I got to the primary school this afternoon to sort out some of the old books and was greeted by our headmistress who was wearing the biggest grin on her face! Hundreds of books sent by my Michigan church family have arrived!

A flurry of students helped us sort out the books onto the new shelves- we were so excited I barely remembered to take photos. (excuse the blurr!)
First, the students got their hands on the new books and all they could say was “Awo awo awo!!!” as they pulled out stories about princesses and dragons and dolphins and fairies and bugs- the essential childhood topics!
Books came for every level- kindy through 8th grade, and I saw book after beautiful book from my childhood- all of the great ones: Rainbow fish, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, The hungry Catepillar, Nancy Drew, Dr. Sues, the Narnia series, and a million others. 
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Here’s Leitau in the brand new section for grades 7&8. Previously there were about 20 dusty old books for these students- now over 150 reading books alone! Great teaching resources came as well- more on that later…
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(The students were shy at first) Can you see these books?!?! A box FULL of science and social studies and every kind of subject book came full of pictures and diagrams- fantastic resources for the students AND their teachers. The school had nothing like this- and without internet easily accessible things like describing snow and deserts were difficult for these tropical island dwellers. Now we have books full of pictures on a huge range of topics. 
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On the left is our headmistress, Mrs. Noylin, and on the right Mrs. Thompson who teaches grades 1 and 2. After the students left and the dust settled they got their turn to look around. Mrs. Thompson found a stack of early Phonics books and site word cards which she quickly put her stamp on. Mrs. Noylin found “Our Government” a book about democracy for her grade 7 social studies class. THEN they found what they would be reading on their own time- “Nancy Drew all the way!”  :) 
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So this is just a brief update and a huge THANK YOU!– we still have a lot of unpacking to do! I’ll be sure to take more photos in the next few weeks as the library continues to come together and as the books start to be put into use. We plan to have an opening ceremony and an official thank you for the library the last week of school (my last week on Epi!) around Thanksgiving time.
God Bless my Grandville United Methodist Church family for sending this blessing around the world. You made 200 kids and teachers extremely happy today and are brightening the lives of hundreds more for years to come!
Sipa way sipa way sipa!!! (thank you thank you thank you!!!)
Lynn and all of Akama Primary School

Banana Pie Bars

Here’s one of my favorite recipes from Vanuatu. We bake these bars on a fire, and gather coconuts and bananas from my backyard, but I am sure that they will taste just as sweet served with love in your kitchen.
1 Cup all-purpose flour (or self-rising depending on which is available on your island)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter
2-3 ripe bananas
1 can or the milk of 2 coconuts
  1. Preheat the fire in your backyard. Make sure to gather many large logs as coals make for the most even heating. Place many large stones on the fire to be used in baking. Or preheat your oven to 350.
  2. For crust, in a large bowl stir together 1 cup flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, and the 1/4 teaspoon salt and cinnamon (optional). Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press mixture evenly and firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. 
  3. Slice the bananas and layer them onto the crust. 
  4. Pour the coconut milk over the bananas.
  5. Place the pan into a large saucepan with 1” of sand in the bottom. Put onto the fire and layer hot stones on top of the saucepan lid. (Or put it into the oven.)
  6. Bake about 25 minutes (on fire) or 15 minutes in an oven or until light golden around the edges.
  7. Remove and let chill. Traditionally delivered to neighbors on large leaves by passing children. 

What’s Cooking

Cooking on fire is hard work, its bad for your eyes and lungs, and takes a huge amount of time effort. Unfortunately for most of the people on Epi, where purchasing gas for stoves is both unsustainable financially and logistically, fire is the only option. 

That’s where my PCV friend and the Rotary Club came in. Last year Carlie Congdon worked to get “Smokeless Stoves” for her village on Epi and a village down the coast. These stoves require less firewood, emit virtually no smoke, and concentrate the heat of the fire to cook food faster. 

Since Carlie has completed her service and is now state-side, I was asked to step in and survey every household in her village and a control group to understand how the stoves have been used since they were introduced to the village last year.

Some of my loyal students and friends from my village joined me in trekking across the island and into the kitchens of 60 households over three weekends to get the data for this project. Along the way we were washed by rain, chased by goats, and shown true Epi hospitality with heaps of delicious laplap, piles of peanuts, and hours of storianing in cozy kitchens.

And the results? They love the stoves! Many households have completely given up using the traditional fire, while many others use them on a daily basis.

I’m hoping that ingenuities like this will continue to help families live healthier, happier lives across our islands.