When EIT graduate James Gilbert (Cookie) left a very chilly Dannevirke to arrive in the 36C heat of Vanuatu, he knew this was going to be a building experience with a difference.
Cookie had been on a 10-month Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) carpentry course in Dannevirke, with tutor Campbell Johnson (CJ), when he was chosen to accompany six EIT staff to the island of Tanna, 200km south of Port Vila, to build roofs for two medical centres destroyed by Cyclone Pam.
The EIT Students' Association (EITSA) paid for Cookie's airfares.
"We arrived into Vanuatu at 7am and we were on the tools by 8.30am," CJ said. "During the first couple of days we stripped the wrecked roof and then on the following three days we got the new roof on, helped by a couple of locals."
Cookie and the EIT team reroofed a doctor's house, which had it's roof peeled back by the cyclone, working in the searing heat.
"It's a simple way of life over there, Third World really, with no running water," he said. "But the locals were friendly as, with big smiles," he said.
CJ, who is now back in Dannevirke leading a second Level 2 EIT course, with Cookie hired as a learning facilitator, said the Vanuatu experience was wonderful.
"They have nothing, but they have everything," he said.
The second Level 2 NCEA EIT course on building and construction began on Monday, with 17 students enrolled.