FIVE members of the Bundaberg West Rotary Club recently took part in a two-week volunteering exercise at the Godden Memorial Hospital in a remote village on Ambae Island, Vanuatu.
After they started work on the project, they met with locals and hospital staff and discovered an unexpected local connection between the hospital and Bundaberg's sugar cane farming history.
The Godden Memorial Hospital is named in memory of an Anglican missionary priest,
Fr Charles Godden who was murdered in a revenge attack in 1906 by a local Ambaen man, Al Memea.
The man had returned home to Ambae after working as a kanaka labourer on a Bundaberg sugar cane plantation where he had been severely mistreated.
Ambaen locals claim that Al Memea had publically vowed to kill the first white man that came to his village.
The villagers talked him out of killing the first white person spotted, as that person had an excellent rapport with the villagers.
The second white person happened to be
Fr Godden who visited the village to conduct baptisms, despite being aware of the threat. He was shot with a musket that Al Memea had managed to obtain.
The hospital was constructed in 1936 and named after Fr Godden who is buried in the local village.
It has seen very little maintenance or development since its construction. Facilities are extremely outdated, medical supplies are almost non-existent and the hospital is powered by a diesel generator which runs only for limited times during the day.
Rotary International, in partnership with Rotary District 9910 New Zealand and with financial support from a number of other Rotary clubs and districts, including Bundaberg West Rotary Club and Rotary District 9570, is currently undertaking a staged project to carry out urgently needed repairs and upgrades to the hospital.
Bundaberg West Rotary Club contributed seed funding of $US5000 cash to the project.
This contribution was then matched by Rotary District 9570 and, when combined with matched grants from other Rotary clubs, the Rotary Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the donation grew to a contribution in excess of $130,000 towards the $300,000 anticipated cost of project.
The Vanuatu Government is also partnering in the project by utilising the skills and knowledge of Australian and New Zealand volunteer workers to provide carpentry training and qualifications for eight young men from the local area.
Bundaberg West Rotary Club volunteers generally worked as painters, but also delivered a CPR training session to hospital staff, provided advice about upgrading the hospital's dental room and theatre, and provided some maths tuition to the carpentry trainees.
Volunteer team leader and Bundaberg
West Rotary Club president Phil Saxby
said: "Conditions at the hospital are almost incomprehensible for us, they are so bad.”
"The project still has a long way to go and Bundaberg West Rotary Club hopes to be
able to send more teams of volunteers to assist.”