Dannevirke EIT student James Gilbert (Cookie) is excited at the prospect of putting his skills to the test in Vanuatu next week.

Cookie, who is one of seven students who have almost completed their 10-month Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) carpentry course in Dannevirke, with tutor Campbell Johnson (CJ), has been chosen to accompany six EIT staff to the island of Tanna, 200 kilometres south of Port Vila, to build roofs for two medical centres destroyed by Cyclone Pam.

The EIT Students' Association (EITSA) has paid for Cookie's air fares and, along with the others in the team, he will bunk down with villagers during the week-long build.

"Last year, we took people to Vanuatu to help with the rebuild and, this year, Cookie's work ethic has impressed, so he's joining us," CJ said.


"This won't be your average 8am to 5pm build, because we've got just seven days to put on the two roofs, building all the trusses from scratch.

"We'll work from 5am to dark on the project, which is a collaboration between EIT and the Vanuatu Ministry of Health."

CJ said it's been necessary to fundraise for the team to travel to Vanuatu.

However, the EIT Students' Association viewed Cookie's grades and attendance records and decided they would pay for his flights.

"We fly over next Thursday, into Port Vila, and the Vanuatu Ministry of Health has organised a flight into Tanna, along with the chickens and pigs," Cookie said.

"The community on Tanna have been stuck without medical centres since Cyclone Pam and we've seven days to try and get the centres operational, so it'll be full on.

"It will be great to help these communities get back on their feet.

"I've been a chef for most of my working life, living away from Dannevirke, but I decided to move back to town with my family.

"Last year, I completed the EIT Level 2 foundation course in building and carpentry, before taking on the 10-month Level 3 course this year.

"Building has always been a hobby of mine and I'm thoroughly enjoying the course.

"It will be great to put the skills I've learnt so far and the tricks of the trade to good use on Tanna, thanks to the EITSA," he said.

EITSA provides awesome support to students CJ said, adding the opportunity to make a difference to the villagers on Tanna is something special.