education. Secondly, to assist with improving the standards and quality of existing courses and programmes taught in line with the national curriculum.