Building safe, cyclone-proof training centres

After experiencing the devastation caused by Cyclone Ivy in 2004, Oxfam saw a real need to help improve the construction quality of the Rural Training Centre buildings.

Improving the quality of construction at Rural Training Centres


Lorokau Rural Training Centre students cementing floor. Photo: Jane Ussher/Oxfam
Lorokau Rural Training Centre students cementing the floor.


The majority of the training centres are built with traditional bush materials that struggle to withstand the onslaught each cyclone season. Some communities have to rebuild their training centre every year.

Oxfam has so far built six new centres with two more under construction. The centres are built within, or very close to surrounding villages, and constructed with permanent, solid materials for the community to shelter in when the cyclones blast through.

Each new centre has its own latrine and a 5000 litre water tank with tap stand and concrete base, harvesting fresh rainwater from the roof for the whole community to use every day, and in an emergency.

Lorakau Village was flattened in 2004 by Cyclone Ivy, and it took the community a full year to rebuild.

Last year, the community and students all pitched in to build their new cyclone-proof training centre, enabling the students to put in to practice the chapters in their construction modules – cementing floors, brick-making, painting and furniture building.

This was a rare opportunity for the female students to learn handy construction skills, traditionally reserved for the boys. The community was fully consulted on where best to situate the centre and its water supply so its benefits can reach the whole community.

Cyclone-proof and safe


Willy Naieu, manager of the Lorakau Village Rural Training Centre. Photo: Jane Ussher/Oxfam
Willy Naieu, manager of the Lorakau Village Rural Training Centre.


Lorakau training centre manager, Willy Naieu said the previous centre was made of local materials and the school was unsafe.

“When it rained all the books would get wet, and the community had nothing to shelter in. But now the community is very happy because in the future when they have to face a cyclone, all the books, the students, and their families will have something to hide inside that’s safe and dry,” he says.

Willy says the water tank has made a big difference because the burden has been lifted from the women and children, who used to have to walk 3km down to the creek up to five times a day.

“Before the community had to go down to the creek to fetch their water with buckets and then walk back again to their houses, but sometimes the creek would be dry. Now with our new water tank when it rains the tank remains full and the community and students just come to get it.”

Opportunity for the community


Irrigating the vegetable patch. Photo: Jane Ussher/Oxfam.
Irrigating the vegetable patch.


The water tank and latrines onsite has meant the students can put in to practice their lessons such as hand-washing and food preparation, or irrigating the extensive vegetable patch full of taro, yams, cabbage and coffee plants.

The accessible flow of fresh, clean water has also allowed for a boys' and girls' dormitory to be built for students who live too far to travel each day.

With everyone lending a helping hand in the construction of the community’s new centre, there is a real sense of pride in the building with the desire and new skills to maintain it. The centre also doubles as a community centre at night and on the weekends for adult learning classes and church meetings.

“In the future those students who gain some skills can go back to their community and help build the family houses, set up small businesses and farming and also find a job in the town – that’s very privileged for them because without that opportunity they would just do nothing,” Willy says.

“After students graduate and go out in the community for employment I feel very proud.”

Developing a sustainable water supply


Collecting water at napil Rural Training Centre. Photo: Jane Ussher/Oxfam
Collecting water at napil Rural Training Centre.


Oxfam is working in Vanuatu with the government, the private sector and local organisations to develop a National Water Resource Strategy.

With the competing demands brought about by Vanuatu’s growing population and urban drift, and a shift from a predominantly subsistence economy to a cash-economy, water has become a precious resource.

The aim of the strategy is to ensure sustainable and equitable access to safe water for all the people of Vanuatu, as well as supporting improved public health, and social and economic development.

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Find out more

  • Back to school in Vanuatu
    Young people in rural Vanuatu are getting a second chance at an education. At least 4000 students, some as young as 10 years old, are pushed out of formal education each year in Vanuatu. The network of small rural training centres is catching more than 500 of those young people every year and giving them new opportunities to learn.
  • Oxfam's parter in Vanuatu, VRDTCA, is a network of vocational based schools designed for young people who have been pushed out of the formal educational system and provides them with training in specific skills to improve the quality of life in rural areas.
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