The focus of our first season’s work in the Maskelynes was on education. Major highlights included forging a partnership with Sangalai Centre School and facilitating a workshop on building construction. The Trust further donated a selection of hand and electrical tools from a successful “Tool-Raiser” in March as well as medical supplies to supplement the Sangalai Clinic.


 Uliveo Workshop Project

The Uliveo Builder’s Workshop is situated in Peskarus village.  The aim of the workshop is to enable graduates from the Rural Training College (RTC) in Pellongk village to enhance their practical building and design skills. It also provides a focal point and workspace for young builders from various villages around the Maskelynes to earn an income and benefit from the tools. Constructed from timber and cement with corrugated iron roofing, the workshop was jointly built by a group of RTC graduates. The Butterfly Trust helped stocked it up with a range of quality hand and electrical tools following a successful ‘Tool-Raiser’ in March 2010.

As soon as the tools were unloaded and assembled, the young men set about finishing the workshop’s main door, windows, a workbench and tool cabinet under the guidance and supervision of William Simeon, Senior Tutor at the RTC. The builders continued to be actively engaged in a number of contracts that included furniture design and construction, house building and construction of 2 new classrooms for the Sangalai Centre School.

With the expertise of New Zealand registered builder, Ian Hyde-Hills, the Trust also organised a workshop to assist the builders improve their practical building skills. Ian ran training sessions and supervised the use of electrical tools, emphasising workshop and tool safety. Ian’s empathy and flair in communication was a winner from the outset. Safety boots, head protection gear, visor and leather gloves formed part of the donated items.

Uliveo Workshop Update 2011:

Despite some disagreement and misunderstanding between some members of the community and the managers of the Uliveo Workshop in Peskarus village this year, the venue remains active with carvers, furniture makers and builders booking in time and space to use the tools and facilities. Tools donated by Butterfly Trust supporters in 2010 have been well looked after and are in good operating condition. Caretaker of the workshop, Brosio Balais, ensures that they are well secured in a chest and the tool room locked when not in use.

In July 2011, the workshop was also utilised as a training venue for a short course in understanding the basics of generator maintenance and solar power installations. Read more

Sangalai School Project

Our first encounter with a group of schoolgirls on their lunchbreak on the day of our arrival at Sangalai Harbour appears to have sealed the Butterfly Trust’s association with Sangalai School. Amidst peals of girlish laughter and chatter in a combination of English and Bislama, we were invited to meet Year 5 teacher, Florah David who had just given a lesson on Japan as part of their Social Studies course.  It was a wonderful introduction as we identified the gaps in our own knowledge and tried our woeful best to describe the sport of sumo wrestling!

Florah showed us the school library and afterwards we met Headmaster Benson Tangou. Over the subsequent weeks, we spoke frequently with Benson and the teachers to discuss the school’s needs and how we could help them achieve their goals.

Sangalai School looks after the primary education of boys and girls from Years 1 to 8. It also provides accommodation and meals for boarders from Avock, an island near Uliveo.  If they can afford the fees, parents from the villages of Peskarus, Pellonk, Lutes and Avok would not hesitate in ensuring each of their children receive both primary and secondary education. Unfortunately, whilst the fees for Years 1 to 5 students have been waived by the government at present (we are informed this may not continue indefinitely ), the fees for Years 6 and upwards including secondary school, at 45,000 vatu per year (roughly NZ$600-700) are prohibitive for most village families who live a subsistence lifestyle.

Meanwhile, our discussions with Benson and the Sangalai teachers identified their need for a computer and printer for staff use. The Butterfly Trust was happy to assist, prompting a short return to Vila to organise this purchase. Following installation of the computer, printer and power surge protector, we gave a series of basic computer lessons to Pelis, the school’s administrator and secretary who diligently prepared teaching resources, examination papers, letters, certificates and reports for the teachers.  Pelis has prior experience in a government role and quickly picked up the skills required.  In time, Pelis will share her word processing skills with the rest of the school staff.  Engineer Ivon Duurloo was often at hand to provide technical assistance. We have also arranged for a technician from e-Tech in Port Vila whom we purchased the computer and printer from to give technical advice and troubleshooting issues where required. The computer and printer are currently powered by solar.

The children themselves are a pure delight – resourceful, generous, eager to learn and to keep attending school. The Butterfly Trust would like to help as many primary school leavers as we possibly can who aspire to go on to attend secondary school and beyond. We will assist by providing fee subsidies for students to attend a secondary school on mainland Malekula.

Coconut oil generator

In 2009 following its conception, the Butterfly Trust embarked upon a project to supply Uliveo with a coconut oil burning generator. The aim of the generator was to provide power to run a coconut oil mill owned and managed by individuals from the village. The plan was for the mill to provide an alternative source of coconut oil for a soap factory in Peskarus and to generate an income for the community thereby reducing their reliance on the copra industry. It has become apparent that this project will take a little longer to take root than first envisaged. Our major challenge this year involved a number of logistical issues that included a reliable source of transport for the oil, issues around marketing, inadequate supervision further complicated by village politics. During our time in Uliveo, we had several meetings with the villagers involved in this project, consulted the owners of a successful coconut oil mill in Port Vila for advice and spoke briefly to World Vision who encountered similar set-up issues with mills in other islands of Vanuatu. All round we gained much insight from this experience, even if matters were somewhat frustrating at times. We are currently looking at all our options carefully. Whilst all this is happening, we are pleased to report that the Listeroid generator has been well looked after and is in very good working order. It is not being made idle but instead has been used to provide power to light up village community halls. In early September, during a Presbyterian General Assembly in Pellonk village attracting approximately 1000 visitors from all over the world, the generator provided a constant source of power for evening and night events.

Update 2011:

At the conclusion of numerous ongoing discussions over the past 2 years, the Trust believes that the best interim solution is to donate the Listeroid generator to the Rural Training College in the Maskelynes. The generator will be used both for training purposes and to generate power for general use. More details here

Power & Lighting

Generating power in an economical, sustainable and environmentally friendly manner remains a key issue faced by the villages in Uliveo. To date, only 4 main centres inVanuatureceive power from the national grid. The main source of lighting in the village comes from burning kerosene lamps. Those who cannot afford the cost of kerosene rely on candles. A small minority have a small diesel powered generator. Villagers who own generators face additional burdens when these break down. Villagers generally lack the skills and knowledge required to maintain and repair their generators and outboard motors.

On the positive side however, a number of buildings in the villages have had some success with the use of solar panels.  In 2007, Sangalai School received 2 solar panels from a European Union grant which currently provides sufficient lighting for 2 classrooms and to run the computer and printer in the teachers’ office. An Australian businessman from Port Vila donated 2 solar panels and some batteries to Lutes Village 3 years ago. This provided the energy for lighting the church and community hall in Lutes until recently due to a lack of maintenance.

We received a fair share of requests to fix generators, outboard motors, inverters and batteries. Some we could assist with, others were a little too intricate. Fortunately, we had Ivon Duurloo at hand to provide invaluable practical help and advice. We are very grateful for Ivon’s support in all things electrical. Ivon has been developing prototype solar systems to provide some form of lighting to the houses on top of his endless list of repair and maintenance jobs across the island.

To assist the Lutes community, the Butterfly Trust purchased energy saving light bulbs, bulb fittings, wiring and switches which Ivon deftly put together. We are glad to be able assist in a small way the resumption of lighting for the church and community hall in Lutes village which enables the villagers to hold their prayer meetings, church and community activities, women’s gatherings and space for children to read and study in the evenings.

Medicines & Clothes

2 Australian nurses worked tirelessly from 6am to late each day tending to the health needs of the men, women and children.

The Butterfly Trust was able to donate much needed medical supplies to assist the nurses in helping the people of the Maskelynes. Clothes, shoes and sports equipment were also kindly donated from various quarters.  This year’s collection  meant that every family received a part of this valuable contribution. Captain Jim and the crew of Tallship Soren Larsen deserve a round of applause for transporting donated items from New Zealand to Uliveo.

It has been an overwhelming time for the Butterfly Trust this year.  A great show of support has come from many quarters. Yet there is still much to be done.