John Bent passed away In July 2011, at the age of 77, but he never left the heart of many Ni-Vanuatu that had met him during the 8 years he lived in Vanuatu.
Arriving in 1968 as a lecturer at Kawenu Teacher Training College (now VITE) he moved to Lakataro in Malekula where he was the District Education officer.
When Bent and his family returned to the UK distance did not break his ties with Vanuatu.
His home in Evington, Leicester, became a base for many a Vanuatu student studying in Britain, to list a few Odo Tevi, Len Tarivonda, Kaltuk Kalomar, Terry Abel and Dr Les Ala all enjoyed time with the Bent family. I quote Dr Les Ala “I have a lot I want to say about John (he was like a father to me here).
Bent might have left Vanuatu but his heart remained in Vanuatu. His door was always open to all Ni-Vanuatu students and visitors and would go the extra mile to provide any support that was required.
Ni-Vanuatu students and visitors who had the privilege of knowing him always knew that his home was their ‘home away from their loved ones in Vanuatu’. His intellect and extensive general knowledge and interests meant he kept abreast of any new development worldwide and would often be the first to bring news about Vanuatu to these Ni-Vanuatu students, from news about Vanuatu politics to the developments in Rural Vanuatu”.
Bent returned to Vanuatu on numerous occasions and helped many ni-Vanuatu families especially with their children’s school fees.
It was this that gave the Bent family the idea to set up a trust, John Bent Memorial Fund, to continue his vision of helping young students.
The fund began with a generous donation from John’s family and close friends in the UK.
A Board of Trustees was formed with Odo Tevi, John Atkins Arukeala, Carol Aru and Elena Haines administering the funds of the JBMF. In 2012 two students, LeiwiaKatalia and Harold Bule, were chosen to receive this scholarship.
Unfortunately the scholarship was not continued the following year although funds were held in the bank.
Aidan Bent, Bent’s son, never gave up hope that the scholarship would again be awarded.
Through enquiries he found out about the Nabanga Pikinini Association which had in 2015 set up its own scholarship for VITE students from generous donations following cyclone Pam and from the sales of Nabanga Pikinini books.
Aidan approached the Nabanga Pikinini Association through its chairperson Anne Pakoa with the kind offer of donating the JBMF money towards the Nabanga Pikinini scholarships. On the 29th of September (under a palm tree planted at VITE by Aidan Bent when he laid his father’s ashes to rest) Carol Aru and John Atkins Arukelana representing the John Bent Memorial Fund, handed over 1,000,000 Vt to Anne Pakoa, and Pauline Grindley of the Nabanga Pikinini Association last Thursday afternoon among the sprouting leaves of the coconut seedling which marks the place where his ashes were buried on the premises of the John Bent classroom complex that was built in his honour.
The John Bent Memorial Fund also donated close to Vt200,000 to Mamma’s Laef, a group of Pango ladies that make washable sanitary pads for girls.
The group have extended their work to include educating in menstrual and reproductive health. Last month they gave a tutorial at Ulei school plus supplied the girls with a washable sanitary pad kit.
The money they have received from the JBMF will be used to help run a similar training and supplying kits to students at other schools on Efate. The washable sanitary kits are also for sale to order phone 5434414.
The yearly VITE scholarship will be called the John Bent Memorial Fund. Nabanga Pikinini Association will continue to contribute all profits from the sales of their books towards the scholarship.
When Bent visited his Doctor with Aiden his son and was told that he only had a few months to live he took a few seconds then said, “I have had a bloody good life and I wouldn’t change a thing”.
John Bent through your wonderful legacy you will always be alive and in the hearts of many in Vanuatu – thank you.