Awakening early the following day, ready for the heat and a long walk in the island’s tropical bush, Mike and the team set off to a village called New Tenabuti. Four hours later after a climb in altitude, transferring from jeeps on rough pitted roads to narrow logging paths in dense bush, the team finally arrived at the village of New Tenabuti.
The 200 or so village people greeted them in fine Solomon style with a feast of native food, lush tropical fruits and a refreshing coconut milk drink served in the coconut shell. Speeches of welcome and thanks followed as the village people expressed their sincere gratitude to Pangaea and Geberit for their efforts to help supply their village with water.
Another walk followed for the team. This time to the water source high above the village, the same walk the women of the village must do each day in order to have water for their families daily needs.
We could understand the needs of the village folk and their desire to have the water channeled directly into the village. No longer would water be scarce in their village. No longer will the women need to walk high to the water source to collect water for their daily cleaning and cooking and at long last the local medical clinic would have running water. The lives of these village folk was about to change drastically. Water was about to become a commodity for these people and now they will learn how to use it correctly, keeping hygiene and proper sanitation in top priority. To do this, village pastors and officials from a local NGO known as ADRA (Adventist Development Relief Association) engaged themselves to ensure correct education and utilization of the installations as well as proper maintenance for the long term. This of course, an important step in creating a sustainable project for these village folk for years to come!
From this day forward work would begin. Geberit pipes and tanks had already been delivered and the village people were ready to do the work. We would visit the village again in two days time to check on their progress.
The following day, events were concentrated further south of New Tenabuti, this time in a village called Babala, where Pangaea and Geberit would install toilets to the Babala Primary School.
Babala and the surrounding district have a population of 1000 inhabitants, with 200 students going to the school. Traditional drop toilets would finally make way for new flush seat toilets with basins and taps for hand washing.
As Mike Horn, the Pangaea team, Christian Stauber and brother Andrew Stauber from Geberit approached the district on the Pangaea sailboat the ceremonies began. Small boats approached Pangaea with hand made Swiss flags waving their friendly welcome.
Crew and team disembarked from Pangaea onto small motorboats and started their ride to shore. Ready in place, school children were lining the banks of the river, eager to greet the foreign visitors with flower necklaces. Floating platforms of flowers had also been placed in the river mouth for decoration.
As we approached the shore aggressive warriors dressed in leaves, loincloths and facial paint jumped out of the bushes and in traditional style tried to scare off the unknown visitors. Our team were touched by the efforts taken by the village people and thanked them for their kind welcome before returning to their boats to make the ride downstream.
More school children in traditional costume and floral necklaces lined the riverbanks so we stopped to acknowledge their kind gifts of welcome and friendship. It was further down the river when we disembarked. We had arrived at the village of Babala.
Walking closer to the village we were once again in the hands of the enemy. The meagerly clad warriors lurched at us with pointed spears, shouting wildly in their native tongue. We pushed our way through to the gates of the village where 500 or so people had gathered to greet us.
Speeches and a feast followed along with a tour of the school and its decrepit abolition blocks. We were going to change this and the people of this district did not cease to show their gratitude. Once again Geberit had already delivered the materials, piping, paint and cement, etc. Now the work would start and the village inhabitants were ready to engage in getting the toilets built as soon as possible.
The education process would also begin so that the village people would know how to use the facilities correctly and how proper hygiene can be maintained.
Day 2 was a day full of experiences and emotions for our team. We spent time with the Solomon Island people getting to know them and discovering their culture. The children sang us their songs. We laughed together and played soccer with them on the field beside the school. Alas the day came to an end. We thanked our new friends for their hospitality and bid them goodbye.
Our third and final day in the Solomon Islands. Today we returned to New Tenabuti to look at the progress achieved over the last few days and to assist in whatever way we could. With spade in hand we dug a large flat area where the water tank would be built. As we did this, the local men carried 25kg bags of cement up to the water source from the village. As soon as the land was ready they would start building the huge water storage tank that would collect the water coming from the source. The village was buzzing with activity and excitement. In about one weeks time the village would finally have tap water in their village.
We left the Solomon Islands after spending three memorable days with its inhabitants. We also left the Islands with a sense of pride and happiness in our hearts knowing that we have bought something good to these people. Our actions including all our Pangaea Partners who make the expedition possible will help these people to live a better life, to reduce illness and deaths within the communities.
The people from the Solomon Islands have been striving for over 20 years now to have running water in their villages to enhance their living conditions. Unfortunately with no money and only broken promises disappointment came too often. This Pangaea Initiative has finally rewarded these people for their motivation and perseverance. Thank you Geberit for making this possible!