It was a trip of a lifetime. Stan and Noelene Ceglinski had never been on a holiday before. Deciding it was time they got a chance to see what all the travelling palaver was about family and friends chipped in and their eldest son Simon organised a balcony room on a cruise ship that would take them, among other places, into port in Vanuatu.
‘It was the first time I’d done nothing in my life,’ said Stan.
‘My wife Noelene has been disabled for 22 years but she still gets out there working in the community collecting rubbish on the beach in the early morning and working at the Food Box in Mullum helping people – so this holiday was really good for her,’ Stan said with pride.
While this may have been their first and only holiday the experience continues to reverberate through their lives and the lives of the people they met in Vanuatu on their last shore day.
‘As we got off the ship there were four young guys playing music with a T-chest base and a guitar with only four strings. I asked if I could join in with my harmonica and then started making up a song about a big white ship coming to our island,’ said Stan.
In the mean time Noelene was taking a look around the maze of markets and making friends with the stall holders, mostly grandmothers and mothers.
All about the family
Finally Stan dragged himself away from playing music with the locals and they found a local called Morson who took them around the island tao see the ‘real Vanuatu’.
‘We discovered their roads are just like ours,’ said Stan with a laugh.
Seeing the poor condition of the villages and schools touched the Ceglinski’s hearts.
‘People only make about $70 a week and the money they make goes on basics like soap, sugar and salt they have a really basic existence,’ Stan explained.
‘They share all the money they make with the family to support each other.’
Back at the market heading for the boat Helen, who ran one of the stalls Noelene had bought some things at earlier in the day, called out to Noelene and her and gave her a dress.
‘It was worth about $25 so that was 10 to 15 per cent of what she earns in a week,’ said Stan.
In the mean time the musicians called to Stan asking him to join them and he then made up a song about the big white boat sailing away.
‘Me and the boys were playing away together and this woman from the boat comes up covered in gold and asked if she could take a photo. The guy with only four strings on his guitar said sure – but I said it’ll cost you $5. Someone else wanted to take a video so I said they could throw in $10,’ Stan said with a laugh.
‘Then I started singing that if you enjoyed your day on the island you could make a contribution to our appreciation box. It quickly went up to $35 then $50 – the boys were blown away. The women in the market place started to clap and cheer. And later I was told they were calling out “go Stan, go”.
‘I didn’t want to go, but they were pulling up the gang plank in five minutes so the boys gave me a hug and I got back on the boat.’
A quiet cuppa
A little later Stan and Noelene were having a quiet cuppa on the ship when they met a young Vanuatuan girl working on the ship and asked her how they could help the lovely people they’d met.
‘She told us Helen is a grandmother and has what she needs but that the kids could do with some balls, toys and colouring books and pencils, that sort of thing,’ Stan explained.
So since their arrival back Stan and Noelene have put the word out that they were going to send some things out to Vanutatu for the kids. The Mullumbimby Chamber of Commerce, True Wheel Cycles, Gill and Barry Lomath with other members of the Uniting Church, Stan’s mate Slim Pickings and lots of others have come on board donating toys, instruments, tools, colouring books and pencils. Last week they sent off two boxes weighing in at 35kg to Vanuatu to be distributed by Helen and Morson to local schools and children. Air Vanuatu has flown the goods over for free.
‘We’ve still got people donating things so we will send another couple of boxes over in the new year,’ said Stan.