Reporting by Vlad Sokhin for ChildFund and Live & Learn Vanuatu

Five-year-old Paloma’s preschool was completely destroyed by Cyclone Pam on 13 March. She is one of more than 40 children in her community whose education has been disrupted.

Paloma lives in a small village on the outskirts of Vanuatu’s capital, Port Vila. Her community is made up of mainly migrant families who survive on very little income. Access to education, healthcare and other basic services such as water and sanitation is limited.

Head teacher of Paloma’s preschool, Celina, says: “During the cyclone we took shelter in a big stone house of our friends. Before we packed some books and moved them to the big house. When I came to the kindy in the morning after the cyclone, it was destroyed. Now we need to rebuild it, as our kids need to go to preschool.”

In post-disaster situations, it is important that children can return to normality as soon as possible to minimise their trauma. Playing with their friends and resuming classes at school is a vital part of the recovery process.But with up to 26-year-old Lydia and her family live near the destroyed preschool that her three-year-old daughter, Luisa, attended. Lydia was due to give birth to her second child on the day the cyclone hit. Thankfully, she delivered a healthy baby girl two days later.

“We took shelter at a friend’s house,” says Lydia. “I was very afraid that the house would collapse and I could lose my family and my unborn child. But the walls of the house were strong enough. Two days after the cyclone I gave birth to my second daughter. Now I’ve come to help the teachers rebuild the kindy so kids from our village can start to go to preschool again.”

ChildFund, in partnership with Live & Learn Vanuatu, is supporting the reconstruction of these preschools so that children like Paloma and Luisa can return to a normal and stable learning environment as soon as possible. With the community contributing some materials and labour, donations from ChildFund will help provide additional resources to ensure the preschools are rebuilt quickly with improved construction materials and design to strengthen their resilience against future disasters. Water systems and sanitation facilities will also be restored and upgraded, so that children have access to safe drinking water and toilets, and hygiene training will be provided to protect children’s health.

ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence says: “We are thankful to everyone who has donated to help rebuild schools and water systems in these poor and highly vulnerable communities in Vanuatu. The damage in these areas is extensive and they need urgent help. Your support will help keep children safe and minimise the disruption to their lives and education.”

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