2 May, 2019

Mr & Mrs Brooks from Edinburgh College share their experience from Vanuatu of a week well spent on an ADRA Connections Trip.

An ADRA Connections trip is more than the sum of its parts: local hospitality, tropical heat and island beauty; labour-intensive physical work, made light by many hands; island ingenuity and improvised tools, mixed with a healthy measure of fatigue-busting fun.

We have been coming from Melbourne’s outer east to Vanuatu for five of the last six years. It is well-established as Year 11’s rite of passage, and meets a need for our students to wean themselves off the comforts of home and develop some independence with some hard work in a different community. Fundraising is also a large part of the experience, encouraging initiative.

This year we are in Fanavo, central Santo, which is remote if measured by potholes forded, rather than kilometres from the nearest town. Graham Uzakana, ADRA Vanuatu’s Connections Co-ordinator, has worked with our College every year since we pioneered Connections visits here in 2014. After 2015 there was some Cyclone Pam rebuild work, but with that need covered, we are on development projects again. On this 10 day trip, we are building a 22,500 litre water tank.

Edinburgh College 1

The rigour of each day ensures that everyone, non-Adventist students included, are very ready for Sabbath. As ‘visitors’, we run the three church programs all day, with an enormous lunch and some rest time before the afternoon program. Local singing, especially the sweet high decibels of the small children, with the fellowship and easygoing smiles of the locals, make four to five hours in church breeze by. It is quite an introduction to Sabbath for our non-Adventist students.

All work and very little play shows that we’re serious, but we do tend to close the trip with a little hard-earned recreation. I haven’t showered for 6 days – the local river is that good at removing grime after work. Some good little cliff jumps, too, are just the thing for high impact gunk removal. Our afternoon at the beach this year was timed to let the concrete dry between stages of the project. Previous years’ visits include the active Mt Yasur volcano on Tanna if our project is there, or blue lagoons, or special swimming holes. Every island has its place to reward visiting workers, and often our students have remarked that the fun means more because of the work. They look differently at the tourist experience, and having become friends with locals, note that the tourists who haven’t been mixing concrete are missing out.

Edinburgh College 2

The work day starts early but finishes with “taem lo finis, taem lo swim”, then a delicious meal and worship. Journaling is part of this and helps individuals to think a bit more deeply about their experiences. Then it is time to collapse on to a mattress about 8pm. Recharging stops before the sun but after the roosters, and it’s time to do it all again.

‘Connections’ are made. We call the locals ‘aunty’ and ‘unkel’. Strong local hands help with the more exacting tasks. Women and children join the concrete mixing, and children here are more expert in these tasks than some of us teachers. Some of our students take their breaks from the work site to contribute in the nearby primary school. When we leave in a few days’ time, gifts and tools will be left, and tears shed.

Edinburgh College 3

Students comments:

I really enjoyed the Vanuatu trip this year. It is my first mission trip ever and it is not what I expected. I thought we would only be working the whole time, but instead I was able to spend time with the community and the locals helped us build the water tank. We definitely did work though, at first we were half a day ahead but during the week we got more tired but thankfully everyone was there to support one another when we needed a break and encouraged us when we needed encouraging. One of my favourite days by far though was Sabbath. It is so amazing how much the community gets together and worships God. I think that is something we can learn and bring back home. The trip has been fantastic so far and I’d love to do it again. (Anika Homann Yr 11)

If you are interested in participating in a Connections Trip, please email connections@adra.org.au

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