Local Heart, Global Soul

July 29, 2011

Global Soul: The Kiribati Connection…

Filed under: 101 Things in 1001 Days,LIFE,Travel — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)


  1. Ah, I was going to drop the Kiribati alphabet trivia bomb, but you beat me to it! Good luck with your endeavor – it’s such a worthwhile one.

    Comment by Katie — July 29, 2011 @ 2:32 am | Reply

  2. Hi I just wanted you to know that my wife is walking the Camino Santiago de Compostella to raise funds for this great school and the terrific people who work at the school.

    Comment by Ken Young / IA_Research — September 20, 2012 @ 3:24 am | Reply

    • Welcome to my blog Ken,
      I’m keen to know how you found out the the School and if you’ve been there personally ? Which section of the Camino is your wife walking?… how far has she gotten so far? (The Camino Santiago de Compostella is on on our “to do” list but there’s simply not enough time with young family right now… later!!!)

      Comment by kiwidutch — September 20, 2012 @ 6:29 pm | Reply

      • Ken, great website to advertise a brilliant walking experience! (I’ve seen the Martin Sheen film too!)

        There are a group of us fundraising for the school here in the Netherlands and with the help of a sympathetic lawyer acquaintance who waived his fees, the group set up an account that makes us officially a “stichting” (charity) here in the Netherlands and means that funds we raise are no longer liable for tax.

        Additionally we have an extensive network of personal Kiribati contacts and several of them are in positions of responsibility and trust both inside the school and without and help oversee the transfer of funds and use of them within the school. There’s a backup group too so accountability for us is clear and transparent.

        We also have contact with a Kiribati minister and the vice president recently attended an annual Kiribati meeting in the UK this summer (which our family also attended) so we have personal up to date information on the latest developments.

        Many of our group have worked in VSO, diplomatic or been long term workers in Kiribati themselves in various capacities (usually Aid) so there is a strong and often interlocking network of contacts.

        Here in the Hague a few weeks ago we hosted in our home some Kiribati friends from the UK and members of a large local learning museum (Museon) who this summer secured funding for a 10 year project that will feature climate change in three diverse cultures, geographies and climates: The Netherlands, Kenya and Kiribati and to this end a small three member team from Museon is finishing a short stay fact finding mission to Kiribati as I type.

        The Museon project is purely one of gathering information for teaching purposes and while they take no part in active fundraising they have agreed to meet members of the school board whilst there and will try and promote awareness about the school within their exhibitions whenever possible.

        Family Kiwidutch will probably make a trip to Kiribati in the future too. I do know that AUS Aid helps the school … is it also possible to put your fundraising total through their channels? There are several ways to transfer funds, it’s just a matter of finding out which one is best for you 🙂

        For us, our setup is the cheapest ….we pay the Bank charge for the International Transfer from our own pockets and then every cent we raise goes to the disabled kids 🙂

        I’ve love to see your posts and photos on how the walk is progressing!!!

        Comment by kiwidutch — October 10, 2012 @ 7:30 am

      • Would I be able to get our friends in Europe to contribute to your organisation so you can send remittances for us? We will get people to tag payments as “Claire Camino” so we can see how much she has generated? The School committee have suggested that they need a new sea wall and we have agreed that is what our funds should go towards. Anyway it is a starting point for discussion.
        This email address gets to me or txt +61408341795 I also have a skype name: kyoung1955newxp

        Comment by Ken Young (@IA_Research) — October 11, 2012 @ 5:02 am

    • Claire is walking from Burgos to Santiago. I am setting up a website to help raise the funds. I know about the school as I work for a disability organisation and we have a partnership with them http://www.interactaustralia.com.au

      Comment by Ken Young (@IA_Research) — October 7, 2012 @ 7:04 am | Reply

  3. Hi from Melbourne. Just letting you know that Claire is 19kms outside of Santiago de Compostella and she should arrive there on Tuesday morning her time (Euro time). Cheers

    Comment by Ken Young (@IA_Research) — October 29, 2012 @ 8:52 pm | Reply

    • Ken,
      Fabulous! Congratulation to Claire!!!
      I’ve forwarded your details to the stichtings (Foundation) treasurer so you should be hearing from him soonest about sending your fundraising money to the School for the Disabled.
      Apologies for not replying sooner, I’ve been away and also sick… email stacked up on both counts.

      Comment by kiwidutch — October 31, 2012 @ 10:54 pm | Reply

      • i am sorry to hear that you have been unwell. Claire is back in London catching up with family and friends. I look forward to hearing from the foundation treasurer. I hope that all is well for you and yours
        Cheers from Oz

        Comment by Ken Young (@IA_Research) — November 6, 2012 @ 1:19 pm

      • Ken, I’ve passed your details on… the treasurer should be in contact with you soonest 🙂 Congratulation Claire for completing a fantastic journey … AND for a great cause 🙂
        I’m still sniffy and blocked, but at least it’s mostly annoying at night, (sigh) the joys of autumn/winter coughs and colds …every second person has one at the moment it seems. It’s uncomfortable but I’ll live L:)

        Comment by kiwidutch — November 8, 2012 @ 9:09 pm

  4. Hi just letting you know that Claire has completed the Camino and has returned to London this weekend to stay with her twin sisters to celebrate their birthday.

    Comment by Ken Young (@IA_Research) — November 3, 2012 @ 9:59 am | Reply

    • Fabulous Ken! (now treatment for blisters???)

      Comment by kiwidutch — November 8, 2012 @ 9:24 pm | Reply

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