Lusalava, St Maria Island – 8 – 10/6/2011

Written by Josh

Background Information on Gaua Island (Santa Maria Island)

Gaua Island was originally known as Santa Maria Island, after it was sighted and charted during a Spanish expedition by Pedro Fernandez de Quiros in 1606.  Gaua is both the largest and most populated island of the Banks Group of islands.  The physical attributes of the island include the largest lake in Vanuatu, known as Lake Letas and Mount Gharat a 797-meter volcano, that last erupted in 2013.  Gaua has an annual rainfall of approximately 3500 mm and is frequently subjected to both earthquakes and cyclones.  Gaua’s population of approximately 2491 live in coastal villages on the western, southern and north-eastern sides of the island.  While the official language is Mwerlap, traditional languages; Lakon, Olrat, Koro, Dorig and Nume are also spoken in different villages.

Our Visit

We did an 8-hour sail from Port Orly on Santo Island to Lacona Bay on St Maria Island (Gaua Island).  When we arrived the chief and his family paddled their outrigger canoes out to meet us.  We spent a couple of days in the anchorage before continuing to Lusalava.

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One of the many outrigger canoes that came out to greet us.

We visited the Lusalava School with the rally. The rally was taking supplies and 250 backpacks to the school there.  The school is the largest in Vanuatu but also the most underdeveloped.  There are between 200 and 215 students and there are only 10 teachers, two for kindy and the other eight for the rest of the students.  It was a long walk up mountains and over streams to reach the school, because mum’s foot was still swollen she didn’t come.

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Walk to the Lusalava School

The school is constructed out of banana leaves and has dirt floors covered with woven mats on them.  When we visited they were building new school rooms out of concrete.  The school has no computers or TVs and only a few books.  There blackboard is a wall painted black.  There is no electricity, but they have a huge soccer field with soccer goals made from wooden posts.

The kids sang some songs, Dr Allan made a speech and we handed out a backpack to each of the kids.

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