16.04.2019 - Wendy is currently volunteering as an Adult Literacy and Numeracy Officer with the Vanuatu Agriculture College. She will complete this assignment in April 2020. Halfway through her assignment, she shares some reflections on the last few months.

It is Friday and tiring, and they have been painting the room where I have a teeny wee desk for my assignment. It is a broken down wooden desk bought when the college opened 14 years ago; the cupboard door fell off and the drawer doesn’t work. I have a carton as my filing cabinet on a broken down rusty chair.

But the paint looks great, it is called “Esmerelda” and is mint green, matching the new leaf-and-yellow-flower curtains. We were due to be painted in January but as we seem to be not on the priority listing, in April we evoked girl power, pushed the order for paint and new window frames through and got to work. Windows refitted by my colleague and painted on her precious Sunday. Then the cleaning ladies, finance assistant, matron, student service lady and me roller-painted the walls during the afternoons. All ladies and no gents. Passers by now admire our fresh office and one day, when all the louvers are actually in the window frames, we will be able to have the air conditioning unit on. I still sweat in spite of my stand fan a foot from my face or back or arms. It would be nice to be able to type and not sweat.

I would like an office without flies. I know we are a working farm but flies and computer work do not engage well together when I am hot, sweaty and tired.

The college has been abuzz since the return of its original CEO, who was in the role when it opened in 2005. He is a man of ideas and action and the place has been uplifted, repaired, replaced and new ideas shared and enforced. The whole staff and students have planted out enough gardens of vegetables and fruits to satisfy a town the size of Timaru. I can’t wait for the harvest and hope the weeds don’t grow as fast as the crops. We have also increased the fish stock which is my favourite place to be, just chatting to the fish as they grow and get moved from pond to pond, till they get netted and sold. Their water is an amazing fertilizer.

Not sure if I have learned heaps about agriculture but I like seeing the plants grow.

My assignment outcomes are done and I’m now just working on increasing staff skills in teaching using different modalities. It is great we have a local language expert on board part time to cover the gaps in literacy. I have the creative part, she has the structured part. Great for sustainability.

VSA er Leesa and Bislama teacher Gael and the children of the community at my house after community rubbish clean up

Leesa Roy and Bislama teacher Gael and the children of the community at Wendy's house after community rubbish clean up

We have been through a cyclone this year. Cyclone Oma, meaning Grandma, kept us on Red Alert for five days as she slowly hung around causing big waves and some wind damage. We are eight NZ and Australian Volunteers in the compound so we entertained ourselves with food and shared stories and then, as the days dragged on, the occasional visit downtown where everything seemed rather normal. We are a very close bunch and look out for each other.

We were very close when the Christchurch trauma occurred and all gathered for the two minute silence and a dinner afterwards to share some thoughts. We have some major fun loving excursions together but also lead our own little separate social and working lives.

VSA ers Thomas and Chris and AVI Ann ccoking with the local community

VSA's Volunteers Thomas Gillman, Chris Hartnett and AVI's volunteer, Ann, Cooking with the local community


My three sisters visited in March: this was a miracle as we are rarely together and I never thought they would like to come to Vanuatu. I planned a very creative exciting programme for the visit and they all left blown away by what Santo has to offer and how friendly the people really are here. We dabbled in tourist activities, white sand beaches and blue holes, kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkelling clam gardens and eating lobster, community clean up and custom stories, making food in bamboo and visiting a local school, paradise at its best and sunshine every day. They were stoked and I am so happy my sisters now have seen me in my place and will have a little understanding about Vanuatu once I return to the land of the long white cloud.

4 sisters and a Nabanga tree

Wendy (in the back) with her sisters under a Nabanga tree

We live by the sea and there are turtles hatching this month so we must organise another volunteer fun trip to a little island where the snorkelling is truly amazing and the baby turtles are hatching and wibbling and wobbling their way down to sea.