Take It From Me: Rachel Nikiatu

October 27, 2012

Rachel Nikiatu

Today we have our first guest story, written by the director of Painting for Poverty, Shaina Leavitt.
I met Rachel about six months ago, she’s a cute little girl with a shy smile. She has a beautiful eyes and is usually wearing a hand-me down skirt. The skirt she was wearing the day I met her had been mine when I was a flower girl at my Uncle’s wedding. I had passed it on to my little sister who then passed it to Rachel’s older sisters about three years ago, and it has now ended up with Rachel.  I wonder who will wear it next. It has faded somewhere along the line and has many different colorful stains, but surprisingly few holes in it. Rachel is in class 3; she speaks Bislama and is learning English. She runs around with the children in Isini as if she had lived there her whole life, but like many other children, she has a story. 

Elizabeth, her new mommy, told me if you had seen Rachel two years ago you would not have recognized her. The day she came to them she didn’t have a stitch of clothes on her and she was malnourished and and hungry. She was 7 years old but could not speak a word of Bislama (the national language of Vanuatu). Rachel was born in a custom village deep in the island of Tanna. The village was very traditional. There were no stores or schools there. Rachel has an older brother with a disability.  Because of this he and their father, Tom, would make the long journey down to the hospital quite often. Elizabeth lived near the hospital and said when Tom and his son came to the hospital, neither of them would have any clothes or food. Elizabeth didn’t have much, she and her husband worked day in and day out to be able to cloth, feed and educate their four children, but she would still always find clothes and food to give Tom and his son.
One day when Tom came to visit the hospital he brought Rachel with him. He said to Elizabeth, “You have always fed us and clothed us, she will have a better life with you.  If she stays with us she will not be educated. Will you take my daughter?” This father had not been able to get an education himself nor educate any of his children. He could see the struggle his village had to survive because of lack of education. He wanted to give his child a way so she could know a different life. Despite the struggle Elizabeth and her husband already faced trying to educate their four children, they took Rachel in and adopted her. Rachel is a joy to her new family and is thriving in school. Elizabeth says it is hard but they feel so blessed to have Rachel. I am sure it was a very difficult sacrifice for Tom, giving up such a beautiful daughter. I just hope it was not in vain and Rachel is able to continue to go to school, so she will be able to have a different life than both her families.

If you are interested in the Vanuatu Christmas Project please read about here!


  1. what a touching story. thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Thanks for the great story and wonderful pictures of this brave little girl...it's awesome to see a life transformed!! Blessings, Nancy


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