Last year, growers that purchased the disease control solution Nordox during two months of the year, supported work improving the quality of lives and wellbeing of over 10,000 school children across the Penama province of Vanuatu. Through their purchase, growers contributed $10 directly to the UNICEF water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) project in schools.

The campaign to raise the funds, ran by the New Zealand owned and operated supplier of innovative solutions for growers, Grochem, wanted to support communities that make an impact here in our industry. Recognised Seasonal Employees (RSE) leave their families and homes for extended periods of time during harvest in New Zealand, and following the rapid growth of our kiwifruit and pipfruit sectors, it’s meant the demand for staff is increasing. The RSE, many of who come from Vanuatu, continue to fill this gap.

So, last year when searching for pathways to give back into Vanuatu communities, Grochem heard about the 5-year WASH in Schools project, ran by UNICEF, to be established in the Penama province. It was the perfect fit for them to partner and help communities who give so much to us.

In 2017, with the support of growers who purchased Nordox, along with an additional contribution from the New Zealand Government, an incredible $102,000 was raised towards the project.

With the tools and education needed to access clean water, sanitation and hygiene the project will reduce child sickness and increase the number of children attending schools. But more importantly, the knowledge and practices children develop through these projects carry on at home and into the community, creating a ripple effect of positive change, which improves with each generation that follows.

On 1 July 2017, the project was officially underway by UNICEF New Zealand, who’s extensive experience designing and implementing water and sanitation projects across communities means that the funds would have a real impact.

Through the months of July and September the UNICEF team established national and provincial government relationships, undertook baseline surveys, explored issues regarding appropriate facilities for girls and/or disabled children, and began school briefings – all was progressing well.

However, on 23 September 2017 the Manaro Volcano on Ambae Island, in the province of Penama, escalated to a level 4 eruption, and the mandatory evacuation of 11,600 adults and 5,220 children was underway.

After having to leave their homes, Ambae Island residents were living in evacuation centres across stadiums, parks, schools or community halls on three neighbouring islands. These centres had inadequate facilities for the large amount of people staying, and many had little to no access to water. The UNICEF team needed to direct their focus away from the water and sanitation project so they could focus on response activities related to the unfolding crisis, including ensuring families and students had access to essential water, sanitation, and hygiene kits.

When it was safe to return, tests were carried out to ensure there was no contamination from the volcanic ash. The residents of Ambae returned home in late October, where the WASH in Schools project resumed, alongside support to cope with the damage.

WASH-in-school kits were also distributed to each learning centre and school in Ambae to promote basic hygiene and help children get back to school.

While the project has been delayed, the work UNICEF carried out during both evacuation and recovery, links in to the long-term WASH in Schools programme, ensuring all children in Penama have access to basic functional and reliable water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

To continue supporting the five-year project in Penama, Grochem are again running the campaign this year. The New Zealand Government have also committed to continuing supporting the efforts of the campaign, which will make a significant difference to the end result.

To support the project and to make a difference to the lives of over 10,000 Vanuatu school children, purchase Nordox at leading retailers between the month of May and June, where $10 will again be donated directly to the UNICEF water, sanitation and hygiene in schools project.