Rotary in Action – International Good in Our Own Backyard


Glenys Parton shares her story of meeting Vinna and how Rotary has helped her reunite with her family.

Over Easter, 2019, I had the experience of walking alongside Vinna as she made the journey back to her village in Tanna, Vanuatu to reconnect with her roots and her family. It was a privilege to be part of this journey.

Vinna’s story began on Saturday, 29 April 2017, when she arrived in New Zealand a young small broken girl having sustained an infected double fracture of her femur. After complex and lengthy orthopaedic treatment, we have returned a strong, healthy and resilient young woman to her family.

Two years is a long time to be disconnected from family, to trust others who are strangers to care for you in unfamiliar surroundings.

However, the most poignant moment unfolded at White Grass airport in Tanna when Vinna’s sister Elizabeth stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Vinna in pure love and joy – a smile extended across her face as she took in her younger sister – you could see she could hardly believe her eyes – she had most likely thought she would never see Vinna again.

Vinna’s mother, father, brother and cousin were equally thrilled to see her.

This was the beginning of a welcome back that was embraced by the warmth and love of the whole village – a Grandmother and Grandfather – joyous and hugging Vinna – the children calling her name – she was still an integral part of the memory of this community – albeit looking a little different on her return.

The village celebrated Vinna’s return both in song and dance –the men chanting and dancing, then the women joined – their song adding crescendo to the celebration. It was heartening to see Vinna leap up and be part of this celebration alongside her blood sister and amongst her village sisters. It was clear these were her roots – she was connected in every way.

The Chief of the village opened his tok tok expressing how grateful they were for the healing, the caring and the return of their loved one to them.

I thanked them for trusting us with their daughter, thanked them for their patience in the long time that the healing had taken and to let them know that we were not quite there and Vinna needed to remain in Port Vila for the next year for regular checks ahead of the final surgery. I also responded to a reference to disability made in relation to her built up shoe. I encouraged the villagers to look for the ability in each and every person and not be focused on the disability. I pointed to Vinna’s leg and said she does not have a disability – she is a whole person with a whole lot of potential ability.

When it came time to leave for my overnight accommodation Vinna was nowhere to be seen – blending into the myriads of small faces that made up the hope of a new generation of villagers.

As Vinna has moved back into Ni-van life she has done so standing tall with confidence.

By Glenys Parton