One of the tasks on my 101 Things in 1001 Days List was Number 43. to raise (at least) Euro 1.001,– for Charity.
Himself decided that he needed to scratch his travel bug itch at the tender age of 18 and that’s how he ended up on an 10 month journey hitch-hiking from the Netherlands to India with school mate.
A few hard working and saving years later, his parents waved him off again, this time for a 8 month trip around the Pacific. In the island group of Kiribati (pronounced ” Kir ree bus“), he borrowed a scooter, hit a bump on the unpaved road, and lost a considerable amount of skin on his bare legs and arms as he met the rough coral of the road at speed.
Rescue arrived in the form of a Catholic nun from the local mission down the road, and she in turn introduced him to her (real life) sister who was a nurse at the local clinic, and patched up, he got an invite to live with another family …an arrangement that lasted some months and involved rolling out his grass mat in a thatched hut on the beach.
After more hard work and saving in The Netherlands, he returned for a second time for 11 months a few years later.
He lost contact with several of the families over time but regained it after a series of completely serendipitous events some years later and has remained in excellent contact ever since.
Then by chance we discovered that one of our New Zealand friends were actually relative to several of our Kiribati friends and a wider network between us was established. In recent years it came to our attention that the “Kiribati School for the Disabled” had been set up in Tarawa, the capital and was taking care of some 70 disabled children.
It’s since undergone a name change and is now known as “Kiribati School and Center for Children with Special Needs” and a helpful volunteer has built them a website: http://sites.google.com/site/kiribatischoolfordisabled/ (scroll down the main page to see photos of the kids).
Our Kiribati friends told us that children with a disability were historically less accepted in society and until recent decades were often kept out of sight, living isolated lives at home. The formation of the school has been a radical step forward, not just for the children but for Kiribati societies attitude to them… and this sole school has been such a success for the children that now more children are being sent there as word spreads around families in the island group.
This has been a double edged sword as Kiribati is not a rich country and does not have the funds to help these kids, after some perilous years where the school teetered on the brink of closure for lack of funds, various International donors have made Aid available and the building and most basic running costs have been met… for the moment at least.
However there is no money yet for books, toys, training or classroom resources. In 2009 concern was raised that many of these children were in desperate need of at least one nutritious meal per day and so Family Kiwidutch and other private donors have embarked on a fund-raising mission to help out with providing subsidized meals for the kids, after all, a hungry child is not a happy child.
Meal are nothing flash… rice, vegetables and possibly locally caught fish if they can manage, but first we need to provide basics… kids need food before they need toys.
Recently the number of children attending the school passed the 100 mark, and the four rooms they have at present are clearly not adequate, but we are hoping that AusAid (Australia) might be able to come to the rescue on that one since the fund-raising we can manage is on a far more modest scale.
This little country is far from the beaten track… even if people have heard of the name, few can point it out on the map. It’s a largely unknown part of the world and gets into the News rarely.
I know than many massive charities do great things, but nothing beats having a network that means you personally know who’s running things on the ground and what they are spending money on. I know that when I fund-raise for these kids, the money reaches them and is used for the purpose for which it is intended.
We meet up occasionally with others in the Netherlands who have links to Kiribati (usually VSO) and in one of those meetings photos from a recent visit ( and previous ones) to Kiribati by one of the group were beamed onto a living room wall… I took photos of the slide show.
My personal mission is to try and make items for fund-raising that will raise funds for the kids meals. I have a heap of ideas, but will start small and work my way down my list to see what works best.
(A small bit of semi-useful information: The first missionary’s to Kiribati observed that there was a spoken language but no written language. They decided to make one, but for an unknown reason decided that the new Kiribati alphabet should have only 18 letters. One of the omitted letters was “s”. Thus the letter combination “ti” is the written representation for the sound, “s”).
So now you know the reson why most people outside of Kiribati totally mispronounce the nation’s name.