Australian SRT Member Leads Rotary Team in PNG

Australian ShelterBox Response Team member, Greg Moran, from Inverell, NSW has just returned from Kokoda in Papua New Guinea where he led a team of rotarians helping to build a hospital. Earlier this year, Greg led a ShelterBox Response Team in Tasmania following the devastating bush fires. Here, is up to something a little different, you can read Greg’s report below.

Rotary volunteers and locals club together to build the new hospital

Rotary volunteers and locals club together to build the new hospital

“A group of nine volunteers, made up of members of three Rotary clubs and other volunteers, spent two weeks during late August and early September at Kokoda, Papua New Guinea. Led by Greg Moran from Inverell Rotary Club the main project was the commencement of a building to be used primarily as a Hospital Aids Clinic. Funding was provided by a private endowment to Rotary.

The group comprising Greg and Sue Moran, Phil Goddard, Lyn Eddie and Terry Cross from Inverell, Bob Swain, Richard Clarke and Arthur Hall from Warialda and Bob Missingham from Murwillumbah arrived in Port Moresby on 20th August and spent some time sight-seeing and visiting Bomana War Cemetery before flying to Popondetta the following day. With all the extra luggage (eight laptop computers and nine boxes) it was a challenge transporting it all and some overweight had to unfortunately be paid so that they could fly in PNG. They had a welcoming committee waiting for them at the airport and again at Kokoda Hospital when staff, locals and even the local member held an official welcome as well as decorating the accommodation with brightly coloured flowers.

Work progressed well on the AIDs clinic with the help of six local volunteers as well as five vocational students doing work experience. Bob Swain often worked late training locals with welding skills. The group initially threw their efforts into organising the work site, with foundations and footings being dug and concreted with steel foundations. This allowed the team to also work on footpaths, ramps and steps for the Clinic building while waiting for the delivery of the timber for the floor joists and bearers. When this timber was delivered the flooring and prefabricated walls were completed. Time was also found to complete maintenance on the main hospital replacing flywire and fixing roof leaks, some painting and the installation of three tanks on existing buildings that were completed on the previous trip.

A team of Rotarians from Inverell, Warialda and Murwillimbah have commenced building a Hospital in the remote Kokoda region of PNG

A team of Rotarians from Inverell, Warialda and Murwillimbah have commenced building a Hospital in the remote Kokoda region of PNG

The Rotary teams worked closely with the local workers and Tech students who learned a variety of skills from the team members from Australia. The team also learned a few skills from the locals as well, and the interaction and friendships between the groups was very evident when it was time for the team to return home. Fortuately the team had a kit of new power tools to carry out the building works thanks to the generosity of Bunnings, Inverell and Ozito tools, and the local workmen were most impressed when taught to use these tools.

While the men were involved in the building the two ladies in the team were involved in various teaching activities and the distribution of a large amount of donated items. Eight preloved laptop computers provided by Pam Vincent and Computerbank were used in computer lessons for hospital staff and other local professionals. Some people had more advanced training while the majority had no previous computer experience and were very excited to learn some valuable skills that could be used in their everyday work.

Concrete and steel foundations for the new hospital

Concrete and steel foundations for the new hospital, new skills are learned by the local volunteers.

Two donated electric sewing machines and a large amount of fabric had a number of ladies very excited with learning new skills. Each day they spent several hours learning to sew as well as producing shoulder bags, simple items of clothing and stuffed toys. As well as being able to make much needed items for their own families, they saw this as an opportunity for the future to produce items that they could sell at the local markets for much needed cash. Donated knitting needles and wool were used for knitting classes and the ladies loved the fact that they could knit items in their spare time.

A large quantity of children’s clothing made by Elsie McIlhenney was distributed to needy children. Many children in this area don’t possess any or very little clothing so were very excited to have lovely new clothes. Bras were collected by Moree Rotary Club and were very popular with the local ladies as it is difficult and expensive for them to buy these items. Lightning Ridge Rotary Club put together baby kits which are provided to mothers who give birth at the hospital. This is an incentive for the mothers to have their delivery at the hospital and has been proved to increase the survival rate for both mothers and babies. Red Cross donated some knitted teddy bears for the children in the hospital and these were very gratefully received by the children who have no other toys. They were also copied by the knitting ladies. As well, donated First Aid books and bandages were put to good use in the training and resourcing of village volunteers. A big thank you to everyone in Inverell and other towns who made it possible for the donation of all these items.

As well as working on these projects, the team had the opportunity for some recreation. This is the very scenic and iconic area of the Kokoda track, with brightly coloured flowers, green countryside and the majestic mountains of the Owen Stanley Range. The team spent a pleasant afternoon walking the first part of the Kokoda Track, visited Mamba Estate, originally the home of legendary Bert Kienzel, the man responsible for organizing the supply lines for the Kokoda Campaign and at the end of the two weeks away visiting Sanananda, site of some of the most ferocious fighting in PNG during the war when the Japanese were pushed off the island. The local landowners have built a traditional guest house next to the beach and treated the team to a traditional welcome, a beautiful meal and a night dance as well as demonstrating some of the aspects of their traditional lifestyle which has changed very little from that of their ancestors.

Overall, this was a very successful, rewarding and enjoyable experience for members of the team. There is always more work to do and it is intended that a further team will return to Kokoda early next year to complete this project.”

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