On Friday 13th March 2015, Tropical Cyclone Pam, a Category 5 cyclone, tore through the Pacific causing widespread destruction in Vanuatu. At 6.15pm on Saturday 14th March winds up to 340km/hour hit Tanna Island.

The library on Tanna Island, built by Jump Start Foundation (JSF) in partnership with the Isangel Central Primary School (ICPS) community had its roof and shutters torn off, windows shattered, 95% of the newly purchased library books and teaching resources destroyed, school supplies such as exercise books and stationery unusable, and their brand new dictionaries ruined. The Year Five and Six classroom building was obliterated down to the concrete slab. Not to mention the destruction of villages, all of their food supply, water tanks, livestock and roads.

As soon as possible after Cyclone Pam JSF founder, Heidi Dening, travelled to Tanna Island. Heidi was able to assure the ICPS community that JSF was working hard on their behalf to assist them, and she was able to help the school get back up and running while she was there. In fact, they were the first school on Tanna to do so, which you can read about here in The Vanuatu Daily Post.

Jump Start Foundations Top 5 Cyclone Pam Priorities:

  • School Lunches – We provided 210 students and 10 staff for daily school lunches until Tanna's crops could be harvested. It was logistically VERY difficult, but we have did it! Yah! School lunches enabled ICPS children to be more alert and receptive during class time. School lunches also relieve some of the burden on families to provide lunch from their very small stocks of food.

  • Fresh, Safe Water – Surrounding villages were dependent on the one water tank still functioning at ICPS, plus the water purification kits donated by JSF. Northbridge Rotary and JSF are supplying four more to the ICPS communities. The tanks left Sydney on Friday 6th June 2015 for their journey to Tanna Island.

  • Building Works – There was a lot of necessary building and repair works needed at the school to ensure students have appropriate and safe places to learn. It took quite some time for donated funds to be released from Governments and Aid Agencies for the ‘National Rebuild of Education’, so JSF took action. Tanna Rotarians helped JSF with this plan. JSF has paid for all the essential building materials and funded local parents/trades-people to help so we can inject dollars into the community. 

  • Electrical Safety – JSF has funded two local Port Vila electricians to travel to Tanna to assess the required electrical work at ICPS to ensure a safe electrical environment. They were shocked at how unsafe the school was post Cyclone Pam.

  • School stationary, library books and teacher resources – Whilst food, emergency supplies and shelter are vital; education is also important post a natural disaster such as Cyclone Pam.

Education provides:

  • Hope – education gives hope for the future by providing order, structure and a sense of normalcy. Education can help to mitigate the psychosocial effects of disaster and displacement. Structured play activities and schooling have been shown to ease the shock and trauma for children who have lived through the destruction of natural disasters and the loss of loved ones and homes. Source: Unesco.org
  • Healing - Books and educational opportunities for disaster victims are essential to healing; rebuilding society and recapturing lost humanity.
  • Solace - books and storytelling activities can bring solace and intellectual stimulation, even in the most harrowing of circumstances. They give hope to disaster victims by helping them envision a future after the rubble is cleared and houses are rebuilt. Source: Libraries Without Borders.
  • Nourishment - Amid humanitarian crises, international organizations must provide nourishment not only for the body, but also for the mind. Source: Libraries Without Borders.
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