Diary: Building a Malaria Laboratory


Rotarians Against Malaria – RAM

Wednesday 1st September 2004

After months of planning and meetings our eager team - David, Simon, Mark and Philip - departed on “their mission” with advice from Rotarians who had been to the Solomons and bulging first aid kits they felt very well prepared.

They met Warren Golding in Brisbane. He had packed the bulk of their equipment into the caravan. “Solomon Air” accepted the excess without cost after hearing about their mission. (Rotary opens many doors and hearts!).

Thursday 2nd September 2004
There were many occasions when the group had to understand cultural differences and one was “Solomon Island Time”. Their arrival time was misunderstood by Malaria Services.

In the meantime the team had walked to the dock and found the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior there. They were fortunate enough to be allowed on board and a New Zealand Dr Phillipa gave them a tour of the ship. “Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior” was in these waters due to the concern of excessive logging and the pirate fishermen and large fishing boats exploiting the Pacific. (Refer Greenpeace articles).

Finally an embarrassed Alby Bobogare from Malaria services met them. At the meeting it was clear that the groups understanding of the whereabouts of the “house” was vastly different from reality. Alby had the task of advising that;

a)  the kit house was not at Pangoe as advised.
b)  after much searching the builder could not be located anywhere.
c)  the timber had to be unloaded from the barge “Swift” before kit home could be loaded on.
d)  that there was no fuel at Taro for them to travel by boat to Pangoe. This meant they would be stranded for days unable to assist or control things if the barge sailed directly to Pangoe.

After some discussion and  persuasion it was decided that the barge would sail to Taro vi Gizo and the team would fly to Gizo meet the barge - sail to Taro - unload fuel - and go ahead to Pangoe via long boat to set up camp!

It was clear that getting anywhere was fraught with difficulty - nothing worked on timetable nor regularity.

After this negotiation they celebrated by having dinner with Alby and his wife at the Horiare Hotel -crayfish!!!

The team were slowly learning ‘Sol Time’:- nothing was predictable and unless specific questions were asked no information was given nor did responses reflect the actual situation.

It wasn’t clear to the team why Honiara Rotary had not kept the co-ordinator, Peter Thomas informed by having one contact person in order to eliminate confusion.

Friday 3rd and Saturday 4thSeptember 2004

Flight to Gizo by Solomon Air De Haviland Twin Otta - very old and very worn, but flight was fortunately uneventful!

They had been given a contact in Gizo - Danny and Kerrie Kennedy who owned the Dive shop. Danny had a charter with Doug Allen (who is Bill Gate’s partner) as skipper of “Medusa” to look for future dive spots for Allen’s next trip. The Solomon’s are renowned with divers because of the numerous wrecks and great diving opportunities.

They stayed two nights during which time they visited PT109 (John Kennedy’s patrol boat sunk by Japanese destroyer), watched island dancing, went to foreshore market to purchase fish and vegies, had a snorkel/dive trip to Kennedy Island and finalised equipment from Gizo Malaria Centre. A pleasant way to pass the time waiting for the barge to arrive.

Sunday 5th September 2004

They attended a Church Service which was very long (3 hours).

Monday 6th September 2004

The barge ‘Swift’ arrived at Gizo, more things were loaded on including books from Kerrie Kennedy (a Gizo Rotarian) as well as building materials and water tanks for the Taro Hospital which Dr Chris Millar had arranged.

On route they caught two mackerel and stayed at Taro overnight as the trip had been slow and unloading at night was too dangerous.

Tuesday 7th September 2004

The long boat was refuelled for the teams long trip to Pangoe and a very wet uncomfortable trip began without seating in the boat or life jackets! OHS would have a stroke!

The four hour trip down the coast included a stop at a small village where they met the Chief and friendly villagers. They were grateful to arrive at Pangoe and were met by Aloyisius (Alo) Waieta (head nurse) Rubin and Noah.

A wonderful welcome greeted them, the ladies of the village had given them the use of the “Women’s Rest House” as accommodation and the table was laden with fruit, flowers, tea and coffee. Beds were all set up and at last they had a peaceful, comfortable nights sleep.

Wednesday 8th September 2004

Site inspected, Mark D checked Hal Malessa’s (the builder on walkabout) work which was found to be accurate.

Village assistance was obtained, about 100 people helped unload the building materials from the Swift to long boats to the shore. To their surprise they found building materials for two houses not one as expected!

Work was started immediately because of “lost” 5 days.

9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, September 2004

Daily routine was early start due to high temperatures and humidity 30+°C and +90% humidity. They had support of many villagers especially four young men with carpentry skills without whom they could not have completed one house.

On Sunday they watched Fathers Day Celebration of the Pangoe United Church and had a long walk along the beach with villagers and children - a great day.

Mark D took charge of building and the project evolved with efficiency. There were highlights throughout - like the night spear fishing with Alo, Noah and Rubin where numerous fish and crays were caught and devoured next evening.

Wednesday 15th September 2004

The No. 1 House was finished and No. 2 house started and balance of materials securely stored.

An evening of celebration followed when the team were honoured with flower lais, a feast, a youth choir singing and many touching speeches.

The highlight was Warrens church presentation of a money donation to Pangoe Village to be shared and presentation of his dolls house.

Thursday 16th September 2004

They sailed to Taro in order to catch Solomon Air flight to Gizo but that flight was cancelled since Solomon Air only has two aircraft and one had crashed into trees in extreme weather conditions! How would they get from Taro to Gizo? Another boat trip was the only answer - this time a long boat (again without seating or life jackets and a coconut bung in the fuel tank) for 8 hours and they lived to tell the tale. A tin of spam, dry biscuits, bananas and coconuts were delicious as they took a break on an island half way to Gizo.

Friday 17th September 2004

The team caught a flight from Gizo to Honiara and were greeted by Alby. They were able to report the completion of House No. 1. The return flight to Brisbane was a breeze.

They all agreed that they would do it over again and that if had been a thrilling and most rewarding experience.

Mark D had the idea of a Tattslotto win - he would organise the trip - have a luxury Yacht in the Harbour and use a helicopter for transport - but it would not be the same.

It was a wonderful experience with unforgettable kindness and friendship by villagers of Pangoe.

From t he Team of Richmond Rotarians
                                    David Bibby
                                    Mark Dwyer
                                    Simon Marriott
                                    Phillip Mylecharane
                                    Warren Golding