In 1989, a small group of actors in Vanuatu were interested in starting a community theatre group to take plays about topical issues out to schools and communities. The result—the creation of Wan Smolbag Theatre (WSB) in Port Vila, Vanuatu, which utilised the power of theatre and plays to raise awareness about contemporary issues surrounding health, education, governance, environment, and gender, to name a few. Thirty-four years later, Wan Smolbag has expanded this mahi, operating three youth centres adjacent to sexual health and family planning clinics across Vanuatu. Through grassroots action and awareness campaigns, Wan Smolbag envisions a sustainable and well-governed Vanuatu, where empowered women and young people actively contribute to their country’s development.

VSA volunteer, Charlotte Brewer, works alongside WSB as the Youth Development Assistant at the Northern Care Youth Centre (NCYC)— a WSB-administered youth centre located in Luganville, Vanuatu. This multifaceted role includes raising awareness among the youth and the community, alongside contributing to the various initiatives undertaken by WSB.

“Developing technological capacity and raising awareness of WSB’s services is one of my key tasks. This goal has been undertaken through multiple inputs, such as revamping NCYC’s Facebook page with short videos, Canva posters and lots of pictures, community workshops and presentations in schools.”

As Facebook is the social media of choice in Vanuatu, revitalising NCYC’s Facebook page was one of the top priorities. “The page had been mostly inactive for two years. To increase engagement, I taught my co-worker, Larisha (NCYC Assistant Co-ordinator), how to utilise Canva to create attractive event posters and she taught me how to make Facebook reels on a platform called Capcut.” This joint effort and consistent posting resulted in an increase in engagement by 12.9K% and NCYC’s posts reached 71K more people this year compared to the last.

While Charlotte helped build WSB’s social media presence, she has also been actively involved in various other projects including environmental initiatives, helping start an onsite vegetable garden for WSB’s Nutrition Centre, and teaching yoga at the centre, to name a few.

“One of the most rewarding projects I’ve been a part of was helping to start an onsite vegetable garden that youths can access to supplement their lunchtime meals with fresh kai. To raise funds for gardening equipment and seeds, the youth put on a dance show performance and fast-forward a week later, the youth and staff got to work—clearing, tilling and planting. It has been such a joy to participate in fortnightly working bees and watch this project grow (literally) from the ground up—one which I believe aligns with WSB’s mission of empowering youth to actively participate in their community’s development. I also taught yoga weekly at the centre, and my brilliant co-worker Jerry, who teaches circus, expressed a desire to learn more and eventually teach the classes himself. After many sessions together, Jerry now feels confident to run a class on his own and intends to keep teaching after I head back home—it’s small things like these that count!”

As a volunteer in any country, you make the most difference by working with people, partners, and communities to create lasting relationships. And as a UniVol, Charlotte has done just that…

“I have loved my time living in Santo, Vanuatu. An island that is full of beautiful white sand beaches, impossibly blue-blue holes and delicious lap-lap but it has been the generosity and kindness of the Ni-Vanuatu people that has made it a truly life-altering experience for me. The daily walks to work, inside jokes with my co-workers, the excitement when discovering that mango season has started at the market, hitchhiking up the East Coast on the weekends, invitations to weddings, kastom ceremonies, and of course post-work kava time. I feel grateful for the lifelong friendships I’ve formed, and I am looking forward to the next chapter.”

While Charlotte gets ready to depart Vanuatu, the impact of the shared skills and knowledge achieved during her assignment will continue to leave a mark in the development space!