January was jam-packed for all of us, with lots of travel and work to do. Kel & I spent a fabulous week home in Melbourne for my little bro’s wedding, and R&L managed a couple of weeks back in NZ, also for a family wedding – we were particularly ticked-off that they got to see the David Crowder Band at Parachute (watch out for a pic – I’m sure Rob won’t last too long before getting one on the site!)
Anyway, Kel & I were accompanied back to Auki by 8 mates from our St. Matt’s community in Endeavour Hills, Melb. The team deserve to be named because of the incredible work done over 2weeks – Roy & Jennifer B, Gay B, Peter B, Clair B, David & Libby E, and Andy E. Even though they were unable to join the team because of personal circumstances, Mark & Rose B made the trip possible with their vision, coordination, and particularly their enthusiasm to maintain St. Matt’s long term relationship with the Sols. All along, the people of St. Matt’s have been our greatest supporters – they provided the initial inspiraion for Kelly & I deciding to volunteer here, after we toured with them in 2005 (even though we were still in NZ at the time) – but that’s another story…
Back to the team’s visit:
We had two main goals – literacy and a little health training at Dukwasi village, and; continuing construction of the workshop at Kilu’ufi Hospital.
The training at Dukwasi village was for their women – many of whom are/were totally illiterate. This village is close to our heart as they’ve welcomed us like one of their own. We can’t begin to describe how excited they were in the lead up to the trip! The anticipation was not without a big spoonful of apprehension, as they told us of a white lady from AusAID who had come once to speak to them, but her intended audience was so fearful they fled, and she never did the talk. (See previous blogs on what a big deal it is to be white over here!)
Our ladies ran workshops at the village each morning for a week (if the village ladies don’t go to the garden each day, the family does not eat). The first day and a bit were focused on basic health issues (e.g. sanitation, nutrition, wound and back-care). The remaining time was devoted to language training. If villagers have some education they can often read English, but they struggle to read Pijin. Additionally, they don’t completely comprehend English, but they “get” everything when it’s in Pijin – it’s all a little backwards really…
The Dukwasi women were very keen to learn to read Pijin because of the publishing of the Pijin Bible mid-2008. Understandably, without really being able to understand Pijin, our ladies were up against it – luckily their skills and experience with teaching, other languages, and creativity allowed them a lot of flexibility to adapt to the challenges.
At the end of the week we all gathered together for a feast hosted by the whole village. There were speeches, little skits practiced by the women’s groups, songs, and gift presentations. St. Matt’s bought 20 Pijin Bibles for the village, which were given to family groups to encourage them to read and practice together. My sources at the village happily report to me that the Bibles are looking a little worn when they take them to church each week – that’s gotta be a good sign!!
Now, the men got down and dirty amongst the workshop at Kilu’ufi Hospital – laying the first 6 layers of bricks around the building, and making the window frames. We started early every day, trying to make as much progress as possible before the mandatory afternoon rains. The conditions got the better of the boys from time to time, but I was really proud of their workmanship and how they gave their all in really demanding conditions.
St. Matt’s, being as generous as ever, donated so much money that we were able to purchase some decent tools and other bits and pieces that we were able to spread throughout the team (thanks to the logistics master, Mark!).
We achieved about a month’s work of work with the team here, and even more significant to us was the phenomenal encouragement of having our friends selflessly come and contribute to our work over here.
The team also managed a few cultural experiences while in Auki – traditional pan-pipe band, man-made islands and shell-money demonstrations in LangaLanga Lagoon – as well as snorkeling, church, and our Solo-style cooking!
I’m also very excited that Karl (Kel’s dad), David and Libby E, and Jennifer B are returning at the end of March to continue helping us in our last month over here (can’t wait to come home!!!)