It’s not surprising that I had lots of questions from my family and friends when they found out I was travelling to Vanuatu in November 2016 to visit the water, sanitation and hygiene program Thankyou’s water and personal care ranges are helping to fund.
“Isn’t it surrounded by water?”
“Don’t they have plenty of 5-star resorts?”
“Is there even a need?”
All valid questions if like me, your Instagram and Facebook feed are filled with picture-perfect photos of Vanuatu. I knew the five days I was going to spend in Vanuatu was going to be not-so-picture-perfect. There is nothing picture-perfect about the challenges families in Vanuatu face in accessing safe water, sanitation and hygiene. But I was reminded that people have the power to turn the not-so-picture-perfect canvas into masterpieces - people like our dedicated Impact Partner World Vision Vanuatu and the inspiring communities I had the privilege of meeting.
Heroes. All of them.
Jimmy from World Vision Vanuatu is one such hero. Not just in my eyes, but also in the eyes of the communities he works with in South Tanna. People were constantly waving out to him as we drove through the island (or what our Vanuatu friends called ‘the Tanna massage’ because of the lack of proper roads).
South Tanna, an island in the south of Vanuatu, has the highest percentage use of unprotected water sources in the country. This means water sources that families drink and use are often contaminated by animal manure.
Growing up in South Tanna himself, Jimmy has been dedicated to bring about change for and with the communities he grew up in. Softly spoken but strong, Jimmy told us,
Here, in his hometown, Jimmy and the World Vision Vanuatu team are using their local knowledge and expertise to work with communities to build gravity-fed water extensions that will bring safe water directly into the heart of communities so families don’t have to trek for hours to fetch water from the ocean or unprotected water sources.
The team took us to Itaku, a tiny and remote community in South Tanna. We arrived just as some papas and mamas were about to set off on a three-hour trip, carrying sandbags, to the original water source to help construct the new water system under the hot and humid November sun.
We asked the mamas why they wanted to help. The mamas looked from one to another, I looked from one mama to another and after a few moments, a young mama told us,
Hope that having water will mean they can do income-generating work and have more time to look after their children.
That their children won’t get sick from unclean water.
That their children’s children will never have to live with unclean water.
We might not always get to choose the canvas we get given, but like the mamas and papas from Itaku, like Jimmy, like you, we all have the power to paint masterpieces. Masterpieces that I hope, one day, will be displayed in a museum because poverty will finally be a thing of the past.