FAQs Returned Volunteers


Wendy Griffin (Vanuatu)

Wendy Griffin is volunteering as a Pre-school Assessment Adviser to the Vanuatu Ministry of Education, based in Port Vila, Vanuatu. She will complete her assignment in August 2017. 

Birthday amid cyclone chaos

Published on 11th May 2017

Volunteer Wendy Griffin celebrated her birthday in Vanuatu amid the recent chaos of Tropical Cyclone Donna. She shares her experience with us...


Like many houses in Vanuatu,  my place is not entirely waterproof, so as with TC Cook and now Cyclone Donna, it was a little battle to keep that sneaky water out of the kitchen and sitting room. Luckily both have tiled floors. 

Wendy Griffin cyclone blog Vanuatu

May 5th birthday girls


I found the holes on the second day of insistent rain, both at the floor level connected to the sliding door and the other under the kitchen wall. So towels went down to help and by Tuesday the floors were dry.


Along period of wind and rain started with a full house on Friday May 5th when local family came to my house for my birthday, and cyclone safety shelter.


There were 12 counting me and it was so fun to cook and eat and sing Happy Birthday as the cyclone closed in. The best part of all was that after 16 years of knowing one mama, we discovered we had the same birth date; something you do not talk too much about here in Vanuatu. On Saturday, two stayed on and on Sunday, the two children wanted a swim in the local pool. I have never seen so many goose bumps on children, as they had fun swimming and then a plate of hot chips. 


I have big glass windows, so I was able to watch the world and the umbrellas fly from the safety of my upstairs (if slightly wet-floored) flat. I felt sorry for all the people in boarded-up homes.


On Monday, Donna became a Category 5 cyclone, so my colleague picked me up so we could join the Emergency Operations teams at the Ministry of Education and Training and help set things up for the Rapid Assessment collection of information. With all the donors present it was a big meeting. But this time we had things in place for education and it was only communication that was difficult.


Wendy Griffin cyclone blog

Cyclone signs at the Ministry of Education


Tuesday our National Disaster Management Office was ready to send a Team to Torba, a Province in the far North, which had been battered by Donna for four days. We are not very hopeful that the kindergartens on the Western side of the little Torres Islands would have survived but we will find out soon. You can see the Ministry of Education and Training boarded up in my photos.


The National Radio Station and the two telecoms companies here were fantastic at giving out messages verbally, plus text messages and we enjoyed putting our little crosses on the tracking map. It was one very strange cyclone pattern this time, but we are relieved it’s over.


We are mostly back to normal now, with things to repair, data to collect and plans to rebuild. Thanks to all that supported us through this, especially VSA staff in Santo.



Wendy Griffin cyclone Donna blog

Windows boarded up at the Ministry of Education and Training, ahead of the cyclone


cyclone blog4

Little Wendy with birthday cake for Miss Wendy


cyclone blog3

Wendy at her desk at the Ministry, post cyclone, ready for Rapid Assessment Information


Photo of Wendy by Murray Lloyd

Wendy (3rd from left) surrounded by friends and Ni-Van family in Vanuatu


  • Jill Greenhalgh on 11th May

    I'm so relieved that Donna didn't make a direct attack on Vila. I'm not sure how well your house would have stood up to it, sitting up on the ridge there. Did you tape the windows this time?

  • Margarette Cantwell on 11th May

    Great to see your blog Miss Wendy and to know you and family are all okay. Happy birthday, that will be one you will not forget in a hurry! I hope Jenny and the rest of the ECE whanau have come through okay and the Torba kindies are not too badly damaged. Is that Rachel (Sembu's teacher from Pango) in the middle of that photo? Lukim yu bak agin Margarette

Post your comment

Donate to VSA

It costs money to send volunteers overseas and every dollar you donate to VSA goes towards programmes that really do work.

Donate now!

Become a volunteer

Register with VSA to find out about new vacancies. Or if you are already registered, login to update your details.

Volunteer now!