There have been a lot of stories of resilience and community spirit over the past weeks, highlighting the ni-Vanuatu’s

Wan Smolbag Theatre staff working as volunteers, serving breakfast to displaced families at their Nutrition Center Kitchen.
Wan Smolbag Theatre staff working as volunteers, serving breakfast to displaced families at their Nutrition Center Kitchen.

strength as a community. Erromango Islanders living in Port Vila are sending parcels of goods to their families who are stranded on Erromango.

There was a story related of how a pregnant mother on Tanna Island was in labor during the cyclone and the members of her community hung onto her house both inside and outside so it wouldn’t get blown off, just so she could give birth in a safe environment.

Then there are stories of workplaces taking in their staff and their families and other members of the community at large because these people had nowhere else to go. Similarly churches and other community centers became evacuation centers as displaced families looked for a place of refuge.

In the aftermath of severe tropical cyclone Pam, pictures on social media show a nation rebuilding itself. The Government of Vanuatu is trying its best to coordinate aid pouring in from overseas so that everyone can get a fair share. The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) has been trying to the best of its ability to see goods delivered to people in the remote and far-flung corners of the country in a timely manner. This job is long and tedious, and is fraught with administrative bottlenecks.

Just a few blocks away from the NDMO headquarters, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is hard at work parceling goods to distribute to families in need. They have been donating parcels of foods containing rice, breakfast crackers, some tinned fish, sugar, milk and milo directly to families. They work under the direction and supervision of NDMO.

Similarly to ADRA, the Red Cross, Save the Children and many other NGO bodies are working with NDMO to get goods to people in communities where they have a presence. All of these NGOs use the services of volunteers who are themselves victims of Cyclone Pam’s fury.

Business houses and the private sector have teamed up and formed a more directly involved approach to aid – dubbed as renegade aid. Renegade aid came about because the private sector has become frustrated by the diplomatic and administrative bottlenecks they have to navigate to get urgent supplies to the people via NDMO.

Family members living overseas are organizing aid to be brought to Vanuatu to complement the international aid that is already here or is still coming.

That’s the Vanuatu Community spirit at play. Many friends of Vanuatu people are genuinely concerned about families in Vanuatu and want to help in one way or another to get people back up on their feet. The Vanuatu Community Spirit has rubbed off on them.

This country has been blessed by a friendly spirit that is hardly experienced elsewhere. It is felt and produced from the most local of grassroots to the highest government officials and diplomats. It is instilled in the people of this nation from birth and anyone who comes in contact with ni-Vanuatus is automatically infected.

Some observers have called the Vanuatu people a laid-back bunch with not enough care about time and its passage. It is that same laid-back attitude that has helped this nation to mobilize as a community to restore the brokenness that is evident nationwide. It has brought people together and not drawn them apart.

This laid-back way of life is indeed the Vanuatu Community Spirit, and it is due to this lifestyle that people are not fretting or causing any riots. The people may be feeling pangs of panic over lack of basic needs, but it has not caused them to rally together and wreck havoc when promised aid does not arrive in time. Instead, the people have come together for support and recovery.

At the end of the day, when promised aid arrives where it was promised, it is a sure bet that the community will share everything to individual families, and then the families will continue sharing amongst the community. It might seem unconventional to those not raised in such environments, but in disaster, this spirit is alive and well and keeps us strong and resilient.