My experiences in Aore, Vanuatu, have opened up my eyes. January 2016 marked my third trip with my family and the youth of Reedy Creek church (Qld) to Aore Adventist Academy. Each time I visit, I’m reminded how little these people have in terms of material goods, yet how happy they are with what they have.
Helping out at the school in July last year, showed me how fortunate we are in Australia and how we take getting an education for granted. These students have to wash their own clothes, provide their own meals during weekends and assist after school by doing either house or yard work for the teachers on the island. And yet they are happy and grateful to be attending school.
I won't forget hammering a pick axe into the powdered earth to dig trenches that laid the pipework for the sewerage system.
Aore Adventist Academy.
As I walked through the school I was shocked by the state it was in. The classrooms had old blackboards, and the wooden desks and chairs were falling apart. The home economics room had a broken stove and few utensils to share amongst the students. The computer lab was also run-down and the computers outdated. I didn’t even know what rooms they were at first. The only place I recognised was the science lab, and even that room didn’t look suitable for use. The library had hardly any books and I was devastated at the sight of the boys’ dorms. Yet I felt happy—that’s because I knew the school wasn’t going to stay in its current state forever, not if we could continue to help update its facilities.
This year our main project was to build a sewerage system for the boys’ toilets and shower area. It gets hot very quickly on the island. By 8am you can get sunburnt. We would work from 8am to 12:30pm, have lunch, go back and work a bit more, and then have some free time to cool off. Poor cooks: they never had free time because once lunch was finished they had to start preparing dinner.
Everybody worked hard and teams were split to help where needed. I felt uplifted when I helped redo the render and paint the dining hall exterior. I won’t forget hammering a pick axe into the powdered earth to dig trenches that laid the pipework for the sewerage system.
One of the school’s classrooms.
Aore is where our young people get a chance to do something for somebody else. It’s not a holiday—it’s hard work, especially if you are not used to it. It’s a place to go because there is a need that needs to be met and as a young person, I’m grateful that I have had the opportunity to be part of the Vanuatu experience.
Jessalyn Brzeski, 16, is in Year 11 at Gold Coast Christian College, Qld.