DART Vanuatu Deployment

After the South Pacific is hit by a devastating category 5 Cyclone DART send a team of Volunteers to help aid the clean up effort

Tree blown over by Typhoon

16/03/2015 The operations team and trustees have met and agreed that we should deploy a team as soon as possible to Vanuatu in the South Pacific which has been devastated by Cyclone Pam. The category five storm hit Vanuatu on Saturday, bringing wind gusts of up to 300km/h (185mph).


17/03/2015 Mike Metcalfe Operations Manager (Trustee and Charity Secretary) has released the following statement:

DART International UK are preparing to deploy volunteer specialists to cyclone hit Vanuatu in the South Pacific to support the ongoing international rescue effort.  DART’s team of professionally qualified and fully equipped arborists will help clear the some of the thousands of trees uprooted by Cyclone PAM when it tore through the region last weekend.  ‘Early reports from Vanuatu have highlighted the widespread damage caused by fallen trees, with vital roads blocked, buildings flattened or damaged and extensive flooding.’ said Mike Metcalfe, DART’s operations manager.  ‘Our team will aim to work alongside other aid agencies, clearing the most obstructive of those trees safely and efficiently, enabling them to get on the with job of delivering much needed food and shelter aid more effectively’ he added.

The DART team will be led by the charity founder Gary Bailey, a utility arborist for green services provider Glendale.  Speaking from his home in Truro, where he was packing tools and personal equipment in preparation for the 32 hour flight to Vanuatu, Gary said that he was under no illusions about the severity of the situation.  ‘Initial indications are that the devastation to rural communities is far more significant than even in the capital city, Port Vila, which is itself in extremely poor shape.  The situation is very reminiscent of what we experienced in the Philippines after typhoon Haiyan, so I’m confident that what we’re going out there to do will make a difference.’  Details of how to support DART International UK’s work can be found on their website.


20:48 Flight left Heathrow for Singapore
15:30 Checking in Terminal 2 Heathrow and negotiating excess baggage allowance/ costs, which with the generosity of Singapore Airlines has been wavered

The kit is all packed up and all loaded into the van heading off to London Heathrow for their first flight of 12h 40 mins to Singapore at 20:35.




Good morning all,

Gary Bailey and Andy Macpherson are safely on their way, hopefully arriving in Singapore about now.  Their ETA in Port Vila is still 18 hours away!  Both Singapore and Vanuatu airlines have been very cooperative with regard to their excess baggage.  Both team members were extremely disciplined in their personal baggage and some hard decisions were made with regard to arborist equipment, but they were still 30kg over their allocated weight allowance! There’s no getting away from it – chainsaws, ropes, strops, pulleys, etc are heavy bits of kit!

There was also a need for our team to carry three weeks worth of dehydrated food to sustain them through the weeks ahead.  It’s a corner stone of the DART philosophy that our volunteers will arrive self sufficient in food and shelter for the duration of their deployment, rather than become an additional burden on the affected community they are there to help.

This morning the Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office have issued the Initial Needs Assessment Reports for the outlying provinces and islands – Ambrym, Emae, Pentacost and Tanna. There has been a great deal of speculation in the international press regarding the situation in those remote areas and islands away from the capital Port Vila.  The reports make sobering reading!  They all highlight the problems caused by fallen trees blocking roads and vital infrastructure and importantly, the urgent need for chainsaws!  The DART team arre going to be kept very busy and there may even be a requirement for a follow on deployment if sufficient funding can be obtained.

Once again, on behalf of the trustees and volunteers of DART International UK, I would like to thank our sponsors for their generosity and support in mounting this operation to Vanuatu.  All the sponsors listed on our webpage have contributed vital equipment, but in particular we would like to thank Glendale and Fletcher Stewart/Stein for their invaluable financial support and backing.

Best regards

Mike Metcalfe

Operations Manager


Vanuatu deployment update #1

20/03/15 09:00

Just received word from the team that they’ve arrived safely in Port Vila the capital of Vanuatu and have already made contact with a member of the UN Disaster and Assessment Coordination team, the Australia Aid team leader and other supporting NGOs. The tree related devastation around Port Vila is severe, but as expected the aid effort is now starting to focus on the more remote areas and outlying islands; in particular Tanna which took the full brunt of the cyclone and is reportedly very badly affected. The DART concept has been warmly received by everyone the team has met so far and there’s a possibility that they will be flying out to Tanna tomorrow, providing approval can be obtained from the government coordination centre and there’s room on the military flight.

Understandably, communications are still difficult, but the team will let us know more as and when they get the opportunity and I’ll try to keep you updated on their progress.

Best regards

Mike Metcalfe



21/03/15 09:00

Vanuatu deployment update #2

Good morning all
Just received a quick update from our team via a borrowed Satphone.  They spent yesterday introducing themselves to the various organisational authorities, attending the Regional Command Meeting and making people aware of their presence, equipment and capabilities.  They have also established some useful relationships with various NGOs operating out of Port Vila.  Their intentions over the next 24 hours are to start breaking out of Port Vila to address some of the many blocked roads and other infrastructure issues that are delaying the distribution of aid to areas beyond the capital.  They send their regards to everyone and appreciate your best wishes and support.

Copied below is a list of recommendations taken from the latest National Disaster Management Office assessment report.  Note the highlighted requirement for chainsaws for both shelter reconstruction and general logistic support!

Mike Metcalfe



a. Provision of seedlings to be considered to stimulate recovery of food gardens. In the meantime, food distribution will be required.


b. Urgent planning for provision of water in the short term.
c. Water quality assessments (taking into account local opinions regarding contamination of ground water sources)
d. Rainwater harvesting equipment (tanks, gutters, pipes).
e. Hygiene kits and soaps needed.

Emergency shelter

f. Temporary shelter required to reduce crowding in remaining dwellings, provide shade and promote self‐recovery.
g. Chainsaws for rebuilding


h. Restock of dressings and wound care supplies and medicines.
i. One referral boat needs to be replaced or repaired urgently.


j. More chainsaws are needed for debris clearance and house rebuilding.
k. Coastal road also needs to be cleared/repaired for sea‐transport.


22/03/15 10:30

Vanuatu deployment update #3

Good morning all,

Latest update from Vanuatu:

The team have met the heads of two communities beyond the capital Port Vila – Melle to the north west and Erakor to the south – and scheduled work for the next 4 days.  These villages have populations of about 2000 people and both are struggling to get back on their feet.  Gary and Andy are heading to Melle first, where the school has been completely destroyed and the local community have identified clearing the building of fallen trees and debris as their top priority.  Getting the local school up and running will inject some much needed normality and routine into the lives of the children and free up more adults to set about reconstructing homes, planting food and restoring livelihoods.  The team will then move down to Erakor to help that village as directed by their community leaders.

The trip out to Tanna didn’t materialize yesterday because the military would not allow any civilian HAZMAT on their flights, so the team would have been unable to transport fuel for their chainsaws and there is none available on the island.  The AUS/NZ military engineers are arriving there in force and with heavy equipment early next week anyway, so our small team would have had limited impact.

The guys are both well and eager to get to work.  To quote Andy directly, “There is ten years of tree work out here!”  They are clearly making every effort to put themselves and their equipment at the disposal of the local government coordinating authorities; something that is entirely appropriate and necessary.  We had an email this morning from Kim Williams at the NZ diplomatic residence, illustrating the good impression they’ve already made and the professionalism they’re demonstrating at a high level:

Good Afternoon All,

Was great to conduct introductions with Andy MacPherson and Gary Bailey in Port Vila today.   The services on offer from DART at this time in Vanuatu are considerably appropriate given the scale of devastation and nature of the vegetation here……We are seeking to let others know of the services on offer and are grateful for the skill set and professional positive attitude that Gary and Andy have brought to this trying situation….As discussed with our Aid personnel it is important that local authorities instruct on priorities and areas of work to ensure the collective efforts of all NGO’s and Aid providers are well coordinated and best utilised.

Kind Regards

Kim Williams
Manager, Asset Development Asset Management Division
New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade | Manatū Aorer


23/03/15 22:30

Vanuatu deployment update #4

Good evening all,

Please see attached some photos of the work the team have been doing today under the direction of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Utilities to make a primary school safe in Vanuatu.

Andy Macpherson climbing to remove damaged and hanging branches above the school grounds and a poignant message on the blackboard of a roofless classroom.




25/03/15 10:30

Vanuatu deployment update #5

Morning all,

Update from the team this morning to say that they’re working at another school – Villa Central – with 1000 children on the role, plus another 100 little ones in kindergarten.  The school has only been semi-operational due to storm damage to trees and dangerous limbs hanging over the grounds, so the lads are busy addressing those problems.  Their work is receiving lots of interest and support with manual labour from the local community including the police who’ve been assisting the team with traffic control.

Please see attached photographs.


Mike Metcalfe
Ops Manager


26/03/15 08:30

Vanuatu deployment update #6

Good morning all,

The team have now finished their tasking at the Villa Central School.  They’ve done a great job in making the school grounds and areas around the school safe, so that it can now fully open.

Under the direction of the Australian aid coordination authority they are now moving to Nguna and Pele Islands (smaller islands to the north of Shefa) to focus on vital road clearance.  The island ferry service is now up and running, but movement and aid delivery around the island is being hindered by fallen trees blocking the main routes.  Australian aid are providing funding for fuel and assisting our guys with transport to get there.  They’re not expecting to have access to anything other than emergency communications while working on the islands, so will probably go quiet for a while.

We’ve received some ‘professional’ photographs of the guys working at Villa Central from a NZ military photographer Chris Weissenborn, which we’ll get in the Facebook pictures folder idc.  Chris has kindly given the charity permission to use his work to publicize the good work the Vanuatu team are doing out there.

Best regards

Mike Metcalfe

DART Photography by Chris Weissenborn - chrispics@gmail.com
DART Photography by Chris Weissenborn – chrispics@gmail.com


29/03/15 16:30

Vanuatu deployment update #7

Good Afternoon all,
The team have returned to the capital, having achieved some really useful work for the island community of Ngunu.  Assisted by a team of 11 local people, they’ve cleared 2.5 km of main track and restored access to the village school.  They also achieved some valuable training, showing people how to maintain and sharpen a saw.

The following day they cleared a massive mango tree that was blocking access to Elle school and kindergarten, before crossing the island to another village school to remove dangerous branches and limbs that were hanging above the school grounds.  Tomorrow, the police inspector in Port Villa is driving Gary and Andy out beyond the capital to some rural communities who have requested assistance from the DART team.

The guys are working hard, but in good spirits and clearly enjoying lots of support and assistance from the local communities with whom they’ve been working.  The headmaster of Central Villa school, where they were operating last week, has kindly once again offered the lads accommodation at his home while they’re in the capital.

Mike Metcalfe
Ops Manager


31/03/15 08:30

Vanuatu deployment update #8

Good morning all

The team are now working at the College in Monmartre.  The school is situated on high ground and took a heavy hit from the cyclone as you can see from the attached photographs.  Gary and Andy’s work will once again focus on tree triage, making the area around the school safe from damaged and hanging tree limbs, opening up access and generally helping to get the school up and running again.

If you’ve been following previous updates you’ll be aware that they’ve done some terrific work in helping several of the island’s schools to reopen.  The priority has, of course, been to make the schools safe and they’ve done a great job in that respect, but there is also an important tree conservation aspect to their work.  Many of the fruit trees the guys have been working on are hugely important to the schools and local community as a source of food.  Without the team’s specialist climbing and arborist skills, many of those damaged trees would undoubtedly have been felled and lost forever, simply to make the area safe.

Education in Vanuatu is very different to what we’re familiar with here in the UK.  There are no free schools, both public and private schools are funded from fees. There are a number of primary schools in Port Vila and also some smaller villages have their own primary school. Most Vanuatu children are unable to continue their education beyond the primary school level. The main reason for this is due to low income wages.  Most Vanuatu families have at least three children so it means they could pay 4 months salary just for school fees.

Schools in Vanuatu usually have their own fruit gardens, vegetable gardens from which they grow vegetables, sweet corn, manioc, sweet potatoes, igname and taro and at least twice a week, students work in the gardens. In this way, boarding schools are able to save money by growing, cooking and eating food from their own gardens. It is also good because the students learn more than just academic subjects, they learn life skills as well, and not just how to grow plants, but every Saturday and Sunday they have to cook their own food as well because there is no cook on the weekends.

Monmartre College where the team are currently working was the first French school in Vanuatu, and it’s still the best. It is a Catholic boarding school with 350 boys and girls from Year 7 to 10, another 150 boys and girls Year 11 and to 13, all of whom only get to go back to town once a month. The students and most of the teachers are Ni Vanuatu (this is what the indigenous people are called), but they do receive help from around the world. Before the cyclone, everyone lived on site; in a private house for the teachers and a large dormitory for the students.

There are a few international schools like Port Vila International School which offeres education up to Grade 10 based on the Australian and New Zealand curriculum to children of expatriates, but most expatriates send their children to Australia and New Zealand for secondary school and for university.

Best regards

Mike Metcalfe
Operations Manager



Final update - ‪#‎Vanuatu‬ Deployment

Gary and Andy have now completed their deployment and are beginning the long haul home. They're scheduled to land at London Heathrow on Friday afternoon.

Over the Easter period they returned to the more remote ‪#‎Nguna‬ and‪#‎Emao‬ islands to complete work they began with those communities earlier in the deployment. Gary and Andy had another good reason for returning: Our ‪#‎chainsaw‬ sponsor Makita UK and our climbing equipment and ‪#‎PPE‬ sponsor Fletcher Stewart, Stein Products Limited, generously offered to donate the teams equipment to a worthy local project or community. As part of the deal, Gary and Andy would provide the recipients with the appropriate level of chainsaw safety and maintenance training.

This is what Gary had to say about the recipients of the two Makita saws:

'Phillip (known as Fifi) is 21 and the father of a one year child. He lives on Nguna Island where he normally makes a living processing timber, using his father's aging chainsaw. Fifi lives in a village that was badly hit by the cyclone. His own house was badly damaged, yet he spent 2 weeks voluntarily clearing debris from his and the other four villages on the island. On our arrival he worked extremely hard in support of our operation and although he was already competent on a saw, he responded well to our training and quickly learned a range of different methods and techniques to become a safer operator. We donated one Makita Tools 50cc chainsaw, along with full Stein PPE and fuel. As a result, Fifi is intending to take his skills and equipment to work on other islands.

David is a carpenter with 3 children and partner to a teacher who helped us out enormously when we first arrived by putting us up in her classroom. Once again, despite his own home being badly damaged in the cyclone, David has been working tirelessly to help other villagers rebuild their homes and he took time out and worked hard to help us with what we were trying to achieve. His skill as a carpenter, combined with the help he was selflessly giving to others, convinced us that David would make good use of the donation. We give him full training and Stein PPE to go with his 50cc Makita chainsaw.

The gratitude, generosity and selflessness of the Vanuatu people is truly humbling. These largely self-sufficient and resourceful remote island communities have had their lives turned upside down by Cyclone PAM. Yet they remain resolutely upbeat; genuinely interested in our very different lives and always ready to share what little they have with a smile and a handshake. Thanks to the generosity of Stein and Makita, Andy and I both feel we've left a real legacy by donating this equipment to Fifi and David.'

Best Regards
Mike Metcalfe
Operations Manager