Helen O’Connor has strong memories of a VSA film crew that visited while she was volunteering with her husband Alwyn in Fiji in 1969.

Guitar players

Relaxing in Samoa, 1969

“It was a real highlight,” says Helen, who particularly recalls film maker Peter Cape, then VSA’s publicity officer, and cameraman Bert Neervoot: “He was a lanky Dutchman and Peter insisted he be fed a banana every two hours to keep his energy levels up”.

Sea snake PS

Alwyn shows Peter Cape a dadakulaci, a deadly Fijian sea snake. This shot never made the final film. (Photo: Alwyn and Helen O'Connor)

Cape wrote the script of the 27-minute film, VSA Pacific: The work of Volunteer Service Abroad in Fiji, Western Samoa and Tonga, which was made with a $4000 grant from New Zealand Jaycees. It was shown on national television late in 1970 and provides a fascinating snapshot of volunteering across the Pacific nearly 50 years ago.

The film has surfaced today as a result of Alwyn’s inquiries. He often wondered what became of it and, several years ago, discovered it listed on the Nga Taonga Sound and Vision website. Nga Taonga has since published it online, and it can also be purchased as a DVD for $50.

Open air class

Open air class: Helen Montgomery teaches secondary school students in the hills above Apia.

Nearly 30 volunteers are shown, at work and at leisure, swimming, playing soccer and tennis, and enjoying each other’s company with a beer and guitar. To this day, some have retained strong links with VSA and with the countries where they volunteered. Those featured include:

In Fiji

Alwyn and Helen O’Connor, Sandra Stephens, Sarah Maclean, Victor Wilson, Helen Ridley, Jill Clark, Margaret Scotts, Hilary Keeling.

Samoa

Janice Taylor, Helen Montgomery, David Withers, Margaret Haliburton, Graeme Groombridge, Jill White, John Rothera, John Groom, John Gawith, Dick Burgess, Ian Brewer.

Tonga

Michael Monti, Francesca Bay, Olive Barrett, Christine Annan, Fred Brewer, Chris Ward, Peter Hamilton, Clive and Kathlyn Kenyon.