Tanna is naked.
An island that was lush and green has been stripped bare as far as the eye can see. The contours of the land are visible as they have never been visible before. The vegetation looks as though it has been through a clean bushfire. The villages are bare. The houses are gone – flattened by cyclone Pam. The people remain. It is with thanks to our Father that we found not one person on the ridge where the school is located was even injured. Unfortunately, two people on a neighbouring ridge were killed and several hurt- one very seriously. All of the brothers and sisters and all of the students are ok.
Once in a lifetime
The people tell us how they cowered in the buildings from the cyclone. They tell us that they have never been through a cyclone like that one in their lifetimes. They tell how they ran from one building to another as they thought that one might collapse. The walls shook and groaned and one of the buildings kept lifting up and down. It was terrifying for them.
Working as a team
When we arrived at the ridge and drove down our “road”, the local people ran out to meet us. They were so excited that we had come to see if they were ok. The sisters ran out to the truck with tears in their eyes. We have to admit to a few tears of relief or our own. We were really impressed by what we saw on our arrival. The men had hauled all of the broken trees off the road so that vehicles could get through. The women were starting work at a village at the top of the ridge. They carried all of the broken trees in the village away, picked up all of the litter and stacked it all. It was hard heavy work on a hot day. They worked with a will. The following day, they continued down the ridge to the next village and all worked together to clean it up. They are still working their way to the bottom of the ridge. Meanwhile, once the men finished clearing the roads, they began the task of rebuilding They have already salvaged wood from the destruction and are putting up framing for their new “houses”. They are looking for bamboo for the walls. They know that they won’t be able to find coconut leaves for their roofs. They are all gone. We distributed a couple of rolls of black plastic for the interim. We know that the wind there will soon shred it but meanwhile it affords some protection from the rain.
Tarpaulins for roofs
The aid groups are there in force. So many groups have come from all over the world. Distribution is proving to be a bit of a problem. The aid groups are trying to work with the Vanuatu government When we left Tanna on Sunday, none of the local people had yet received any aid even though the aid groups had been there since Monday with loaded ships. One aid organizer told us that they had enough tarpaulin available to re-roof all of the houses on Tanna twice over. We hope the people eventually get it.
Food is the biggest concern
While we were there, the men who were starting to rebuild their houses were living on namambe (“naw-MAHM-bee”) nuts and the ‘water’ from the coconuts. The men left the root crops that were still in the ground for the women and children to eat. We found that impressive but we know that the men can’t continue to work hard for very long without decent food. Most of the root crops have now been eaten and there is precious little else. We are hoping that the aid groups will be able to start distributing rice soon. The ACBM has provided the brothers and sisters with a bag of rice per family. Bethezer was providing a lunch time meal for the community that was still at the school while we were there. They will continue while people are still staying at the school. We have no idea how long the aid groups will continue to provide rice when they start. It will be about four months until replanted crops are ready to harvest. We are now entering the ‘dry’ season when there is less rain. The locals are a bit afraid that no rain will mean no crops. Surely the God who has provided this school and kept the people on this ridge safe will continue to provide for their needs.
Lunch program at the school
Because we know that there will very likely be food shortages in the villages, Bethezer hopes to run a nutrition programme that will ensure that all students in the school get at least one meal/day Some of them walk long distances (up to two hours each way) to come to school. Providing food there will make it possible for them to continue to have reasonably healthy lives and also attend school. We expect to continue the programme until local crops are available again. The brothers and sisters will run this nutrition project for us. Many of them work at the school and so will be included in the lunch programme. We have asked others (who are not working at the school) to run the food programme and cook for the students. This will mean that they are also provided with food Water is also a problem. The cyclone destroyed maybe 70% of our guttering. We have managed to patch things up a little. We now have some water going into 4 tanks. Most of the guttering will have to be replaced. The guttering that we use is a plastic guttering (it doesn’t rust from the volcanic ash) It is expensive but lasts much much longer than the metal gutters (unless there is a cyclone!) We also lost one tank. The top blew off it. The students haven’t been able to find it so it has probably travelled some distance and may be being used as a roof for someone!!For the 300 + students at the school, water is a necessity. The community also uses our water. We hope to have enough funds to replace them all in May
A complete assessment of the damage to the school can be found here. Please have a look at it for more details.
We ask for your support for our appeal. The ACBM also has launched an appeal. The work they are doing in the brotherhood is invaluable. Bethezer’s direction is somewhat different. We are providing for the educational needs of over 300 children. We provide jobs for the teachers and income for their families. We provide water for the community (- even for showers at the school).The school is providing us with an opportunity to teach the secondary students in particular, the word of God Both appeals are important. We ask of you , our brothers and sisters, to recognize the hand of God in this area of the world and support both the brothers and sisters through the ACBM, and the work of the school through Bethezer.
Bethezer’s details if you wish to donate can be found here: Support Us
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your prayers. We know that many of you have prayed for all those at the school as well as for our own personal safety. We feel confident that God has heard your prayers With love in His service, Terry and Karen Nutter (coordinators Tanna School Project Christadelphian Bethezer Fund)
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