Our work overseas

The Pacific Workers Coming To New Zealand To Help Their Families Back Home

Meet 31-year-old Michael Leo from Vanuatu. He works on an Orchard in Hawke's Bay to help his wife and two children back home.

31-year-old Michael Leo winds his way between the rows of Fuji apple trees in Bellingham Orchard, Hawke’s Bay. His face and hands are darkened by the sun. Sweat runs down his forehead.

This is Michael’s third time in New Zealand under the seasonal worker scheme.

“Life is so easy in New Zealand” says Michael. He chuckles as he remembers turning on a tap in Hastings for the first time and being able to access water 24 hours a day. “If you want cold water, hot water, everything is there. Life is good here.”

Michael says people are struggling back in Vanuatu.

“There’s not enough jobs back in Vanuatu so we’re lucky the New Zealand Government has this (RSE) offer. I was so happy because I have kids and we need to live,” he says.

Michael has travelled from Vanuatu to work in New Zealand
Michael has travelled from Vanuatu to work in New Zealand

Michael’s wife and their two children, eight-year old Wayne and three-year old Wenona, live a simple life in Espiritu Santo, the largest island in Vanuatu.

The Government water supply doesn’t reach their home, so they have to pay for water to be drilled and then pump it by hand. When the hand pumps stop working, they are forced to collect water from the streams, then hoist large buckets onto their backs for the arduous walk home. That, Michael says, is what hard work looks like.  

30% of schools don’t have safe drinking water in Vanuatu and 25% of schools have no hand-washing facilities. Children are frequently sick because of dirty water.

UNICEF is currently working to provide safe drinking water, hand washing facilities and separate toilets for boys and girls. Approximately 64 Primary and 15 Secondary Schools will have access to clean water. This is supported by The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Aid Programme.

Every $1 you give to UNICEF's Pacific Project Champion appeal is matched by up to $9 by New Zealand Government - helping to make a life-changing difference for children across the Pacific.

“Without clean water and proper sanitation, the lives of thousands of children in Vanuatu are at risk. UNICEF won't stop until every child can access safe water,” says UNICEF Programmes Manager Rosemary Fenton.

Michael wants his children to have a good education. Every dollar Michael saves in New Zealand is precious. Every pay check helps to support his family and his community in Vanuatu.

With Michael’s savings, his village now has a new water pump. Families no longer have to carry buckets of water back from the stream.

“In Vanuatu we’re used to doing hard jobs,” says Michael proudly.

UNICEF NZ is working in the Pacific to improve water and sanitation facilities, and education services, for communities where many RSE workers come from.  

To support UNICEF's work for children in the Pacific, please click here.