Reconnecting with Tanna after Cyclone Pam

College students finally Reconnect with Tanna after Cyclone Pam, 2015
At times it has appeared like just a distant hope. Since all the wonderful fundraising and public awareness generated by an inspiring group of Year 10s in 2015; after the devastation of Cyclone Pam on Tanna and throughout Vanuatu, we were determined to get our students back to this wonderful community in the remote South Pacific.

Just 36 hours after a wintry 2.45am departure from Geelong, on Sunday 24 June, eight current Year 11 students had adjusted to their dormitory-style accommodation in a totally foreign environment of a developing country deep in the South Pacific, and finally the Tanna Immersion program was again a reality.

Arriving during exam week for Lenakel Presbyterian School was not a problem but more of an opportunity. By day two, our students had completely cleaned the library and dusted the volcanic dust from every book and reorganised the shelves that had not been touched since Cyclone Pam. Then by day three, they broke down the barriers of language and literacy with the ni-van students. Re-introducing Lenakel students to reading books, by running small outdoor reading and conversation groups under the shade of the trees in the idyllic garden setting of the school.

Our eight students embraced every opportunity to connect and immerse in this new context and before long were found in classrooms and dorms with small groups of students, tutoring for upcoming exams, often after dinner until 8.30pm. English, maths and basic science for the Year 7s, 8s and 9s, then onto more complex tutoring in physics, biology, chemistry and maths for the senior students.

Every day started with devotions at 5.30am. With the sound of the local students singing wafting through the air, this early hour proved no barrier for our students. Intoxicated by the early ritual, our students planned and delivered their own heartfelt devotions on two mornings. However, if 5.30am wasn’t early enough to start the day…we were startled to find the local classrooms dotted with students of all ages from 4.30am, studying for the exams of that day. Their view was that you learnt best when your mind was fresh.

The hospital visit was challenging and confronting, then the three primary school visits were exhilarating and exhausting. Sure, we got to snorkel around coral reefs, climb to the top of an active volcano and eat coconuts, pawpaw, pineapple and bananas picked fresh that day… but it was hard work, I promise! Every Geelong College student found their champion moment in this immersion opportunity and we hope for them that they can carry their memories of this opportunity and their experiences with them; using them to assist, guide and shape them to be the leader, the learner or perhaps the healer or helper of tomorrow that they dreamt of being yesterday.

Kevin Jess
Leader of Learning, 9-12

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