“What a great project this has been! So far it's been the most rewarding thing I've been a part of in Vanuatu”.

Cole Smith

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When we first heard from Cole Smith in 2016 we had to Google Vanuatu from where he contacted us. Vanuatu is a South Pacific Ocean nation made up of roughly 80 islands that stretch 1,300 kilometers.

Cole and his wife Caroline were volunteering in Vanuatu and noticed how many people had to walk long distances to collect water. Cole identified the Hippo Roller as the best tool to help people deal with the situation and quickly set up a crowdfunding page on the Hippo Roller website to raise enough money to send two rollers to Vanuatu.

Vanuatu crowdfunding page

In no time at all he had raised over $600. This was enough to cover the two Hippo Rollers and the shipping to Vanuatu. The Hippo Rollers soon arrived in Vanuatu albeit some delays with the Customs Officials.

The water crisis

Soon after this the water situation became more serious and the water source that supplied the community had run dry. Cole and Caroline joined the queue of people filling up our buckets and bottles at the river or the spring. The river where water could be collected was a 30 minute round trip for most households.

Cole said this of the problem,

“This is hard work! It is normally left to the women (including elderly) and children, who perform the vast majority of chores. Some villagers walk in excess of one hour roundtrip to reach the water source. Few have wheelbarrows or a vehicle to utilize. Most come back with just a few litres of water due to the weight and inadequate containers. Even the strongest men can only carry a few gallons of water these long distances!”

Because of this worsening situation and the success of the first two Hippo Rollers, Cole decided to raise additional funds to bring more Hippo Rollers to Vanuatu.

He updated his campaign, shared the success of the first two rollers and made his goal known and money started coming in. Pretty soon he had enough money to send an additional 12 Hippo Rollers to Vanuatu!

Social impact

The Hippo Rollers were shipped and they arrived in Vanuatu just before Christmas and were quickly put to use.

  • The Hippo Rollers are shared by the community and make dozens of trips each day.
  • Each container holds nearly 24 gallons (90 litres) and is easy enough for women and children to push through the difficult terrain.
  • Students, teachers, grandmas, parents and even small children use the rollers.
  • The community is able to collect a lot more water than previously with less effort and time.

Cole and Caroline were able to make an immediate and lasting difference for many people in Vanuatu by their crowdfunding efforts. His project not only benefited the community but it also was rewarding for him. In his last update he said, “What a great project this has been! So far it’s been the most rewarding thing I’ve been a part of in Vanuatu”.

Lessons learned

Unfortunately, Cole experienced some issues with Customs in Vanuatu and had to pay a considerable amount to have the Hippo Rollers released. Later he suggested that one should apply for Tax Exemption before arrival of the shipment to ensure that the duties are kept to a minimum.