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Pacific Partnership forges enduring friendship in island communities

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The Pacific Partnership 2011 program swept through the islands of Vava'u and Niua like a tropical headwind, leaving in its gentle wake a lot of smiling faces, restored communities and an enduring friendship between the people of the islands and the men and women of this most admirable humanitarian effort.

Ships from the U.S, Australia, Japan and New Zealand, and a helicopter crew from France, along with health specialists and engineers from the US military, Australian Defence Force (ADF), Canadian Defence Force, Singaporean Defence Force and Spanish Defence Force formed the basis of a humanitarian assistance mission under the Pacific Partnership 2011 program.

As part of Pacific Partnership 2011, medical, dental, veterinary and engineering aid projects was conducted in Tonga, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and the Federated States of Micronesia.

In Tonga, the Pacific Partnership worked in different projects in Vava'u and Niuatoputapu. The assistance to Niuatoputapu was rendered under the leadership of the New Zealand contingent, and the Minister of Education, Women's Affairs and Culture, the Hon. Dr. 'Ana Maui Taufe'ulungaki and the New Zealand High Commissioner to Tonga, His Excellency Dr. Jonathan Austin visited the the work sites to witness the progress and accomplishments being made.

The Hon. Dr. ‘Ana Maui Taufe'ulungaki, said that she was most impressed with the professionalism and dedication of the Partnership team, who worked day and night to accomplish the tasks that they had set out to complete.

In Niuatoputapu, the beneficiaries of the program included the education sector, the health sector, and other parts of the community. According to the Hon. Minister, the multitude of tasks performed by the team included some difficult, high risk and dangerous operations, like the clearing of the entrance to Niuatoputapu harbour with dynamite, which was blocked by large rocks from the tsunami of 2010.

As part of the project, the market and visitor center at Talihau was renovated to become a safe and beautiful center for the community. The repairs included fixing the bathroom facilities, overhauling the inside, and the roofing, as well as mending and repainting the posts which were heavily corroded.

A significant amount of the time was spent in helping the Government Primary School, GPS, at Falehau. Falehau GPS was earmarked for closure this year, with the intention of combining it with Hihifo GPS in Niuatoputapu. His Majesty's Government approved for the school to be kept open, but to put some effort into renovating the facilities, and bringing the school up to a satisfactory standard.

The Pacific Partnership Program went into action and really transformed Falehau Primary School into a safe, vibrant and fun center of learning for the children and the community. The floor of the school buildings were all newly tiled, and the buildings repainted. In addition, the school's electric generator was repaired and supplemented with the installation of a solar power unit to help with pumping the water supply and the electricity needs of the school. A small shed was also built to house the generator, and associated tools and fuel containers so that the generator can be kept safe and well maintained.

A very popular addition to the school at Falehau was the contruction and the equipping of a children's playground by the Pacific Partnership team. The team put in monkeybars, slides, ladders and other fun equipment that even schools in the main island of Tongatapu do not have. The playground that may come close to the one in Falehau, is the only children's park at Fa'onelua, Nuku'alofa, but according to the Minister, Hon. Dr. ‘Ana Maui Taufe'ulungaki, "the children's playground in Falehau is much bigger and more modern." 

The Falehau primary school hall was used temporarily for the Niuatoputapu Health Clinic, and this hall was also renovated, newly painted and also fenced. In addition, the team put up ten water storage tanks, each with a 10,000 liters capacity, giving the school a capacity of 100,000 liters of water for their needs. This is in addition to the normal village water supply which also serves the school.

In an example of the local community working together with the Pacific Partnership team, the people of Falehau village worked together with the team to build the fence all around the perimeter of the school compound. The Tongan Chaplain in the New Zealand Army, Captain Tavake Manu did a fine job in approaching the priests and the church ministers to ask for the help of the people to finish the fence in Falehau. The men and women of the community, with the Partnership team worked the whole of the last day and part of the night to complete building the fence for the school in time for the hand-over ceremony scheduled for the next morning.

Another school that benefitted from the Pacific Partnership Program was the Government Primary School at Hihifo. Hihifo GPS has a lot of land and the team put up a fence all around the school compound to make it safe and secure. The Industrial Arts complex was repaired and new tools provided to help teach the various skills and technologies covered in the Industrial Arts curriculum. The team also installed fifteen new computers and established two local area networks with Internet access, one to be used by the school and the other to be used by the community.

Hihifo GPS gets its water from the village supply at Vaipoa, and the team repaired the community water supply at Vaipoa to ensure that the school is adequately supplied with water. As well as fixing the normal water supply, the Pacific Partnership installed ten 10,000 liter water tanks at Hihifo like they did at Falehau. A school playground was also established like the one at Falehau, and the program is sending chairs and tables to be used by the children.

Apart from helping the schools directly, the Pacific Partnership Program provided health checks to the general population, including babies, young infants and the elderly. The medical team on the project also included professionals that gave dental and eye examination and treatment.

According to Dr. ‘Ana Maui Taufe'ulungaki, the people witnessed with their own eyes something unique during the course of the partnership. And that is, the people saw men and women working together at whatever task that was needed to be completed. There was no so-called men's work, or women's work, there was no demarcation, and both can do whatever job was needed to be done.

The Hon. Dr. ‘Ana Maui Taufe'ulungaki expressed her gratitude for the Pacific Partnership Program, saying that such programs demonstrates to the Pacific and to the world, that the defense services of the participating countries are there to protect the peace and security of the region, and to help improve and maintain the welfare of the people.

ENDS

Issued by the: Ministry of Education, Women Affairs and Culture, Nuku'alofa, 2011.
 

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