Unfortunately there is a shortage of housing of any type at the college. It’s not that we think that there is any kind of problem with the way people live on Tanna, I just mean that by Tanna standards accommodation is on the slim side.
The principal is living in a classroom after the roof of his house blew out. His house was then used as a kitchen until it burnt down. The student accommodation is basic compared to what the South Islands Presbytery would like it to be.
There are plans in place to develop many aspects of the college including staff housing, student accommodation, a kitchen, preschool, etc. The Presbyterian Church of Australia has already partnered with the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu to build a classroom building containing two classrooms and a library between them.
When we decided to partner with the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu by teaching at the college, we thought that given the existing shortage of housing and because we didn’t want to steer time, energy, and funds away from other priorities, we decided that the best way to house our family was to build a basic house.
We scribbled a floor plan based on existing buildings on Tanna and then our friend Joy turned it into a more thorough plan; we found funding for the project from Australia; we found a local builder on Tanna to act as foreman; and the project was off the ground.
The house is built on College grounds and once we leave it will continue to be used as staff housing with the priority given to a foreign lecturer. In this way we are contributing to developing the infrastructure of the college while creating accommodation for ourselves.
Recently the college has been given money from someone in the USA to build a house for the principal. While a little more might be needed, it is a very good start. If you are interested in partnering with the college in growing its infrastructure, perhaps you should contact us. Maybe I will post more about this at another time.
We are not going to Tanna to build physical buildings. We are going to build the Kingdom of God through teaching God’s word and teaching others to teach it, but sometimes some basic physical things can assist in that.
The Design of Our House
There are roughly two types of housing in rural Vanuatu. The most common of these is what might be called a ‘local style’ house. It would have woven bamboo walls and a thatch roof. On Tanna, unlike much of the rest of Vanuatu, the roof is usually thatched from coconut leaves (fronds?).
The other type of housing, which I would also argue is ‘local style’ as it has its own particular local architectural features, has rendered concrete walls and an iron roof. That is the style that we are having built. It is considerably more expensive, probably hotter, but more permanent and usually better at withstanding a cyclone. The concrete blocks are made from local sand and coral, and timber is milled on site, but things like iron for the roof and cement powder have to be bought at a hardware.
Our house is very simple and is basically a shelter divided into rooms. Our bathroom and kitchen will be separate shelters since we think they attract rats and we don’t like rats! So the house has no plumbing and at this point no electricity.
The house has a large central room, that could end up being used for home schooling, and a small study for Tom to work. We have a verandah both sides as we expect to live on the verandahs most of the time. We plan to build in one end of one of these verandahs as a guest room at some stage.
Where is the Project up to Now?
In short, it is roughly on budget but very behind schedule. We were hoping to move down to Tanna in February, but at this point in time there is no roof. Why is it behind schedule? Well, a few reasons…
Firstly, the initial stages are just slow, gathering materials and making all the concrete blocks in a mould. This work was given out to each of the local churches and then the completed blocks were transported to the site.
Secondly, our local foreman found it hard to get transport to the building site. Fortunately someone else has taken over.
Thirdly, getting materials from Port Vila (the capital) to Tanna has been very slow and difficult. This is due to problems at both the hardware and the ship. The latest hitch was that the boat was full and so our order missed out. It then turned out that it was that boat’s last trip south, so we need to find another ship. It is good to be here in Port Vila and able to sort things out from this end.
Having said that things are going slowly, we should say that we feel blessed that the work is going forward and that many people are putting themselves out so that we can go to Tanna.
We have not yet figured out what will happen when it is time for teaching to begin at the college and the house isn’t finished. At the moment we are just taking things as they come.