14th November 2011
In October 2011, the Kokoda Track Foundation engaged a team of 13 Aussie vounteers to construct a community hall in Koko village. The volunteers came from Sydney, Canberra, and the Shoalhaven regions in NSW and volunteered 2 weeks of their time to travel to PNG and construct the community hall. According to the local villagers, Koko village is the original site of Kokoda and is located approximately 2 kms north of the Kokoda plateau.
The hall took 10 days to build and required a massive joint effort from the volunteers as well as the local Koko villagers. The Foundation purchased a pre-fabricated kit hall from PNG Forest Products which was shipped to Oro Bay and delivered to Koko village by truck. Under the expert guidance of volunteer builder, Clint Davey, the hall was constructed in 10 days filled with Kokoda heat, sunshine, and the odd day of torrential rain! The hall also included two rain tanks so that the village no longer has to walk 5km to the nearest water source.
One of the key drivers behind the fundraising for the project was Shoalhaven man and ex-Kokoda trekker – Milton Lay. Milton has worked with the Foundation over the past 2 years to raise the funds we needed to purchase the hall, water tanks, and tools and to engage the volunteers. The hall was unveiled on the last night and handed over to the Koko community as the “Milton Lay Community Hall”.
The Foundation is using the hall for a range of community projects including a base for a travelling library, a homework club and upgrading centre, and a microbusiness training centre. We will also use the hall in 2012 to run teacher training programs for the elementary and primary school teachers in the catchment area.
“We are absolutely delighted with the outcome of this project” says the Foundation executive director, Dr Genevieve Nelson. “The volunteers all dedicated themselves to the project both financially and practically and after two weeks of extremely hard work the result is spectacular. This is the first project of its kind in the region and the villagers of Koko and the surrounding areas are extremely excited about the outcome”.
The Foundation began its Pawa Givim Meri project during the period that the hall was being constructed and ran small business workshops and cooking classes with the women’s groups from the region. On the last day of construction the women established the “Koko Cafe” and sold their snacks to the volunteers including Chilli Corn Fritters, Banana & Coconut Bread, and Pumpkin & Lentil Soup. The group earned K134 on the day!
The Foundation is extremely grateful to Milton Lay, Clint Davey and all of the volunteers for their enthusiasm and commitment to the project. We are also very grateful to the major donors who funded the project especially Tony Harbrow, Dorothy Kermode, Reg Kermode, and Marg & Ken Kermode. We are also extremely greatful to Higaturu Oil Palms who transported the hall from Oro Bay wharf to Koko village free of charge.