Macquarie College Wallsend students volunteer in Vanuatu for schoolies trip

Selfless: Liam Alderson, Sophie O'Leary and Chelsea Powell sort through donated shirts to be given to the Vanuatu school children. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
Selfless: Liam Alderson, Sophie O'Leary and Chelsea Powell sort through donated shirts to be given to the Vanuatu school children. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

MACQUARIE College students have chosen volunteering in Vanuatu over the glitter of the Gold Coast for their end-of-year schoolies trip, which will involve sleeping outside in tents and helping to rebuild a village school.

Program co-founder and teacher Aaron Williams said 39 year 12 students – the majority of the grade –  plus seven staff members, including the school’s tradesman, would depart on Wednesday to spend seven nights in the Pacific island nation.

“Olwi village even by Vanuatu standards is quite poor,” Mr Williams said.

“The people live without technology, tablets and those kind of distractions – ensuring they have a good wifi connection is not something they care about.

“This is about stepping back to basics, to a community. These students have never really experienced what it means to be a village and the experience of seeing people living in the now, rather than thinking ‘what can I get out of this’.”

Mr Williams and colleague Nicki Clark coordinated the first optional trip in 2009 as a way for students to carry on the college's values of serving others, while having fun in a safe environment.

The students will spend the first four days and four nights camping in tents on an oval and working in groups to repair and improve a primary school partially damaged by Tropical Cyclone Pam in March 2015.

Students have raised $12,500 to pay for materials they will use for tiling, painting, installing sheeting on walls and the ceiling, building awnings and fixing and installing gutters to help the school collect drinking water.

They paid for their own flights and accommodation for the last three nights of the trip in a Port Vila resort.

Sophie O’Leary, 18, said she had heard about the trip from friends in older grades.

“They all said going was one of the best decisions they ever made, so that sealed the deal for me,” she said.

“I just thought it was better to spend our time giving to others who aren’t as fortunate as we are, than go to the Gold Coast and be quite selfish. It’s also good to do it with classmates, a lot of us have known each other since preschool.”