It has been over 2 years since Cyclone Pam swept through Vanuatu leaving in its wake beautiful hardwood trees felled on land owned by the Mele Community via Teletika Mele Community Trust.

Too good to leave to rot, trees were too big and too many not to utilise.

As a valuable resource owned by the villagers and two years post-Pam, many villagers are still living in damaged houses waiting repair.

A discussion followed on a visit by New Zealand charitable organisation Byond Disaster Relief New Zealand (“Byond”) and SHaRM Pikinini Ecole Foundation (“SHaRM Foundation”) on how a project could incorporate the forestry asset, engage and train the unemployed Mele youth and undertake repairs and rebuilding and use the off cuts in Mele Village for the community.

A project proposal was written by Byond NZ’s volunteer Lykke Boje Jensen, a Danish student undertaking her project thesis in disaster management, Byond’s NZ Team Leader Lyndon Tamblyn, SHaRM Foundation, Steph Neilson and the trustees of the Teletika Mele Community Trust.

This process has been two years in the making and traversing the various stages of application with New Zealand Aid Donor, Pacific Development and Conservation Trust who fund projects within the Pacific.

On June 2, 2017, the first phase of the project, the arrival, handing over and dedication of a brand new Lucas Portable Sawmill took place in Mele witnessed by Chief Poilapa, Chief Masai, Teletika Chairman: Phillip Malastapu and trustees, Mele elders, community members and youth.

They witnessed Byond’s team leader, Lyndon Tamblyn handover the sawmill to the Mele community and introduce the team of five other New Zealanders who will be offering training and on-site skill transfer during their stay to commence the milling of the first logs fallen during Cyclone PAM.

This is a Kommuniti driven project and it now needs the Mele experienced community members to add support to this project.

The Mele elders are now encouraging their youth to attend the workshops, gain hands on experience to participate and become a vital part of the rebuilding programme which will commence in the second and third phases of this project.

Mele volunteers being sought will include those either with experience or unskilled for training as sawmillers, log hands, loggers, tractor drivers, mechanics and labourers in the forest.

Once the wood is dried and ready for rebuilding, Mele builders will supervise youth building labourers undertake work on the houses and repairs required to the 200 plus households who have registered for work to be done.

Part of the requirement of this project is to establish a nursery for replanting within the forest to maintain sustainability.

This project comes with the full support and the village will have access to forestry staff when required via the Department of Forestry.

The Mele mamas, crafters and carvers and unemployed girls will not miss out on this project. SHaRM Foundation will be working with these mamas, crafters and carvers to provide quality craft and sewn items incorporating the wooden off-cuts produced as a secondary item from the sawmill.

Nothing will be wasted. Quality products will commence to be sold from Mele which will provide an income boost both to the craftspeople as well as the Teletika Mele Community Trust. This project will also provide firewood offcuts to the villagers.

Mele villagers that would like to be part of this Mele Kommuniti Project as a skilled tradesman, craft person or unskilled volunteer, can contact Phillip Malastapu, Chairman of the Teletika Mele Community Trust for further details and any assistance from local potential donors to the project would be very welcome.

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