Welcome to Yumi stap storian


This is a website about the Peace Corps experience in the Republic of Vanuatu. We used this site in previous years, but we’re relaunching it in March 2015 so we can show our love and support for all Ni-Vanuatu as they recover and rebuild from the devastating Cyclone Pam.

Storian is a word that means to have a conversation, or to tell a story, or to chat with friends. Send a message to zuiker@gmail.com to contribute your photos, videos, memories and stories of your time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Vanuatu.

Bae yumi singsing nao

Over on Facebook, Amanda Prasow (Bongabonga-Meriu Village on Tongoa, 2007-2009) has invited RPCVs who served in Vanuatu to contribute to a group video message to our friends and family in Vanuatu:

Olgeta – we’re making a short, free, low-fi solidarity video to share with our friends on the ground. We know many may never see this BUT there are many of our extended families in Vila, Santo, olabaot and overseas who DO (or will) have internet access and would appreciate the gesture.

Bae yumi singsing nao! We’re going to record ourselves singing the Vanuatu national anthem (lyrics below) from our wan-wan locations. We are going for a LOW-EFFORT, NO-STRESS video that should take no more than 15 MINUTES of your time from wherever you are.

Instructions from Amanda:

  1. Make a sign (handwritten ok!) with your Village, Island, and Years of Service (olsem example photo)
  2. Grab a smartphone or your webcam – nothing fancy required – and record yourself singing the entirety of Yumi Yumi Yumi while holding the sign
  3. [Contact Anton at zuiker@gmail.com for details on how to get your video to Amanda by March 25.]

They welcomed me into their family

Billy Delancey (Malekula, 2009-2011) produced this video with images from his time in Vanuatu.

I am collecting personal donations for the people of Ambae and Efate. The reason I am doing this is because it is the only way I can think of to make sure 100% of the money goes to the people of Vanuatu. I would also like to directly help the people who were there for me during a tough, but very rewarding, time in my life.

Thinking of you, Vanuatu

by Anton Zuiker (Liro, Paama; 1997-1999)

Last week, Cyclone Pam aimed for the islands of the Republic of Vanuatu, an 82-island archipelago in the South Pacific where I served, along with my wife, Erin, as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1997 to 1999.

We started to worry for our friends and family there.  We’d seen our share of cyclones during our time there, but nothing as strong as this storm. Actually, many are saying this cyclone is the strongest ever seen in the South Pacific.

By Friday, Pam was the equivalent of a category-four hurricane, slowly churning its way down the island chain. It went over Paama, the lush, hilly 2-mile by 6-mile island where I had lived, and then the cyclone strengthened even more. When its eye went directly over the capital city, Port Vila, it was a ferocious category five, with winds gusting up to 185 mph and 9 inches of rain already washing out roads and bridges.


Saturday: Pam was still tearing up the islands, and there was precious little news from Port Vila, and none from Paama and the other islands north, or Tanna and the islands south.

Sunday: Reports on Facebook and Twitter were confirming that nearly all the buildings in Vila had been damaged or destroyed. One short video from there showed people picking through their soaked belongings, and pigs rooting through the remains of the traditional bamboo-and-thatch huts and rusty shacks. A rooster sings out nearby.

Powerless to do anything about the storm, I went out walking near my home in North Carolina. The morning sky was clear and blue, the air warm and still, and the ground puddled and muddy from gentle rains last week. A few small snails were inching along the pavement, while crows above flew tree to tree answering each other, and through the woods came the sounds of woodpeckers knocking one after the other. Farther away, a rooster was proclaiming the morning.

When I lived on Paama, roosters would strut and crow through the day, and from my classroom at the elementary school where I taught, I could hear that sound echoing through the coconut palms and mango trees.

The rooster call was a defining sound of my South Pacific experience — cookarootoo, as the Ni-Vanuatu say. That was an amusing difference, since I’d grown up with the American way of mimicking a rooster: cock-a-doodle-do.

Another cultural difference: Ni-Vanuatu can communicate with their eyebrows, often to mean ‘yes’ but, along with a flutter of the hand, just as often to mean something more complex, such as ‘Can you help me plant my garden today?’

On Paama, most people live day to day by what they grow in their gardens on the steep hillsides. The rich volcanic soil grows some of the juiciest watermelon I’ve ever enjoyed, and the staple taro and yams that sustain the villagers. In 2013, heavy rains over Paama caused landslides that destroyed many gardens, and the people relied on emergency food aid from Australia and New Zealand.

There’s no word yet from Paama about what Pam’s winds and rains did to the villages of Liro, Lironessa, Asuas, Voravor, and Tavie, the five villages I served. But flyover assessments today are confirming that many gardens are destroyed on the islands near Paama. Many countries have already begun to send food and water and relief supplies. I hope some of that gets to my friends on Paama.

We’d like to do our part and send a box of seed packets and new clothes, and more. We will, just as soon as it’s clear the grass airstrip is ready to receive the Twin Otter airplane, or we hear that the few cargo ships survived the cyclone and can once again make their island to island runs.

Will there be roosters to welcome them? I don’t know. But in my mind I can already hear the sound that will echo through the trees when the first ship is sighted, the hwooo-wheehee called out and repeated person to person through the valley and up the hillsides. What relief the villagers will feel when they first hear and repeat that call! They will hurry down to  the black-sand beach to unload the bags of rice and flour and cement, and maybe medicine and mail from faraway friends.

During my time on Paama, I, too, ran down to the beach to join the line of men carrying the normal deliveries up to dry land. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I was there to assist them, through education, and a water project, and solar lighting for their homes. Whatever I may have accomplished then might be gone now, from time or cyclone’s winds. I wish that I could rush back to Paama to help them regroup and rebuild.

My Peace Corps service in Vanuatu lasted two challenging but quite rewarding years, years that most certainly strengthened me. My Ni-Vanuatu hosts and friends and partners were joyous, and generous, and patient and kind. The lessons they taught me — about working side by side and for the community — have inspired my life and work here in North Carolina.

Today, I’m anxiously waiting on word from Paama. But my eyebrows are up, saying yes, I will find a way to help you in your garden.

Learn more about Anton and his service in Vanuatu over on mistersugar.com.