Two Johns make a difference in Kirabati

Some months after their visit the people of Abaokoro in Kiribati remain grateful for the contributions of maintenance team members John Bunce and John Hody.

The pair installed solar panels to provide electricity to a preschool and convent school run by the Good Samaritans. They also installed much-needed fans, down pipes and guttering.

The trip was an initiative of business managers of Good Samaritan schools in Sydney, and a larger team was originally planned, but the two Johns ended up being the party.

Maintenance Supervisor at St Patrick’s College Campbelltown John Bunce said in previous years teachers had visited the developing island, but this year it was considered tradespeople with practical skills could make a real difference.

Bunce said Sister Marie, who runs the Convent, is a “brave woman” because Kirabati is a very underdeveloped island with extreme heat and humidity.

Building the solar installation on hard coral, with all the equipment shipped in by canoe, was a hard task but Bunce said the rewards came from the local people.

“The people were so friendly and so happy with what they have,” Bunce said.

“Everywhere we went they had a welcoming ceremony for us and shared their food, even though they have very little.”

“We were only there for two weeks but they had a farewell ceremony for us as well.

“Since I’ve been back home I’ve appreciated what we have here and how easy it is, although everyone in Kiribati seemed so happy with their life.”

John Bunce has been a Union member for more than 20 years. When he started his career maintenance staff were not part of the IEU but belonged to the construction union.

“Being able to join with the teachers and be part of the IEU was paramount for us. It gave us a voice which we never had before.”

Mount St Benedict College Pennant Hills maintenance team member John Hody admits conditions weren’t easy in Kirabati, but the rewards were there.

“Sister Marie came to visit us recently and she said the people are still talking about our work,” John Hody said.

Although the pair’s main job was installing solar, their varied skills meant they were able to help in other ways.

“One woman needed help with an outboard motor on her boat that wouldn’t work. I have worked with motorbikes and I was able to fix it. She was really pleased,” Hody said.

‘I also helped fix pushbikes. It was an experience and I would go back.”

When they left, the Johns donated tools they had bought with them to the local people, who have trouble getting hold of basic supplies.

John Hody has been in the IEU for about six years and said he likes to have someone to turn to who knows his rights.

Sue Osborne