It was just last summer that Grade 9 student Finn Goodyear and his family were on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu. There, they stayed in a small village with his aunt and uncle, Dr. Andrea Lewis and Dr. Sean Cruz. These two Victoria-based physicians were stationed on Tanna for six months as part of the Victoria-Vanuatu Physician Project (ViVa).
“We got to go into the hospital and watch my aunt and uncle doing medical rounds with all sorts of patients. One the greatest experiences I had was going to the village of Yakel, which is a fully traditional village where the women wear grass skirts and the men wear nambas, their version of underwear,” Finn recalls. “We were in Yakel because my aunt and uncle had to travel out to certain villages to provide them with medical care if (patients) could not come to the hospital.”
For 24 years (until January of this year), ViVa sent Vancouver Island doctors, like Finn’s aunt and uncle, on six-month work terms to Vanuatu to staff the Lenakel Hospital and fill the position of Medical Superintendant or Medical Officer for Tafea Province.
Tanna was hit by a devastating cyclone earlier this month that destroyed much of Lenakel Hospital and the medical equipment inside. ViVa is now raising money to replace the hospital roof and the lost equipment as soon as possible.
“The people of Tanna were so amazing; they were so happy and giving with what they had. They allowed me and my family into their community and I was given the chance to experience their culture. I want to be able to give back to them through fundraising money to rebuild their only hospital,” Finn says. “Rebuilding the hospital would give the people of Tanna a chance to get back on their feet, from major injuries and sicknesses, and allow them to start rebuilding the island.”