Sharon and Julian Smallwood reflect on Cruise-Aiders, Christmas, material wealth and making a difference.
Christmas is-a-coming and the goose is getting fat. Another year is nearly over and while the emphasis is mostly on celebration, many of us now take time out to reflect.
Like the majority of liveaboard cruisers, I don't have much in terms of material wealth (at least by modern western standards). I don't have a house, a car, or a plasma-screen TV. But cruising has taken me to places where what I do have (a boat, a camera, a lap-top, clean clothes and money for food) makes me seem stunningly rich. I have travelled to remote islands where modern medicine doesn't exist, where schools are a luxury, where basic commodities like soap are highly prized.
In places where I might make a difference I did whatever I could. I traded and donated goods, I listened to people's stories and perhaps most importantly I gave my time. I will never forget being asked to teach a classroom full of teenagers on the Indonesian island of Bawean. While Julian gave an impromptu geography lesson on cruising routes through SE Asia, I was the subject of intense questioning. At the end of our session a lovely young girl raised her hand. “I want to be your daughter”, she said. “Will you adopt me?”
The subject of education is one that is close to my heart, maybe because my mother was a teacher, maybe because I benefitted from attending a good school. I was therefore, especially interested to learn of an organisation called Cruise-Aiders and in particular their Gigila School Project, which is scheduled for 2010. The project was brought to my attention while based at the Bundaberg Port Marina, by a local builder named John Kemps. John and his wife Sandra have a boat in the marina named Gypsy Pearl and were, for a time, among our neighbours.
Gigila is an island in the Louisiades, an archipelago administered by Papua New Guinea, which is favoured by many Australian cruisers. The idea behind Cruise-Aiders originally came from cruising folk Gina De Vere and Christian Selaries (on SV Caesura) and Eric and Cathy Gray (on SV Erica). These eager voyagers visited the Louisiades in 2007 and found a way to not only help the islanders they met, but provide them with a means of continuing to help themselves. During 2007-8 the founding members were joined by locals and new recruits, to complete the “Banana Boat Project” on Gigila Island. This saw the successful building of an island trading boat, along with the teaching of important fibreglassing skills.
Fellow Cruise-Aiders Chris and Paul Taylor (SV Insatiable), who assisted with the Banana Boat Project, returned to Australia with an idea for phase two – the Gigila School Project. While Paul had been busy boat building, Chris and other female cruisers were out visiting the local school. According to the Cruise-Aiders website, “The school had holes in the walls where dogs and pigs wandered in at will. It was on this dirt/sand floor that the children sat and worked and played during the day. There was nowhere to put books, nowhere solid to place a sheet of paper. No tables, shelves, or drawers.”
Back in Bundaberg John Kemps was informed of this situation and he immediately agreed to lend a hand. John provided his considerable expertise and knowledge of the construction industry to assist with the drafting of plans for a new school building and a list of the materials required. In August 2010 John intends to travel to Gigila Island at his own expense, to supervise construction of the new school.
The total cost of this project is an estimated $20,000. According to John fundraising has been well supported so far but it's not just about securing the money. Cruise-Aiders is also interested to hear from any would-be volunteers or cruisers capable of transporting materials and supplies. If you're thinking of visiting the Louisiades next year, why not get involved. It certainly sounds like a worthwhile cause.
For more information visit http://www.cruise-aiders.com/ or alternatively, if you have a question or perhaps a cause that you would like to highlight, please post a comment below.
May I also take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.