The New Zealand Aid Programme continues to support the work of New Zealand Children’s Health and Education Trust (NZCHET) a small New Zealand-based NGO that makes a tangible difference to the lives of people in the remote islands of Vanuatu. While the priority of the contestable Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) is primarily bigger, longer, higher impact activities, a portion of SDF funding remains available for effective smaller interventions, such as NZCHET’s. With a grant from the SDF, NZCHET can expand on its successful initiatives in the fields of health, education and economic development, which began several years ago.
In 2007, NZCHET brought soap makers from New Zealand to the island of Uliveo, South East Malakula to teach the community to make soap from local ingredients. This resulted in improved health and hygiene, reduced skin infections and led to an economic spinoff of increased incomes and skills, particularly for women. Seeing potential in the soap project, local women began a community collective to turn it into an industry which would provide economic as well as health benefits. This enterprise came to be known as the Palm Project.
In 2008 and with the support of NZCHET and funding from the New Zealand Aid Programme, local Rural Training College (RTC) building graduates constructed the Palm Project soap factory under the guidance of a New Zealand designer.
Since then, a manager’s hut has been built and equipment added to the soap factory to create production capacity, including power and water supply. The Palm Project now employs 11 local women, and provides income to local coconut oil makers and cocoa beans and vanilla growers. The Palm Project’s product range has expanded to include shampoo, conditioner and body oil and has created interest from wider Vanuatu including the tourism sector.
In 2010, also with the support of the New Zealand Aid Programme the Uliveo Builders and Carvers Workshop was established, a substantial building close to the soap factory fully stocked with carpentry and wood working tools. The workshop has assisted the young builders in their economic endeavours. With superior equipment the young builders are able to achieve a higher standard and finish to these projects. The workshop also provides the whole island with advanced equipment for carving of local hardwoods and has given their art work a better chance of tourism sales
In 2011, NZCHET received funding for its latest project, which addresses health issues and dehydration on Uliveo Island that have resulted from a lack of access to clean water. Uliveo health problems mostly stem from the contaminated water supply and also seasonal droughts which are increasing in regularity and severity. NZCHET, its local partner Palm Project and the Uliveo community will install water tanks and plumbing for rainwater collection and a solar desalination unit for drinking water during times of low rainfall. Safe water and improved sanitation will directly benefit the 2,500 residents of Uliveo Island and an improved health status will be achieved.
To find out more about NZCHET at www.nzchildrenstrust.org.nz