Sunday, May 15th 2016, Port Vila – Equipped with electric rammers, shovels, brooms, wheelbarrows and an assortment of other tools, Youth from the Efate District of the Seventh-day Adventist Church endured the heat and dust fixing the Manples road starting from the Lumbukuti community up to the second hill that levels up to Manples Mango.

With the help of the Public Works Department and some youth from the Manples area, they filled potholes with gravel and rammed  them in with the electric rammers. This was a community service initiative by the Efate District Adventist Youth (EDAY), nicknamed as “Operesen Helpem Manples”.

Mr Eddie Edwards, chairman of the Lumbukuti community was pleasantly surprised.

“We have not had anyone come to do a proper work on this road ever since [former MP] Korman built this road some twenty years ago.”

Another community member contributed that at one time, the Manples residents had come together and worked on road repairs, but that was long ago. He couldn’t remember the exact date.

Chairman Edwards added, “the Manples of today is not united enough to work together to fix this road.”

A church leader who had just returned from church added, “I just announced in church that we should pray to God, thanking Him for bringing the youth to work on our roads. These roads have been neglected for far too long.”

There have been fatal medical emergencies due to the bad conditions of these roads. Not only does it pose medical emergency threats, it poses a real threat to security as observed by the church leader.

“If an escaped prisoner chooses to hide around here and starts threatening people’s lives, how soon can the police get to him? The roads are so bad that the police won’t want to risk coming here. This is good that the youth are working on the road.”

Chairman Edwards was especially glad when the youth went out of their way to visit widows and the elderly in the communities. He expressed his gratitude, saying that ever since cyclone Pam of 2015 struck, no one had come to do visitations. This was the first group to visit the elderly in the community.

Another observer in the community observed with strong emotions that politician after politician had mad promises to repair, nay, rebuild the road should they be voted into government. Those promises have fallen short and now, they can only be referred to as desperate platitudes.

The involvement of EDAY in fixing the road is far from political. Says Belinda K Lewa, Coordinator of this community service, “the Youth will feel a sense of responsibility and ownership after this project and that is the kind of value that we want to instill into our young people. Most importantly, we want to instill the value of love and being all about giving rather than receiving. These projects reflect ways of how we can share and show the love of Jesus to everyone around us.”

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The second hill which needed the most urgent repairs – going up to Manples Mango.

David C Patunvanu, the secretary to the Coordinator added, “this event not only aims to bring the road back to standard but also aims to get our young people involved in community development work by not always depending on the government. It’s a project designed by young people for the betterment of our communities and help develop our young people to share the passion of humanity.”

With the first work being somewhat completed, the residents of Manples Mango now have a sense of security. Buses can drop mothers off at the top of the second hill instead of at the top of the first hill. There is an unlit stretch of “flat” road from the top of the first hill to the foot of the second hill. It is unsafe for mothers and children to walk along this stretch at night.

More work is still needed to get the road to civil engineering standards, but a first step has been taken by EDAY – a truly grassroots initiative in community service. Whether EDAY will continue to work with the Public Works Department to fix the road remains to be decided. In the meantime, every ni-Van is encouraged to participate in community service work because it bolsters community development and instills a sense of ownership towards the community members.