‘Fix-em- up one bugger-up-world’ or to translate ‘Fixing a broken world’, kind of says it all, or so Bridget Isichei discovered once she finally faced the reality, that this place, this island in the group known as Vanuatu, was to be her home for the next two years; not the luxury resort and towns touted in the brochures supplied to the tourist trade, but the real Vanuatu, at a place called Luganville, little more than a shanty town.
Sent there, with the New Zealand aid organisation Volunteer Services Abroad, to work with the local women to help improve the standards of early childhood development, she soon realised the challenge ahead of her was far more than she through she had signed up for in the safety of New Zealand.
But as time went by and she very slowly began to integrate and understand the culture of the area, she not only offered much to the women, but discovered she had received much more in return.
Many people she worked with and came to know and value, come vividly to life as Bridget begins to understand that black magic and Christianity operate side by side, that women are considered of no real account in society, men simply can do no wrong and that the non-traditional dress introduced by the missionaries, the ‘Mother Hubbard’, was considered the dress of the day for the women.
So what happens when she offers to the Island women who are running small pre-schools in some of the villages, the opportunity to enrol in a correspondence course which would give them real qualifications?
The men were incensed, the women overjoyed but very, very, cautious, eager to begin. Raising the money for the fees was something of a challenge, retaining the money raised by the women from their husbands was yet another challenge, as was dealing with the male driven bureaucracy each time forms had to be lodged, fees paid, text books collected and certificates obtained.
Bridget more than once felt she had stepped into the world of Alice, once she went down the rabbit hole, but soon learned the value of community, caring, gratitude, faith and contentment that each of these women offered, often in time of great personal adversity and sorrow.
Bridget’s story is one that will remain with you for a very long time, with people such as the Mustard Shorts Man, the Telephone Man and Office Man popping in and out of your memory at will, as do the wonderful women who all graduated to become the first educated women on their island, making this not only totally an enjoyable, but absolutely inspirational book.
Road No Good, which by the way is the name of the road she lived on, is a wonderfully truthful journey into a world which still exists today, epitomising the resilience of the human spirit to overcome great odds.