On the Vanuatu islands, the Wan Smolbag Theatre NGO believes that performing arts can change the world. Here, they use theatre and film production to change behavior within the populations of Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands with regards to the environment, health and citizenship. The theatre performances touch on a variety of topics: agriculture, fishing, but also nutrition and health, to educate people on the benefits of a balanced diet. Founded in 1989, this NGO now has 100 employees and 400 volunteers.
In addition to the artistic offering, the NGO has implemented many educational programmes. These pathfinders for change have protected turtles and the coral reef to better preserve the environment. They have fought domestic violence and promoted the role of women in society. Finally, they are also involved in the prevention of STIs, in particular HIV. This prevention has allowed for a considerable increase in the number of young women who seek information on contraception, and it has also changed mentalities markedly within the community. Today, more and more men, who often believed previously that contraception was a woman’s responsibility, come to pick up birth control pills for their partner, as well as condoms.
"The people of Vanuatu and Wan Smolbag Theatre are extremely friendly and they made me feel part of their family, which made it extremely hard when I had to make the call to leave three days early because Cyclone Pam was bearing down on to the Vanuatu Islands. And then to watch from a distance as the cyclone did its damage was heartbreaking. I swapped emails with the theatre group in the days after the cyclone and was impressed by their resilience in the aftermath of the disaster."