By LUKE KAMA
NETWORK Kokoda, a non-profit organisation that aims to help local communities living along the Kokoda Track, is partnering with Iarowari High School in Sogeri to improve school facilities to make it self-sustainable in the long-term.
Founder and director of Network Kokoda, Charlie Lynn, said the partnership started through a chance meeting with teachers at the school in 2010.
“The discussion led to a tour of the school which housed up to 1000 boarding students from all over the country.”
Lynn said the boarding conditions were atrocious.
“Toilets were indescribable, dormitories had no lighting for privacy or study facilities,” Lynn said.
“The kitchen and mess hall were built by the army in 1942 and had never been upgraded.
“The daily diet for the students was a biscuit for breakfast, another for lunch and dinner was tinned fish and rice. No second helpings and no desserts.
“We asked if they would be interested if we helped convert their vacant land into market gardens to improve the nutrition for both students and teachers.
“They were overjoyed at the prospect so we then established Network Kokoda as a not-for-profit company, which was soon approved as a developing country relief fund for PNG, with tax deductibility in Australia.”
Lynn said their first task was to engage agricultural graduate from Popondetta, Oggie Erehe, and establish an agriculture learning centre at Sogeri.
“We then fenced the paddocks at the school and organised teachers and students into work parties,” he said.
“It wasn’t long before the hills were covered in pineapples, lettuce, cabbage, potatoes, beans and other fresh vegetables.
“Our next task was to restore an old dam built by the army in 1942.
“Richmond Rotary generously donated funds for Oggie to purchase a fleet of wheelbarrows and to pay a platoon of local youth who cleaned it in six months.”
Lynn said Warren Bartlett, a former Kiap, supervised rebuilding of the dam wall and local women’s groups set about making nets and pontoons for the fish.
“By April, Network Kokoda will be providing fresh fish and vegetables to around 1000 students and teachers at the schools,” he said.
“The school will also sell them to supermarkets in Port Moresby to supplement their income.”
By LUKE KAMA