Lennox Lions Club Fundraising Night - a huge success!

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Lennox Lions Club Fundraising Night - a huge success!

If you ever wanted evidence of what a great community we have, the recent Lion’s club Kagata Village Fundraiser “Share The Love” was the perfect place to see this.  

There was a lot of love in the room at Club Lennox on the night of the 29th September, and lots of people giving up their hard earned cash to contribute to a group of people they’ve never met before; the kids of Kagata Village in the Solomon Islands.  Just beautiful.  

It was a fabulous night, with video footage of the school being built, combined with entertainment and stellar performances by Bronny and The Bishops and The Jazcats.  How great are our Lion’s Club?  Taking over from me when I wasn’t able to, they staged an event that was simply spectacular in its success.  

As a result of the evening, around about 25 children in this very remote part of the Solomon Islands will have a teacher for about 12 months.  This means that they don’t have to sell their land to miners and loggers, and potentially destroy their lifestyle and environment.  

Approximately $4000 was raised on the night which is an amazing feat for a small community. All because we had some fun.  Win-win-win!

Thanks again to the Lion’s Club and our wonderful community.  Love your work.

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An Emotional Reunion

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An Emotional Reunion

Well, another trip to the Village done and dusted.  Just when it feels like you can’t have a better trip, you do.  Had a couple of great surfs (could barely paddle back to the boat).  We had plenty of fuel to do some exploring, so we did a loop around the end of the Isabel group of Islands, looking for potential surf spots, fishing and features that visitors to the area might want to see and do.  Wow!  Incredible.  I don’t know how else to say it.  It’s wild, remote, beautiful, and BIG.  The tides are huge - lots of giant whirlpools, standing waves.  Wild.  Untamed.  Empty.  

We stopped at an island - Dekter collected 2 crayfish and some other fish, which we cooked on hot coral on a fire on the beach.  Tiny bit of coconut milk thrown in for good measure.  Heaven.  The rest of the trip around the Western side, we found beautiful little bays which had perfectly formed small waves on them, and we are reliably informed that with the right swell they have excellent waves.  Watch this space.  There are so many interesting islets and features.  If you decide to do that day trip, make sure you take Dekter - his knowledge of the area, plants animals and history, is incredible.  And always delivered with that beautiful, laid-back Dekter delivery.

The Village itself has seen major changes - there is now a big solar fridge.  And a brand new boat with a 60hp motor.  Less fuel burnt, and we get there faster.  There is now water down at the main hut.  The turning of the tap was quite an event - all the ladies cheered and clapped, as it meant they no longer had to carry buckets on their shoulders 100m down the hill.  It was a big deal.  The water to the bottom of the hill also meant better pressure for the shower that we also built.  We nestled some copper pipe and a tap head into the branches of a tree, attached a few orchids to cover the pipe work, and voila.  Showerhead peering out of a spray (pardon the pun) of orchid flowers.  Pretty and aromatic.  

The biggest thing though, was the kids.  And the impact that education has had on their lives.  They were trying to read EVERYTHING.  At one point, I had a cluster of them showing me their reports.  I may or may not have shed a tear or two.  It’s something special when kids who would probably would never have had access to any education without major upheaval and disconnection from their families, sit next to you in the hammock, singing songs about the alphabet and counting the fingers on your hands.  Just beautiful.  I’m getting tears in my eyes again just writing this.  There’s a whole pile of new babies in the village.  Cuteness factor maxed.  Happy, healthy, fat, lovely babies!

There have been some big developments in tourism in that part of the world - it seems that the politicians are realising the potential for tourism, and by all accounts have earmarked that area as being free from any logging or mining.  Fingers crossed.  There is a big push to get tourists to that part of the world, and several other nearby villages are now building homestay accommodation.  

The other news is that we are now building a more sophisticated hut in the village.  This will have one room with adouble bed, a smaller room with two singles, and a large verandah.  This will be for visiting families and people who want a little more comfort.  It will also be a place for the teacher to stay during the school term.  Interesting fact:  the guys tell me that the huts last longer when they have people living in them.  Something to do with the heat we give off, keeping the place warmer and drier ???

We did get some lovely waves.  The food seems to have improved, and I found a new spot for wrestling with big mangrove jacks :) :) :)

Many thanks to Jim, Paris, Erica, and Pete.  You brought so much love, laughter, skill and joy to the village.  Special mention to Pete for taking the time to write the song that we performed for the village on our feast night.  Lots of laughter.  I’ll never forget that time.  Cheers.  Until next time…

Island sunrise.

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The School

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The School

A lot has been happening in the village, and we have some GREAT news. The school house is built, although it still needs a little bit of fine tuning.  The guys have been busy and have built some huts for any kids that may need accommodation.  As the school is the only one in the area it will serve kids from quite a distance.  Some of these kids will have to stay in the village for the school week.  I love the community there.  Everyone pitches in and supports the school and the kids.  The kids all have to be fed and looked after so that task is taken on collectively. Beautiful. 

Without a teacher a school house is just a building. The big news is that our sensational Laurie has organised a teacher.  We have a teacher in our little school.  It's SO fantastic to see our construction with smiling kids in it, a blackboard, and their work around the place. VERY cool. Laurie is currently organising with the Solomon Islands Education Department to have the teachers wages paid.  While he jumps through the beaurocratic hoops, we are covering the gap. 

This leads nicely into the extended community that has been created out in the rest of the world because of this project. The village has a wonderful new friend, Erica Adamson, who is organising a fundraiser, and is personally contributing to the cause. Erica has introduced many of her friends who are also very generously helping out. (people can be so wonderful).

I have organised a meeting with the Lions club in my area and they are currently looking to help as well.

As well as all that we are planning a trip to the village in December. So far I have had lots of people interested in coming both to help and to holiday. The helpers will be coming to  

A) Finish off some projects 

B) Start building a nicer hut to make the village a little more family friendly. 

C) Work out what are the next priorities.

And of course, surf, fish and play in a spectacular part of the world.

Andrew and I have designed the huts, and I am looking at some nicer beds, complete with large box mosquito nets to allow more air around the bed. Cool but simple. I plan on getting at least one of these huts started in December.

I am investigating the possibility of setting up some composting toilets for the huts. If I can get this up and running we can avoid any contamination of groundwater, avoid wasting good, clean drinking water, and avoid complicated plumbing. It seems to be a great and affordable option.

The plan is for the village to have a few options for accommodation to cater for basic adventure stays, and for more more "gentle" holidays. We are very clear though that we want the place to stay as simple and quiet as possible, and that your stay with the locals is as friends, that you are part of the village, and part of their community.

For those that don't know, I teach people to paint and do workshops all over the place. I'm loosely planning on one in the Village in 2016. Stay tuned.

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Stage One. Done.

Wow.  What a trip.  We had to overnight in Honiara, as the strip at Suavanau was rained out.  We got to Kagata late the following day and screamed out to the reef for a quick surf.

The next morning we got up and got into it.  The guys had done a great job of putting in the posts and bearers, and laying out the flooring.  The job of nailing down the flooring and organising the frames began.  The floor area itself was a little larger than we expected, so we had to be creative about the building design.  The roof had to go higher, the planned kitchen got bigger, as did everything else.  The plans shifted to building a school house AND a communal kitchen/dining/chill out area.  How great for both the kids and visitors to be right up next to the classroom.

We had to source mangrove tree trunks for certain areas.  They grow a beautiful twisting corkscrew shape when constricted by a particular vine.  We traipsed into the jungle to find them, cut them, drag them through the bush into the boat, and back to the village.  Hard work, but great fun.  The bark then had to be beaten off them with a piece of wood.  Tough on your hands and the sap left them a wonderful shade of red which does not wash out easily.

The school house boasts a beautiful twisty hand rail.  It's gotta be the coolest school around.  While it was really hot and often physically demanding, it was incredibly fulfilling and rewarding.  The building process was interspersed nicely with surfing (although the surf wasn't super great this trip), fishing and playing.  Sad it's all over.

The frame is up, and now needs to be clad.  Emma stayed on for a couple more weeks and oversaw the roof being put on.  It's starting to look like a house.  

There were so many great things that happened on this trip.  From watching the karate master practise his karate and yoga in the mornings (which then became a lesson for all the local lads), to watching Emma do dumb stuff so we could all have a laugh.  Listening to the banter of the builders.  The concert on the night we left (tears in eyes).  Watching the unstoppable Lea work and work and work and work and work and work, and watching monkey-boy Paul climb up and down the frames like a.....

Still plenty to do.  We have to get polypipe over there so the girls don't have to carry water up and down the hill.  We need to get kitchen shelves built, and some desks sorted for the kids. 

We're planning the next trip, possibly around May 2015.  Sometime between now and then, we'll be talking to the Solomon's government about getting a teacher sorted.  There's so much more that I could write.  It was one of the greatest experiences.

A big THANKYOU to everyone who came and worked, and to all of the sensational people in the Village.  They really are wonderful, tough, generous human beings.

Matthew, our supreme overlord and builder, had his go-pro with him.  The following video is a slice of the trip, starring Kagata and the crew, cut together by Matthew's son Tyler.  Hope you enjoy.

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Countdown...

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Countdown...

Surfing in the Solomon Islands and fishing while building a school at Kagata. Can you have any more fun???  Not long to go before we get over there.  Six of us so far, will be making the journey to Kagata.  The tools and everything have been sent, and the timber is being cut as we speak.  The plan is to build another building.  This will be a kitchen and communal eating area, and it will be built to replace the current one which was damaged in the cyclone.  We'll also fix up the old building and convert it into a schoolhouse.

The old communal eating house and kitchen.  The new one will be built to the right of this.

Schooling is obviously important, and something we take for granted here in Australia.  Unfortunately for those in the remote areas of the Solomon Islands, distance means schooling either doesn't happen, or children are sent away for very long periods from their families, and put in positions where there is the potential for harm.  It costs little to build these buildings, by Australian standards, but is out of reach for many of the Islanders. This unfortunately means that the Islanders have to make deals with miners and loggers in exchange for schooling.  Controlled tourism is a much better option for everyone.

To have a local teacher in the Solomon Islands, only costs $75 Australian dollars per week.  The school is only part of the plan.  The next stage will be to build another accommodation hut that is a little more "upmarket".  The money collected from tourists staying in that hut will eventually pay for the teacher.

Adele.  Can't wait to have her school.

You'll be able to stay in a wonderful place in the world, in relative comfort knowing that your money is contributing to the village and the villagers, in a positive and sustainable way.  Win-win.

Soon we're off - building stuff and playing in paradise.  All with a really nice feel-good vibe.  Big big big thanks to everyone who has helped so far.  You have made it all a joy, and easy.

If you want to be involved, or have any enquiries, email me at mark@markwaller.com.au.  Or if you want to organise a holiday, email Laurie directly through the contact page on this website.  The money goes straight to the village.  No middle men.

4 in the water.  Crowd's massive, by Solomon standards.

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