Kiwanis International - NZSP Division One (Auckland and Vanuatu)

KI Logo Visit by some New Zealand Kiwanians to Vanuatu for the annual Horse Race Weekend and to assist with distribution of boxes of books to schools, etc.
July 2006

Text and pictures by Patsy Hill - Kiwanis Club of Takapuna

In October 2005, Mike and Patsy Hill and Jim Kyle joined Past Governor Ewan and Isabella Beck on a trip to Port Vila to visit the Kiwanis Club there - and as they left, they indicated they would be returning in July 2006 for the Port Vila Club's annual ball and horse race.

True to their word , they met at Auckland Airport on 12 July, 2006, along with three non-Kiwanian friends of Jim's. They were also joined by Amy Wiser, Associate Editor of the Kiwanis International Magazine. Amy had travelled from Indianapolis to New Zealand and on to Port Vila collecting stories of Kiwanis activities in the New Zealand South Pacific Kiwanis District, and she proved not only a very efficient and capable journalist, but also a very lovely person to travel with.

The flight from Auckland to Port Vila took a little longer than usual as it was diverted to Nouméa to pick up passengers there, as the usual Nouméa - Port Vila flight was not operating for some weeks due to aircraft maintenance. A bonus for us though as, on leaving Nouméa, we were treated to spectacular views of Ouvea atoll, part of the Loyalty Islands in New Caledonia. Ouvea is just north of Lifou Island, where the Kiwanis Club of Ne Drehu was established in December 2003.

street advertising
Once on the ground in Port Vila, we all made our way to our various accommodation, either at the Melanesian Hotel (run by a local Kiwanian) or at the homes of local Port Vila club members. The weather seemed pleasantly warm to us, though throughout our week's stay the locals seemed to be complaining of the cold! At the Melanesian hotel we met up with Bev and Brian Saunders of the Kiwanis Club of Doncaster-Templestowe in Melbourne, Australia - who were also influenced by Jim's stories of his earlier visits to Vanuatu and had decide to come along for the special weekend. That night we all dined at L'Houstalet, a very authentic French restaurant run by a Kiwanian, Clement, who has 9 children between 3 and 40! And he loves them all, he is proud to tell you.
Thursday gave us time to reacquaint ourselves with Port Vila, and we were quick to observe the big banner over the main street advertising the Horse Race as well as clear advertising everywhere by sponsors. And of course excellent coverage in the local papers too. We also had a chance to visit and walk through the Mamas Haus area. Under supervision of Werner Pechan of the Port Vila club and with other assistance from the club too, the local council has erected most attractive booths along the Vila waterfront. This has met a longstanding need for the women to have a good location for selling their crafts and other products to tourists - especially when cruise ships are in port. Prior to this they sold from very temporary and haphazard stalls. A great achievement - and one that was opened by New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters when he went up to Port Vila early in July. It was on that trip that he made it possible for us to send 37 boxes of books up on his flight.
Michael Hill in the MamaHaus area
Amy Wiser and ball decorations

But all too soon it was time to get into our gladrags for the Ball. This is always the social event of the year for Port Vila society. The venue was to be the Le Lagon hotel and pre-dinner drinks were around the pool. A lovely setting - and the fashions were equally as stunning. Then inside to the dining and dancing area - and here the club's ball committee has really excelled. Black, silver and white balloons with dangling ribbons were set off with coloured fibre-optic light table decorations - and the food and service too was superb! Amy was soon seen interviewing the local Kiwanis and busily catching everyone on record! The evening proceeded with raffles, spot prizes and lots of dancing. Obvious use of friends and sponsors made sure of a very successful and profitable evening.
Next day, Friday, there was some more free time, and we soon became aware that some of the New Caledonian Kiwanians had arrived in town - to attend the horse race and also to be part of the twinning of the Port Vila club with the Kiwanis Club of Gorobaï-Païta. (Patsy and Mike took particular interest in this, having attended and spoken at one of the membership drive meetings prior to charter of the Gorobaï club in December 2003). We sat in on a preliminary meeting where it was decided the twinning should take place just prior to the start of the horse race on Saturday.
Kiwanians folding stubs for the raffle draw
Friday evening was the time for the Calcutta night and Jim and others went along to this and said it was loads of fun as well as a great fundraiser. Punters bet on a pre-recorded horserace [not knowing what the outcome was going to be of course]. Patsy and Mike however did not attend this as they were staying at Ethel Chapman's home and had a private dinner party to attend there with her
Saturday was Race Day and the weather was perfect. A slight fall of light rain to settle the dust, then warm but not too sunny. Just what was needed. We were all soon making our way to the racetrack - and the free buses provided by Kiwanis for the local ni-Vanuatu public were arriving thick and fast. The venue looked like any race course anywhere, with the track in good order, the corporate tents all set up and ready and the local foodstalls waiting for custom.
A steady line of people headed towards the stall selling raffle tickets - and we were soon all roped in to help fold the stubs in readiness for the draw at the end of the day. Yes even Amy got involved in this before long as the stubs mounted up!
Just before the race meeting formally started the New Caledonian Kiwanians assembled near the broadcaster's stand and they were joined by Port Vila club President Ethel Chapman and President Elect Peter Wilson for the twinning ceremony between Kiwanis Club of Port Vila, Vanuatu and the Kiwanis Club of Gorobaï-Païta, New Caledonia. Words of friendship were spoken and gifts and bannerettes were exchanged. A lovely ceremony.
Before long the races started and the tote was in full swing too. Stewards and the race caller come over from Australia each year to ensure the event runs smoothly.
twinning ceremony

Racing proceeded through the day - with some folk picking winners and others having their hopes truly dashed by a horse that throws its jockey, or is scratched at the last minute.
The race! The spectators! The bettors!

The band, attired in bright red jackets that the Port Vila Kiwanis sponsored for them, entertained and provided a march past. Visiting celebrities from Australia judged the 'Fashions in the Field' competition. For this there are prizes for the best dressed lady, man, picannini and the best hat. Also a special prize for one contestant who was well over 80 and had as usual travelled to Vanuatu for the races and wore a creation she had designed and made herself!
The band! The fashions!

Wow, it was quite a day, and as always, not only did it raise funds that will enable Port Vila Kiwanis to carry on all their wonderful projects in Vanuatu, but it also gave the local community a wonderful picnic at the annual horse race.
The other major group event of the week was a tour on Tuesday around the island of Efate with Club President Ethel Chapman. This was to achieve two objectives. Firstly - to deliver the remaining boxes from the most recent container to schools around Efate. Ethel had deliberately retained some boxes so we could all be involved like this. And secondly to visit Janet and Wille Bunyan, friends of Patsy and Mike's at the village of Paonangisu and share lunch with them.
Picking up the books
We set off and collected the boxes from a local warehouse and started our trip around the island. For those who have not visited Vanuatu, the road around Efate is not well sealed!!! So it was not long before a problem arose - a box dislodged itself from the front vehicle unbeknown to the people inside. It fell to the ground but the vehicle continued. The second vehicle stopped to pick it up - having tried to get the attention of the others - but discovering the rental car horn was not working!! Great hilarity ensued.
Boxes of books were delivered at three schools as we progressed around the island - at Ulei (the school where a classroom was reroofed by a group including Patsy and Mike some 10 years ago); at Malatia - where the sole teacher of four classes of a very poor school was overjoyed with the gifts; and at Manoa, a well organized primary school. As on previous visits, we found the children very well behaved, and very interested to see what new resources their school was receiving.
school kids

At Janet and Willie's village, we soon learned that since her arrival there late last year, Janet is already running a kindergarten for the village children and her verandah, complete with bookcase, is regularly filled with children eager to learn from her. Needless to say, Janet receives books from those sent in the container to assist her with this.

Once again we were thrilled to see that the books we send to Vanuatu are being well used and are making a difference. The time and effort put in both in New Zealand and by the local Port Vila club is well worth while! It will be very interesting to see how Amy will portray the time she has spent both in Vanuatu, and in New Zealand visiting projects as she travelled. We feel sure she will make an excellent job of telling Kiwanians around the world that great things are being done in our little corner of the globe.
As a last gesture at Port Vila airport, Amy was seen to deposit some surplus coins in the Kiwanis collecting chest just prior to returning to NZ. There is no doubt that all monies collected there will be well used by the Port Vila Kiwanis for the betterment of the children in their community.
Amy Wiser with the Kiwanis collection box

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Page last updated by (David Fentress) on 3 September, 2011.
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