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By Florence Kuali-Iautu

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Dec. 6) - One of Malekula’s small isolated islands has successfully completed and opened one of their community-based projects, thanks to the New Zealand High Commission office in Vanuatu through their Head of Mission Fund.

[PIR editor’s note: Malekula is located northeast of Efate island where the national capital is situated.]

Uri Islanders on Malekula saw the opening of the new footpath designed for effective and proper transportation during the official visit by staff of the High Commission office in Port Vila to their island last week. The delegation’s visit was aimed at visiting isolated areas on Malekula to assess aid projects and to get a better understanding of the grass roots community development needs and priorities.

The visit included the Maskylene Islands, Lamap, Kamai, Aulua, Lakatoro and Uri Island. The visiting team consists of John Capper as the Second Secretary, and Development Program Administrator John Colwick—accompanied by New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade representative, based in Wellington, Suzannah Jessep.

While the bulk of New Zealand’s development assistance program to Vanuatu is channeled through government initiatives, the Small Projects Scheme (SPS) and the Head of Mission Fund (HOMF) enable the High Commission to support small, well-designed community led projects. Therefore, a good example of how a small community inspired idea can have a significant positive impact is the footpath project on Uri Island in North-East Malekula.

In order to get their goods to Lakatoro market, Uri islanders used to have to cross a mangrove swamp thick with mud and mosquitoes every morning to get to their boats, isolating the community.

A request to the New Zealand High Commission led to the Head of Mission Fund providing concrete for the construction of a raised footpath across the swamp, which the Uri Islanders themselves designed. They built the footpath and the entire community was involved with the hard work.

In formally opening the footpath, the team was impressed with the community spirit on the island. Suzannah Jessep, who was on her first visit to Malekula, said that, "It is a very good example of how cooperation like this with a well-organized community can make such a positive difference." While on the trip, the New Zealand team also opened a health clinic built on Sakao Island, which services numerous communities in the Maskylenes area supported by funds from the NZAID Small Projects Scheme. This project again showed how positive outcomes could be achieved for communities that worked together to meet essential needs in partnership with donors.


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