Supporting Samoa

Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 01-Nov-2013

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teamwork: Members of the Auala School Committee with Tom Dobeli [team leader], Ken Gilchrist, Brian Figg, Scott Richardson, Paul Kirkpatrick, Charlie Martin, Paul Summerskill, Bob Sawyer, and Terry Kelly.
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Rotary clubs in Bendigo have a long and proud record of supporting the Pacific island nation of Samoa following a string of natural disasters over the past 20 years.
After the most severe tsunami and earthquake in late September 2009, where 119 people were killed, a public fund was established through the Bendigo Bank to support rebuilding projects in the island nation of 180,000 people.
Co-ordinated by the Rotary Club of Bendigo, teams have been travelling to Samoa using the funds raised to repair and upgrade weather ravaged schools.
Overall co-ordination of the relief trips is undertaken by the Australian Rotary aid co-ordination agency, Rotary Australia World Community Services.
For two and a half weeks this August, a team of nine Rotarians and community volunteers worked in Samoa undertaking repairs and refurbishments to three schools on the island of Savii, which is the largest of Samoa’s two main islands, but the least inhabited.
Team leader, Tom Dobeli, of the Bendigo Rotary Club, said a unique feature of this year’s aid trip was the inclusion of two apprentices who ordinarily work on tram restoration at the Bendigo Tramways Museum, operated by the Bendigo Trust.
“The Rotary Club of Bendigo sponsored Paul Summerskill and Scott Richardson, a cabinet maker and metal worker respectively, whose skills proved invaluable on the trip,” Mr Dobeli said.
Schools at the villages of Auala, Sataua and Papa had been identified on an earlier reconnaissance trip in conjunction with officials from the Samoa Education Department, as the targets for repair and refurbishment.
Samoan villages generally comprise communities of around 200 people who must form a School Committee to maintain school buildings which are initially paid for by the government. Given the subsistence living conditions of most villages, repair and upkeep of school buildings is often a second priority.
At the village of Auala the team spent considerable time working on an upstairs school wing replacing missing floorboards, installing cyclone proof wire on windows, general painting and cleaning and refurbishment of blackboards.
Men from the School Committee and village worked on the ground floor of the building which had been severely damaged by strong winds, to install new concrete beams, mixed by hand, and concrete block work to create additional classrooms to replace those that had been damaged beyond repair.
The school in the village of Sataua required repair to water systems and toilets while a program of repainting and installation of cyclone-proof wire on windows was also undertaken.
The delicate task of reinstalling rain guttering on a high-level two-storey roof and subsequent reinforcement of support for water discharge pipes to water tanks was superbly co-ordinated by one of the skilled volunteers on the team, Bob Sawyer.
A small work program was also undertaken at the school in the village of Papa where repairs to plumbing systems for toilets were undertaken along with installation of new louvres for windows and general carpentry upgrades.
The three villages were about 20 minutes apart and travel was made easier by vehicle coordination and hire arrangements undertaken by the Rotary Club of Apia, (the capital of Samoa).
Obtaining building materials and tools in the remote location of Savii Island also posed logistical difficulties, some of which had been solved by the Rotary Club of Bendigo sending a shipping container fully fitted as a mobile workshop some three years earlier.
The container is located at the business premises of a local Apia Rotarian and serves as a base for storage of tools and some basic materials.
Another aid trip is planned for the middle of next year.

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