Rotary in Action: A recycling story

Rotary is a body of individuals committed to "making a difference" in the world. In 2014 there was a Scout/Community Hall that badly needed repair; this hall was situated in Madang, Papua New Guinea.

It so happened that a Rotary Club in Australia (Kiama) became aware of this need and responded by working with the local Madang Rotary Club to refurbish the hall.

As part of this response, the Rotarians from Kiama heard about the Madang Hospital, its kitchen and its parlous state of disrepair.

They came back to Australia having repaired the Scout/Community Hall, with a commitment to Hospital staff about examining the feasibility of repairing their kitchen.

In another life most Rotarians would have made "above average" rag-and-bone persons; always looking out for something discarded that might prove useful in a club project.

And so it came to pass that the Kiama Rotary Club became aware of the redevelopment planned for the site of the old Kiama Hospital.

An immediate connection was made in a Rotarian's mind between demolishing the Kiama Hospital to repairing the Madang Hospital; the ultimate recycling opportunity.

Following a little bit of "horse trading", Kiama Rotarians began turning up to the old hospital site with hammers in hand and over a number of weeks the salvageable components of the kitchen were removed.

At the same time, a shipping container was arranged, the kitchen was packed; along with 14 donated hospital beds including mattresses, numerous chairs, shelving, seventy bags of hospital linen and three tubs of "birthing kits".

Earlier this month a team of four Rotarians flew into Madang, at their own expense, to commence the renovation of the kitchen.

"We were amazed at the local support we received; this was something they had been waiting for," Trevor Phillis, the team leader said.

The cleaning and painting commenced; woodwork was repaired, benches and shelving installed; even managing to coax their rangehood into action again.

"We achieved everything we wanted to in that kitchen and more," says Trevor. They even found time to fix lighting and fans in the laundry and reassemble the 14 donated hospital beds.

The local Rotary Club of Madang were both supportive and grateful and will, in the coming weeks, fund the installation of refrigeration equipment for the ex-Kiama Hospital cool-room that Trevor's team had installed.

All involved in Australia and Madang agree it was a very satisfying project in which to be involved, with both physical and emotional outcomes.

"The smile on the Head Chief's face when she saw what we had done to her kitchen brought her and us to tears", said Trevor.

Having earlier worked on the refurbishment of the local scout/community hall in 2014, Trevor was pleased to see it had been well cared for.

"We kept using it as an example of the benefit of regular maintenance. It was a great way to get across a concept that is alien to their culture and values."

A report in the Madang newspaper by a prominent citizen called the men "Four saints from Australia".

Kiama and Gerringong Rotary congratulates the team for a job well done, as it now looks forward to its next project.

If making a difference through hands-on projects appeals, contact Dick Groom (M:0438 839 061) for a "no-obligation" chat.