First Rotary Club of Each Country



Brief histories of the first clubs of each geographic region


Rotary Club of Port Vila, the First Club of Vanuatu


Rotary International District 9910


A Part of Our History of Rotary in the Pacific Region




The Rotary Club of Port Vila was chartered on 2 October 1972, at the French Anciens Combattants (Returned Soldiers) club-house. A photograph taken then (provided by Jean-Marc Colardeau, the only founder-member still resident in Port Vila) shows 19 men at the first meeting, 18 of them French, holding jobs such as manager, civil servant, doctor, vet, lawyer, accountant, builder, and butcher. Jean-Paul Roumy, a bank manager, started the club, and became its first president. Meetings were conducted in French and English.

Over the years, the range of nationalities has widened to ten, with Australians, French and Fijians, being the main ones, and meetings are now usually conducted in English. The number of occupations has also risen, to 22, including retailing, hotels, real estate, insurance, photography, brewing, printing and computing. Only one member is fully retired and locally resident. Numbers were around 50 from 1983 to 1990, but have settled back due to a decrease in the expatriate population, and lack of participation by the ni-Vanuatu, and are now stable at 26, including 6 women, 8 past presidents and 6 Paul Harris Fellows (there are 2 other service clubs in Port Vila, Kiwanis and Lions, with about 12 members each). Turn-over is high, as many members come to Vanuatu to work on 2 to 3 year contracts ˇV consequently, only 5 persons remain of the 47 who were members in 1988. However, this constant renewal keeps the club fresh. A photograph of members and wives taken in September 2003 is attached, as also is the current club banner (designed by P.P. Geoff Feast).

Port Vila Club Projects.

In the 1970ˇ¦s and 80ˇ¦s, the club contributed towards numerous overseas medical evacuations, community buildings, ˇ§Handicampˇ¨ P.A.C.E. and R.Y.L.A. visits overseas, hospital equipment, Polioplus, scholarships and prizes, wheel-chairs and equipment for the disabled, donations of tools, and distributed books (many from the Ranfurly Library Service, Sydney), furniture and supplies for schools and libraries. These activities are continuing.

An anti-malaria campaign commenced in 1983 as a joint project with the Kiwanis Club, with the support of the Vanuatu Government and the World Health Organization. In 1990, this developed into R.A.M. (Rotary Against Malaria), with substantial funds coming from New Zealand ($NZ 20,000 from our District, 9910) and Australian clubs ($A8,000 from District 9570 and Gladstone, and $A5,000 from Brookvale), as well as from Australian, New Zealand, French and Japanese governments. Early club stalwarts in R.A.M. were Euan Lindsay-Smith (PHF), P.P. John Smith (PHF), P.P. Jean-Luc Bador (PHF), Jacques Schepens (PHF), P.P. the late Chris Phelps (PHF) and P.P. Claude Boudier (PHF). The campaign consisted of providing a spraying-machine costing $US13,000, bed-nets and insecticide, distributing 2,500 flip-charts and 150,000 leaflets costing $A20,000, producing a T.V. documentary, and broadcasting radio messages. It continues to this day, now called R.O.M. (Rotary Operation Mosquito), and supported by grants from the Rotary Foundation 3H of $US300,000, and $US200,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Vital assistance in obtaining these large grants was provided by District 9910, particularly from P.D.G. Rod Dennis (Orewa R.C.) and his son John, who conducted exhaustive surveys and professionally presented the results. Due to illness, Rod has been replaced by P.D.G. Ken Baird (Warkworth R.C.). Currently, P.P. Claude Boudier, our ˇ§retiredˇ¨ resident member, and director of our RAM Committee since 1995, devotes himself almost full-time to the project, which employs 4 workers, and will set up 60 aid-posts. In time, responsibility for the project will be transferred to the villages involved.

From 1995, Port Vila Rotary also became involved in a series of rural water supply projects, together with the Vanuatu Government and the Australian Army. This we called ˇ§Save Water, Save Livesˇ¨. P.P.ˇ¦s Phil Rundle (PHF) and John Smith, and Bob Cooper (PHF), followed by P.P. Robert Bohn (PHF), were leading lights in steering by 1997-8 a total of about 30 projects at a time supplying water to outer island villages. These involved some $US300,000 in matching grants from Rotary Foundation and Rotary clubs in Australia (SWSL Australia, Lismore) New Zealand (East Coast Bays, Warkworth, Mt. Roskill, Kerikeri, Dunedin clubs, New Lynn, Takapuna, Waipapa) England (Nailsea, Bristol Breakfast) and Japan (Takamatsu). Due to delays in a government department finalizing matching grants paperwork, S.W.S.L. projects have now wound down, but could be re-started on a smaller scale in future, if funds become available.

In 1995, Mark Ward (PHF) started up the supply of packs of materials for pre-schools, called ˇ§Kits for Kidzˇ¨. In 2002, a donation of $A45,000 from the Australian Government enabled Port Vila Rotary to obtain and distribute 230 ˇ§Kits for Kidzˇ¨ to pre-schools and primary schools throughout the islands.

Other Clubsˇ¦ Projects.

Port Vila Rotary also assists in the provision of Donations in Kind, which have come from Rotary Clubs in Queensland (Stanhope, Sunshine Coast, Surferˇ¦s Sunrise,Wishart), Victoria (Geelong D.I.K. Centre, Ballarat, Wendouree, Sale), South Australia (the Scott-Hoys of the Adelaide R.C.) and New Zealand, including hospital and medical equipment, eye-glasses, wheel-chairs, film canisters and school furniture. P.P. John Smith, a customs agent and haulage contractor, has provided invaluable assistance for this over 20 years. In 1997, about $A200,000 worth of D.I.K. in 5 containers was provided from District 9910 and Australia for the refurbishment of the Port Vila Dispensary, and the Centre for the Disabled, and for the Santo Hospital T.B. Ward, which was carried out by 36 F.A.I.M. Rotarians from Australian and New Zealand clubs. In 1998, Takamatsu R.C. provided 6 portable housing units worth $A180,000, temporarily used after the Kobe earthquake, which P.P. Geoff Feast had installed on Epi Island for use as school class-rooms. In 1997-98, the total value of all Rotary contributions to Vanuatu was about $US1,000,000, making it one of the top 10 aid donors.

Transport to Vanuatuˇ¦s outer islands is difficult and costly, but good relations have been built up with the U.S. Peace Corps, and visiting yachts, who have helped in distributing educational and medical supplies, including for Project M.A.R.C. (Medical Assistance to Remote Communities) which started in 2001, and is sponsored by the R.C.ˇ¦s of Park City and West Jordan, Utah, in conjunction with The Hope Alliance, of the U.S.A.

In 2001, the Upper Hutt R.C. provided the Port Vila Central Hospital with a defibrillator, and since then, there has been an increasing wave of Rotary help for Vanuatuˇ¦s ageing health system. The Upper Blue Mountains Sunrise club and Rotary District 9690 started a project in 2001 for the refurbishment of the Port Vila Central Hospital, to be spread over 3 years, and involve a series of F.A.I.M. teams visiting about every 3 months. Container loads of hospital equipment and supplies, and building materials, have been imported, and teams have come from Penrith, Beecroft, Lindfield, Parramatta, Nowra, Charlestown, District 9650, Coffs Harbour City, Epping, North Balwyn, Holroyd, Cabramatta, Upper Blue Mountains Sunrise, and West Pennant Hills, and carried out a wide range of repairs, replacements and maintenance of the hospital buildings and equipment. They have been welcomed and greatly assisted by Vila residents Chrissie and Laurie Lockwood ˇV Liles, who have been awarded PHFˇ¦s for their unstinting endeavours. Some workers on the project are branching out, and have gone down to Tanna island to replace the roof on the hospital there. Williamstown R.C. are also sending container-loads of equipment to that hospital.

New Zealand clubs are contributing to the support of the Norsup hospital on Malekula, where Dr. Derek Allen has been provided with 6-7 containers of equipment, 4WD vehicles, and a helicopter to make travelling for his calls less arduous, with some deliveries made by the R.N.Z.A.F.

Christchurch N.Z. and Frankston Vic. clubs have been sending teams up over several years to repair and extend the Tanaliu Primary School, without any funding from other sources.

District Conferences.

Port Vila Rotary hosted district conferences in 1987 (which P.P. the late Chris Phelps was prominent in organizing), and in 1998, when P.P. Phil Rundle and P.P. Loic Bernier (PHF) were to the fore, in receiving 450 Rotarians from 8 countries.


Up to 2000, the club had a low profile, and would be lucky to be mentioned in the press more than once or twice a year. Since the 2000-01 presidency of P.P. Shirley Randell, who continues as our publicity officer, we have been in the local papers every week. We also have a web-site, started in 1997.


Most of our local population have low incomes, and the expatriates are limited in number, so a substantial part of the funding for our projects comes from overseas, for which we are extremely grateful. We also raise some money ourselves, from Christmas cakes and cards sales, collection-boxes, balls, a coconut-shy, lotteries, raffles and fines.

The Future.

We see ourselves remaining very busy, with the kind of projects we do now, given our location in a developing country with many needs, and look forward to welcoming new members who will assist in that work. We also appreciate donations of funds, and in kind (though donors need to check with us first as regards suitability, needs, freight costs, etc.). And Vanuatu provides many opportunities for overseas clubs to undertake projects, which Port Vila would be glad to advise on and assist.

President 2003-4 David Hudson (PHF)
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