AVALON COMMUNITY RAISES MONEY FOR MENTAWAI ISLANDS SCHOOL
By Kirk Willcox | 01 June 2012
The Masokut children in their temporary classroom. $25,000 is needed to build a new six-room building with toilets. Pic: Duncan Macfarlane
The Avalon community has joined with humanitarian organization SurfAid to raise funds for a new village school in the Mentawai Islands, Sumatra, after a tsunami in 2010 wiped out the former village of Masokut. Along with widespread destruction, more than 500 people died in the disaster.
With the help of SurfAid, the community has since rebuilt their village on higher ground safe from another tsunami however the 40 children, aged seven to 10, are being taught in a one-room timber shack that has plastic sheeting for walls.
SurfAid’s Psychosocial Support Program team ran activities that helped get the children back into a normal routine and reduce the effects of the trauma, and the school building was constructed as a temporary structure immediately after the tsunami.
“To say the school is ‘basic’ is an understatement,” said SurfAid Schools Program manager Milton Brown. “The ‘desks’ are simple square pieces of timber for the children to write on but they have to sit on the floor, which is rough-hewn timber with cracks. In this cramped space, three dedicated teachers are doing their best to educate the future of Masokut.”
The Oct 2010 Mentawai tsunami destroyed 61 of the 62 houses in Masokut village, on Sth Sipora island. Pic: SurfAid
Brown said $25,000 was needed to build a six-room school with toilets for the four grades. “Avalon Lions Club generously donated $6,000 towards the project and retired Pittwater High teacher Evan Jeffrey organised a recent fundraiser at Avalon RSL that raised another $2,000, so we thank everyone who has contributed so far,” he said.
Former Pittwater Mayor Alex McTaggart, who was on a surf charter boat with fellow Avalon surfers when the tsunami struck during the night in October 2010, helped raise the Lions Club funds.
“Nine Avalon surfers were in the area and we went ashore on the island of South Pagai. There had been a small village opposite the surf break but nothing could prepare us for the utter destruction and loss of life,” McTaggart said.
“We did what we could to assist providing water, food and medicine and making sure the authorities in Padang, on the mainland, were aware of the situation.
“As we received a lot of media coverage we decided to raise some funds through the Avalon Lions Club to assist in the recovery of these villages and we decided that working with SurfAid was the best avenue to help.”
The new village of Masokut, which is one kilometre inland from the old village. SurfAid gave technical assistance in earthquake-resistant construction and also supplied concrete, roof tin, nails, a chainsaw to cut new timber, and water collection systems. Photo: SurfAid
Milton Brown, a former teacher at Barrenjoey High, said what was heart-warming about the project was that a villager, Bapak Marsius, had decided to donate the land for the new school.
“Marsius had limited access to education and he survives by farming cocoa and other cash crops to support his family. But his eldest daughter is finishing her university degree in Jakarta and she said she would return to the village and teach in the school,” Brown said.
Marsius met with SurfAid staff recently to show them the land he is donating, which is in a safe zone high above any possible tsunami. The government will build a road close to the land and the school will be in the middle of the village, making it easy for the children to get there from both north and south of the village.
Marsius’s smile never faded while he spoke of how excited he was about the new development in his village. “We are grateful for this school,” he said. “I talked to my family and we all agree, our children’s education is the best way for us to get out of poverty.”
Milton Brown said SurfAid and the community will work together to build school and the regional Mentawai Government will also assist with funding.
“We will work together to build a bridge towards a better future for their children,” Brown said. “When resources are limited, little things can help so much. The people of Masokut and the Mentawai are hard working, willing and full of hope. Let’s make this dream happen for them.”
Another fundraiser for the school is being held on Saturday 2 June at Avalon RSL Club with northern beaches ’80s rock band Bobby Sox reforming for the occasion. The event has sold out.
If you wish to donate to the project, please contact Milton Brown.
E: firstname.lastname@example.org; W: (02) 9965 7325
For further info:
Ph: (02) 9965 7325
The mission of SurfAid International, a non-profit humanitarian organisation, is to improve the health, wellbeing and self-reliance of people living in isolated regions connected to us through surfing.
SurfAid’s community-based health programs involve education in nutrition, hygiene, healthy environments and disease prevention - including mosquito net distribution.
SurfAid has built an award-winning capacity in emergency preparedness and has delivered five emergency response programs following major disasters, including the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami and the October 2010 Mentawai tsunami.