In November 2014, the New Hospital Extension constructed under the JICA project for Redevelopment of the Vila Central Hospital was completed.

The intent of the generous grant was to significantly improve the health service delivery to the people of Vanuatu and to accommodate more patients annually.

A small group of women approached Hospitals and Curative Services and the Vila Central Hospital (VCH) General Services volunteering to beautify the green space entrance to the medical centre, in appreciation of the development and critical services the hospital provides.

Receiving the go-ahead, the team of volunteers swung into action, clearing away construction debris, collecting plants, soil and ideas from far and wide. Early Sunday mornings at the hospital quickly became a scheduled part of their week, as they arrived at 05.30am transporting seedlings, cuttings, clippings, hoes, crowbars, bushknives, buckets, coconut husks, hoses, and lots of good will.

After two years of greening efforts, the garden has been destroyed by Cyclone Pam and denuded by the drought and heavy rains but, like the volunteers, has persisted in growing and blossoming, bolstered by a variety of helpers, generous donations of plants and quiet encouraging comments on how nature has helped to alleviate the pain of anxiety for many hospital visitors.

Crotons, frangipani, hibiscus, bouganvillea, golden palm, lemongrass, lemon trees, natapoa, liriopes and cordyline now adorn the entrance way to the hospital. The Sunday gardening has become a meeting point for people to share gardening tips, cultural stories and a simple, friendly storian.

It’s not just a pleasing aesthetic but also a balm to soothe health anxieties.

Jill Greenhalgh: “As a New Zealand VSA volunteer working in agriculture, one of my most satisfying achievements is looking at what this small team has achieved at the hospital garden.

“It gives me pleasure every morning as I walk past on my way to work. It has been immensely satisfying and fun working in this team and creating something that will last long after my presence here has been forgotten.

“It is some roots I will leave behind in this great little country.”

Last month, the group of dedicated volunteers, led by Liz Naupa Pechan and Marcy Ure San Jose with the able support of Jill Greenhalgh, Ann Halbauer, Margaret Nial and Sarah Naupa Mecartney secured approval for the creation of a mural on the wall opposite the outpatients waiting station. Port Vila Hardware have generously provided paint at a discounted price and a number of individual sponsors have enabled this initiative.

Andrew Tovovur, an artist from Erromango has donated his time to create peaceful botanical imagery – his intent to provide for a harmonious reflection of life as well as honour the medical staff and the hospital patients that come from all six provinces.

He said, “The Nabanga tree is symbolic of bringing together all people of Vanuatu; nature is a healing element in itself and I wanted to show the diversity of our plant life and create an oasis of calm for the hospital visitors”.

The Vila Central Hospital management team and staff are to be applauded for their support and vision for the hospital. READ MORE