Settling Into NiVan Life

Settling into the Live and Learn office has been made very easy, with all of the staff being very welcoming and taking time to answer all of my stupid questions. It is a very busy and bustling environment but also lots of joking around.

My main focus at the moment is working with the Live and Learn team to support and develop the Community Based Sanitation Enterprises (CBSEs). The CBSEs are community run co-operative businesses that will sell toilets and hygiene products to their respective communities.  Over the last few weeks, I have been working through some of the toilet designs to develop material lists and costings. This information supports the business case for each CBSE and shows the income potential for the CBSE members. This week we will work with the construction teams to develop skills and understanding of the construction process. Later this month, we will begin work on the first toilets.

The toilets designs are based around three models. The Ventilated Pit Latrine, Composting Toilet and Flush Toilet to a septic tank. I am really excited by the interest in the composting toilets. Community members have an understanding of the concept and process but naturally, an apprehension especially when it comes to maintenance and emptying the bin.

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Diagrams of two toilets designs we will be constructing and refining for local context

In addition, we will be developing a prototype portable toilet, with additional funds from Engineers Without Borders Australia: a simple plywood box, bucket and toilet seat. This is in response to community demand for a toilet solution for people living with disabilities or limited mobility.

Many communities we are working in have no toilets, share a toilet between a number of households and / or have a ‘bush toilet’-a hole in the ground with a few sticks and a basic shelter. The access to these toilets is often some distance from the home. With difficulty getting to the toilet or where help is required to use the toilet, this is a daily challenge to many. So if we can set up a portable toilet in the home, where it is safe and secure, it will improve day to day living for many living with disabilities and their families.

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Joseph, Simione and myself cutting out templates for toilet seats

Living in Vanuatu and settling into life has been quite easy.  It is a stunning, beautiful place! Gardens, forests, wilding fruit trees and flowers are everywhere you look. Papayas, mangoes, bananas and avocado trees are dotted all throughout the town.  Getting out and exploring the coast has been awesome.

My introduction to Vanuatu was however tainted when I went down with dengue fever shortly after arriving! A few days of severe headaches, body aches and fever then a few more of sleeping was not so nice and quite frustrating. Dengue depletes your white blood cell count, with severe fatigue the result. It has taken a few more weeks to build up then energy levels again. The diving and snorkelling here is amazing and easily accessible. Just 2km down the road from the house is a bay with an expanse of sea grass on which the dugongs feed. On only the second dive I encounter a 2.5m dugong in just 2m of water. It swam up to us, rolled around- I could have reached out and touched it.

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The view from the house– Where the Dugong’s live!

Port Vila is a busy town with cruise ships coming in most days and traffic jams on the narrow pot holed roads. Many little businesses selling carvings, traditional prints etc to the cruise ship punters. Nobody haggles you to buy anything. In the markets, it is more a challenge to get the stall holders attention to buy something, where you almost feel guilty for interrupting the chatter with the neighbouring stall owner.

The afternoon kava session is a big part of the culture here - gathering at the local Nakamal to discuss the issues of the day over a few shells. Vanuatu kava has the reputation for being the strongest in the pacific!  It doesn’t taste great but with a piece of pineapple as a chaser, it is ok.

This week, I am facilitating a workshop on Tool Use and Care; Health and Safety and we will be building some portable toilets- So that will be in the next update!

From Paradise,

Matt


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