Ottery family leave a piece of their hearts in Melanesia

An Ottery family have just got back from three months on the other side of the world doing volunteer work, but already can’t wait to get back.

Ian and Katie Drew, along with their daughters Lara and Erin have been in the islands of Melanesia since the end of May on a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

But they are already trying to work out how they can get back to the capital Honiara, 9,000 miles from Ottery, after saying the people they met have captured part of their hearts.

Katie, who is the administrator at Ottery Parish Church, worked with the branch of the Mothers Union, and Ian, who works in Devon County Council’s IT department, took three months unpaid leave to help out with their computer systems.

Katie said: “He spent the first few weeks just fire fighting, trying to fix all the problems.

“The major problem on the islands is communication.”

She had her work cut out at the Mother’s Union as well, adding: “They hadn’t done any filing for about five years!”

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But Katie also found that the volunteers at the union performs a vital task to the people of the islands, educating young women on marriage to teaching them vital skills to make a living.

Whilst the other pupils at Feniton Primary School were enjoying summer holidays, Lara, 8 and Erin, 7 were back in the classroom.

Their school is twinned with the Norman Palmer School on Honiara, and the sisters presented a banner created at Feniton to give to their Melanesian counterparts.

The story even made the Solomon Island newspapers, and the girls became known as the ‘two Barbie dolls’ due to their distinctive blonde hair.

Since their return the Drews have been in hot demand to give talks about their experiences in Melanesia and want to continue to raise money for further exchange visits and to be able to send a container full of clothes, books and other items the islanders need.

Katie said the trip had made her realise how fortunate we are in Britain to have access to hospitals, schools and other things we take for granted which are out of reach to most Melanesians.

She added: “We keep trying to work out how to go back

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