Aussie Broadband helps bring clean water to PNG
Aussie Broadband’s Board Chair Ian Watson is not just into telco – he’s also preparing to return to Papua New Guinea to help provide clean water to remote villages.
Ian is part of a team from the Rotary Club of Warrnambool, which has long had an involvement in the Papua New Guinea Water Project.
“Our main objective is to work with, train and provide infrastructure to remote PNG villages and communities to access clean water,” said Ian.
During his first trip to the Oro province in 2015, he discovered that basic necessities, such as clean water and sanitation, were not available.
“It’s hard to imagine that less than 2 hours from Australia in an airplane, there’s still people without clean water. No electricity. No internet. Nothing.
“The villages we visited are extremely remote. There’s no road access. We had to travel up the river in dinghies to reach them.”
Ian described the moment they helped provide clean water to a village called Enbessa for the first time.
“One of the elders told me that their ancestors have lived here for thousands of years and they had no idea that they had clean water under their feet.
“He cried when he found out. And, for me, this was incredibly overwhelming,” said Ian.
As part of their ongoing commitment to the clean water project, the group are hoping to return next year to the region.
“About 30 years ago, the Japanese put down concrete wells, and now most of these wells are in disrepair. They’re not safe to use, because there’s a risk of poisoning.
“We’re planning on resurrecting about 6 to 10 of these, then using a mould to make new wells,” said Ian.
The area can be a dangerous place. The group would often have to bathe in water where there’s a high risk of crocodile attacks.
“The villagers would use a boat to create a barrier for us to wash in.”
Ian said that the villages were traditionally located along the river because it was close to water, but now they realise this was not safe.
“The locals want to move their village away from the water because there were people being taken by the crocodiles.
“That, and the water is polluted. You couldn’t drink it.”
Aussie Broadband is a major supporter of the PNG Projects Group and has provided funding that helped to deliver the 50 pumps for 50 villages program.
Volunteers pay their own expenses, including flights, food and medical bills, so any donations are used exclusively for the work carried out.
Tony Austin, from the Rotary Club of Warrnambool, said that while the programs continue to be funded by Rotary, more funds are desperately needed.
“We’re planning on going back to help a boarding school in Popondetta, in the Oro province. The school, which had 1200 students and staff, had to close down due to the cost of water,” he said.
“We are urgently seeking more donations so we can continue to provide access to clean water for people who are in dire need.”
To donate to the Rotary Project contact Tony on 0400 688 941.
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