Following ongoing volcanic activity and falling ash from the volcano on the Vanuatu island of Ambae, the government has ordered a complete evacuation and the permanent closure of all institutions. This has made over 9,000 people homeless and also the loss of a Melanesian Brothers’ Household and the Church flagship school St Patricks.
The Rt Revd James Tama, Bishop of Vanuatu and New Caledonia has made this appeal to UK friends.
Please pray for our situation here and the displaced families from Ambae, over 2,000 in Maewo, over 7,000 in Santo and over 2,000 scattered all over the islands in Vanuatu with immediate family members. I have
over 40 families, a total of 110 staying with me at the bishop’s residence. I do sympathize with them and had to organise fundraising for them, since the government is still to respond with immediate needs. We are looking for some plots of land, somewhere suitable for farming and the stronger men will then go there and begin clearing the bush ready for farming. The women will stay back with the children who are attending school. We have partitioned part of the Diocesan office into 3 rooms where the children of over 5 schools from Ambae attend daily from kindy, class 1 – class 6.
My wife and I have started the psychological first aid support with the mothers, gathering them, allowing them to express freely their feelings and the needs for their families, then we decided out of our own pockets provide wool for knitting, printing materials, crochet knitting, sewing materials, and other life-skills to occupy themselves and at least do something that they can sell and earn small money to help their families since the state of emergency is now extended until 26 November. My humble request is if you can share our stories of the difficult situation we are facing at the moment, and for anyone who may wish to support our mothers with little funds to resource their home life-skill training would be very much appreciated.
Many thanks with love and prayers +James Tama Diocese of Vanuatu and New Caledonia
Many thanks to those individuals, parishes, schools and Companions of the Melanesian Brotherhood who have already sent in donations to support those affected by the volcano. If you would like to make a donation to help Bishop James provide for these displaced families, please send your donations to the charity with the reference Ambae relocation. The charity is planning to transfer another round of donations before Christmas.
In 2019 MMUK hopes to receive the plans for the rebuilding of St Patricks School, and will launch a fundraising campaign to support this large project. You will find details for this, at the time of launch, on our donations page.
Over the last two years, the programme of partnerships between schools in the Diocese of Chester and the Province of Melanesia has blossomed.
Links between two Church of England primary schools, in Warmingham and Frodsham, and St Francis School, Vaturanga (Guadalcanal) have been in existence for some time. A member of staff from St Francis, Salome Vuthia visited our two partner schools in 2015, and children in all three schools have been keen to exchange letters and presents, and to learn about life on the other side of the world.
The number of partner schools has now grown substantially. More primary schools are coming into the programme from across the diocese, pairing with schools in the Solomons and now also in Vanuatu. In all, there are now eight primary schools from across the diocese in such arrangements.
One of our church secondary schools has now joined the scheme as well. Woodchurch Church of England High School (Birkenhead) has entered with great enthusiasm into a partnership with St Nicholas Senior School, Honiara, signing a formal partnership agreement in 2017. A team from the chaplaincy at Woodchurch, led by Rachel Hsuan, visited the Solomon Islands this spring, making three excellent and innovative films about life in the islands and in St Nicholas’s School, for use in collective worship back at Woodchurch. These are proving invaluable in helping children here to gain vivid insights into life in Melanesia, covering topics as diverse as the practicalities of daily life, Christian worship, education and the challenge of climate change.
The Diocese of Chester sees these schools partnerships as a key element in the link as a whole, as we look to involve a whole new generation. Friends from the Anglican Church of Melanesia visit regularly, and each time, visits to our partner schools have been an important part of the programme. It has been a joy for our schools to receive visits from Archbishop George Takeli and Mrs June Takeli, Dr Abraham Hauriasi (Provincial Secretary), Fr Nigel Kalaepa (Mission Secretary), Father Nelson Bako (Head Brother, Melanesian Brotherhood), and Brother Michael (Section Elder Brother, Tabalia).
Venerable Mike Gilbertson, Archdeacon of Chester, Trustee MMUK
Project Trust has since 1967 been the leading gap year provider here in the UK representing 50 years of volunteering and 7800 volunteers overseas.
Project Trust has been based on the Isle of Coll in the Scottish Hebrides almost since its inception. Some might argue that our wonderful shell sand beaches rival those of the Solomons. Maybe, but our sea and air temperatures most certainly do not, languishing at around 12C and 15C respectively around our mid-summer. Here we have our offices and residential centre which is used for Selection and Training.
Selection is a key part of the process and all aspiring volunteers must attend a four day assessment course before any decision is made as to suitability and if so, which placement overseas they would be most suited. Training is the next stage in the process and this takes place in July prior to the volunteer departure in August. This is a four day course where we focus on skills and preparedness for 12 months overseas.
It is important that volunteers bring added value to any of our projects worldwide, currently 22 countries worldwide. Areas which have been identified by both St Nicholas and Selwyn College include spoken English, IT and mathematics. In addition extracurricular activities such as drama, sport, music to name but a few are areas where volunteers can make valuable contributions. Through daily interaction with the students it is hoped that the overall standard of spoken English will improve, certainly this is our experience elsewhere in the world where English is a focus of their activities.
Oceania is a new region for Project Trust. The first approach with regard to sending volunteers was made early in 2016 by the then British High Commissioner in Honiara, Chris Trott. Chris is himself one of our Alumni having been a volunteer in Egypt in 1984/85. He was very enthusiastic about the possibilities for volunteering and introduced us to the Anglican Church through the Melanesian Mission in London.
To the future we look to placing volunteers in schools on some of the other islands in the Solomon group and Vanuatu has also been discussed. We look forward to a developing and sustained relationship.
It’s August, I’m home now and so nice to be back amongst my friends and my family! However, it is an incredibly strange feeling to be thrown back into a totally different environment and way of life and it’s a difficult one to try an explain what it was like. As it got closer, I’d built up the idea of coming home so much and I was so excited but when it finally arrived, it wasn’t the same picture I’d painted in my head, it wasn’t that it was not as good as I thought it would be, it was just not quite what I thought it would be like. The first week was all a bit of a blur and I think it was all a bit much to appreciate everything that I had missed so much and take it in fully. I remember sitting in front of my TV in my living room, with my 24 hour constant electricity, hot running water, and my big comfy bed and I just didn’t really know what to do with myself, I felt a wee bit lost. The things I’d been craving while I was away were suddenly not really what I wanted.
I went away to Spain for a week with my family and that was really nice just to spend some time thinking about it all and reconnecting with my Mum, Dad, Brother and Sister. That week was really helpful for just getting back used to normal life here without being overwhelmed by too many people and things at home.
Now I’m back at home and it’s so much better than it was during the first few days of my return. I’m able to take everything in a lot more and really enjoy all the things that I’d missed out on all year, like hot showers! Being back around all my friends has been one of the best things, catching up on a year’s worth of events isn’t a short conversation and trying to tell them how my year was isn’t exactly easy, as sometimes I just don’t know where to start, it’s hard to condense a year into one story. But I’m loving every minute of being with them.
Thinking about all the experiences I had throughout my year in Solomon Islands, all the things I saw, all the things I learnt and all the friends and family I made, is quite a hard concept to grasp, there’s just so much. Spending a year there was like nothing I’ve ever done before. You can’t compare it to a holiday or a long term expedition, it’s just not on the same level. I’m so glad that I chose to go over seas with Project Trust, it opened so many doors for me, started a lot of new amazing things, and helped me decide on things I didn’t really have a solution for beforehand. I sometimes wonder how different things would be now if I hadn’t volunteered with them. Now I’m home, fundamentally I don’t think I’ve changed that much as a person but I’ve just got a different view on some things and I’m a lot better at appreciating the small things in life.
However, as good as being back at home is, I miss the wee group of islands on the other side of the world that I call home, I miss being hot and sweaty 24 hours a day, I miss the beautiful ocean (that is so much warmer than the North Sea), I miss everything and everyone constantly being late and no one really caring or stressing about it, I miss riding around in the back of a truck, I miss people laughing all the time no matter the situation and most of all, I miss my Solomon Island Mums, Dads, Brothers and Sisters, my Friends and family I left over there. I guess the grass is always greener… But hey, I’ll be back one day for sure.
Rev. Preb. Cate Edmonds (Exeter Diocese) and Canon Daphne Jordon (Blackburn Diocese) accompanied by technician Graham Jordon, returned to Melanesia in July for three weeks to undertake Christian Distinctiveness Training for ACoM Schools.
Daphne first went to Vanuatu in 2013 and 2014 and had visited schools, introduced the concept of a Christian Distinctiveness and Character and made recommendations to the ACoM Board of Education about further developments. Cate had been on a fact-finding Mission in 2016 and was concerned about the lack of real understanding of the distinctiveness of Anglican Schools.
Daphne’s recommendations were eventually acted upon and a volunteer from New Zealand, Joan Middlemiss, was commissioned to develop these recommendations into ACoM Education Authority Standards:
Quality Education and Assessment
Access and Student Services
Integrate Christian Values and Holistic Development
At a similar time funding was available from MMUK to continue the work Daphne and team had started in 2014.
Cate and Daphne were therefore commissioned to deliver two Conferences, in Honiara (S.I.) and Luganville (Santo, Vanuatu) for Principals, Teachers and Chaplains of Anglican Schools and members of the Diocesan Education Team, exploring and developing Christian Distinctiveness and Christian Character of Church Schools.
Each conference followed the same pattern, with a brief catch up in Luganville as a few of those present had been at the initial training in 2013/4. Some progress had been made, e.g. all Principals had mobile phones in order to keep in contact, but with changes in personnel progress had been limited.
The day began with themed Worship:
Who are we?
The Environment – God’s Creation
The Family of God
Attendees were asked to be children and young people and to participate in order to experience a range of ways of worshipping. They experienced different music, Bible reading and prayer and were encouraged to interact with the worship rather than observe, which was new to them, but they grew in confidence.
Following worship the hard work began and with four sessions per day over three days, there was much to cover. Each school was presented with a jigsaw puzzle which was completed over the days of the conference when each element had been introduced.
Wherever possible participants worked in their school groups and drew up new Vision and Mission Statements for their schools as well as developing Action Plans for the future.
Throughout the training there was an emphasis on a Church School being a place where God was working already but where we needed to work with Him to be the best that we could in all areas of school / college life. On reflection and debate we felt that the ACoM Standards needed to be reordered and that the first should be about Christian Values and that everything else flows from this.
Participants were encouraged to look at their schools and colleges with new eyes, there was some hesitancy in doing this but gradually participants saw the value of this approach as well as finding it amusing. All our sessions were well received and participants appeared to enjoy the approaches as well as developing their skills, particularly in looking at more creative ways of delivering the curriculum and of prayer.
There was much more we could have developed and although we managed to visit six schools in the Solomon’s and four in Vanuatu, it was felt that further training would be useful based in a school or college.
As well as preparing for and running the conferences we were able to make additional visits. Daphne and Graham visited TNK and the relocated, due to volcano ash in Ambae, St Patricks School. They we deeply saddened by the conditions that the school was enduring whilst awaiting a more permanent site. We also met with Melanesian Brothers who were suffering accommodation problems as well due to their Main House being destroyed in the same way on Ambae.
Cate visited Ysabel and met with Bishop Ellison and his team and also spent some time a Verana’aso working with the Novices of the Melanesian Sisters. More stories could be told by both; including Daphne and Graham experiencing two earthquakes in Vanuatu and Cate just one. A fulfilling and worthwhile trip which we would like to repeat to continue the work in the future.
John & Rachel from the UK with Saint Nicholas students (Head Boy & Girl)
My name’s Rachel and I work for St Mary’s Church Upton as a Youth Worker. As part of our ministry we provide the Chaplaincy Team at Woodchurch High School, an exciting opportunity and privilege which we love. Woodchurch High School, a CofE Academy, was lucky enough to develop a partnership with St Nicholas High School in Honiara, Solomon Islands earlier this year. To enrich the link and develop the relationship between the schools, we dreamt of being able to make a personal connection with teachers and students and find a way of bringing the link alive. Our dreams became a reality as we organised a trip for myself and an old Woodchurch student John, who also used to attend St Mary’s (now a freelance film maker and photographer) to travel out to Honaira. We spent two weeks in Honaira meeting staff and students and doing as much filming as we could so, now that we’re back, we can show the pupils at Woodchurch what their partner school looks like, introduce them to life in Honiara and Solomon Island culture.
Neither of us had been to the Pacific before so the whole trip was novel and exciting and we had the most fantastic experience. We were met at the airport by a group of students from St Nicholas School who had prepared frangipani garlands for us and on the drive back into town we chatted and got to know them, whilst trying to take in the environment outside as we drove through Honiara for the first time.
We had a brilliant welcome from the school. In addition to being met at the airport we were also invited for an Opening Ceremony where we were adorned with more garlands and took our seats on the stage of St Nicholas’ open-sided assembly hall. We were introduced to the school and welcomed by the Principle and introduced ourselves, bringing greetings from Woodchurch High School. We were amazed and awed by three groups of students who came and performed cultural dances in traditional dress. The dances were absolutely brilliant and there was a great atmosphere in the Hall; the whole school was enthusiastically cheering and clapping their support of their fellow pupils.
A timetable was organised for us by two teachers at St Nicholas which allowed us to travel around Honiara and Guadalcanal and capture lots of different aspects of life on the Solomon Islands. We also wanted to be able to embed some of the things we filmed into the curriculum for our students here at Woodchurch. So, we visited a Museum and interviewed a local artist so that when Woodchurch students study Art, they will be able to see and think about the kind of art produced in the Solomon Islands. We interviewed a Geography teacher at St Nicholas and several individuals so that when Woodchurch students study Climate Change in Geography, they will be able to see and hear the stories of real people whose lives and homes have been drastically affected by rising sea levels. For History, we visited the American and Japanese War Memorials, Bloody Ridge (the site of an intense battle during the Second World War) and Vilu Museum where many of the artefacts found on Guadalcanal have been taken, including old guns and parts of planes. And we visited and attended many churches and services, so RS students can see the differences and similarities between Christian worship in the Solomons and here in the UK.
We visited Konguli Water Source (which supplies 95% of the capital city with their water) and Point Cruz, Honiara’s busy dock. We wandered round the Central Market and city centre and enjoyed visiting local hotels and watching more performances of traditional dancing (although none was as good as the performance from St Nicholas students!).
In our own time we stayed on Savo Island for a night which was an incredible experience. The volcanic island, about 2 hours boat journey away, is a must-see for visitors to Honiara; it’s a beautiful island on which locals bring up hot water from many of the wells which has been heated by the volcanic activity.
We trekked up to Mataniko Waterfall with a wonderful guide. It was great to get away from the sounds and dust of the city and spend some time in the rainforest and enjoy the natural beauty of Guadalcanal.
We also visited Tabalia, the central Headquarters of the Melanesian Brotherhood, and were there for Palm Sunday which was a great celebration. We attended Evensong on the evening we arrived and were greeted warmly and asked to introduce ourselves at the end of the service; they welcomed us by singing two brilliant songs – the brothers don’t hold back when they sing; the wall of sound that hit us as we stood at the front of the chapel was astonishing. We ate a delicious evening meal with the community of guests who were visiting for the weekend, food prepared by lots of different members of families and friends who often visit Tabalia together. We participated in the Palm Procession, the brothers, novices, priests, and all the guests; men, women and children, had a freshly cut palm branch and palm cross which they wove into the leaves of their branches. There was a great swell of song as the crowd sang in beautiful harmony “Lord we lift up your name, Lord we lift your name on high, Lord we lift up your name! To the king of kings, all glory! Glory, glory to the King of kings! Hosanna, hosanna in the highest!” and clapped, whooped and cheered as we made our way to the chapel for the service.
We had a very comfortable stay in Chester Rest House, run by the Brothers and named after Chester Diocese) and were well looked after by both the school and the Brothers, who helped organise our trip to Tabalia. We had a fantastic two weeks learning about this part of the world, the rich culture and wonderful people. Two weeks wasn’t long enough!
At the end of May we launched the St Nicholas Link at Woodchurch with a number of introductory videos shown in form time and in the year group assemblies every morning for two weeks. We’re excited about what the future of the link holds for the two schools and to see all that can be learnt and shared through our global link.
The Rt Revd William Alaha Pwaisiho, Honorary Assistant Bishop of Chester, and Rector of Gawsworth and North Rode, has called for greater action to tackle climate change at the 29th annual session of the Crans Montana Forum.
Heads of State and Government, ministers, members of parliaments, international organisations and major businesses from more than 100 countries gathered in Brussels, to discuss topics as far ranging as fake news, global warming, globalisation, and maritime and port industry in Africa.
Bishop William, who is a Melanesian national, spoke about climate change and its impact on the environment. The Melanesian islands in the South Pacific have been badly affected by rising sea levels.
Addressing delegates Bishop William said: “Our planet earth is scarred and abused, our air and atmosphere is polluted with poisons and every human being is responsible, sooner or later we will be sorry. Well, it is now more evident where I come from in the South Pacific that small island nations are now suffering as the result of climate change and global warming. It is true today that entire communities have lost their livelihood since the rise of the sea level. Lands to plant food and wells to drink from are no longer useful, the ecology is now suffering.”
Last month the Diocese of Chester marked thirty years of its link with the Anglican Church of Melanesia. The link is thriving in both directions, with several new school partnerships in prospect.