Good Sam schools’ maintenance skills in high demand in Kiribati
School maintenance staff are often called to be ‘jacks of all trades’, turning their hands to a diverse range of tasks to keep their school functioning smoothly. Nowhere was this term more apt than when Good Samaritan schools recently sent maintenance team members from two of their colleges to the third world county, Kiribati, a collection of 33 low lying islands and atolls straddling the equator, half way between Fiji and Hawaii.
John Bunce, Maintenance Supervisor from St Patrick’s College, Campbelltown and John Hody, Maintenance team member from Mount St Benedict College were approached to form part of an Australian volunteer project team installing solar panels to power the Good Samaritan Early Childhood Centre and Convent in Abaokoro, North Tarawa.
The trip stemmed from an initiative of the Business Managers at Good Samaritan schools, exploring opportunities for their College communities to make a practical skill based contribution to the work of the Good Samaritan sisters in Kiribati.
Over the course of their two week stay, both Johns quickly discovered that their skills were in high demand. In very hot and humid conditions they worked with the project team to install forty two solar panels as well as repairing down pipes and guttering and installing much needed fans within the Early Childhood Centre and Convent. In addition their ‘jack of all trades’ tag extended to fixing push bikes, outboard motors and carpentry on boat floors for the local people as word got around of their handy skills.
The challenges of building on a remote island in a third world county were highlighted with exact supplies and tools needed for their projects.
“There were no hardware stores nearby, even something as basic as running out of screws could have meant that the job could not be finished. We are very used to having these basic items in ready supply at home or at least being able to duck down to the local hardware store,” said John Bunce.
And it was through their work that the two Johns recognised that the small things in Kiribati have the capacity to make the biggest impact.
John Bunce noted, “We left all of our tools and items from our luggage behind giving them to the local people. The power tools especially will make such a difference to essential tasks on the islands.”
With this in mind, both men have resolved to put together some basic toolkits to send over for the Kiribati people including hand tools like chisels and levels.
While reflecting on their experience both men acknowledged the challenging climate conditions that they worked in but were quick to add that there was great satisfaction with what was achieved at the end of the day.
John Hody noted that humour from the project team and locals as well as hospitality from the local people saw them through the tougher moments.
“If one of us was having a particularly hard time, the group really rallied around to lighten the mood.”
“The generosity from the I-Kiribati and their wonderful sense of hospitality were highlights of the trip for both of us.”
With so much achieved in a practical sense and supported by positive feedback from the Good Samaritan Sisters in Kiribati, it is hoped that this volunteer experience can be repeated with support from maintenance staff from fellow Good Samaritan schools and mentoring from previous attendees.