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A volunteer teacher in Gizo

21/08/2007: Solomon Islands

Sharon Attard, one of our Young Marists is completing her 3rd year as a volunteer teacher in the Solomon Islands. She has been living and working on the island of Vanga not far from Gizo. Sharon was in Gizo at the time of the Earthquakes and Tsunami and so witnessed the horror. The building she had been staying in was swamped and as with the other residents only survived by retreating to the high grounds immediately the tremors started.

Following is a reflection she wrote shortly after the devastation.

Lucky for me only my kitchen caved in which was only just standing up before the quake. Actually, whenever Id shut the door with strength concrete would fall from the pillars, so it is not a surprise that it is down.

I havent been back to the school to see the place but the main walls in the workshops are down, as are some staff housing and our wharf.

Here in Gizo it is hectic and I am only just hanging in there. I am yet to let out a good cry however there doesnt seem to be the time. I have spent the last few days trying to get the bishops house in order and surrounding office for the Gizo Diocese. People are coming and going to see the Bishop and the stories of death and survival are plenty.

I spent this morning cleaning the alter of broken glass and bricks/concrete. Now I am setting up a spread sheet of the needs in the camps. We have a shipment coming in today and hopefully if transport is available will begin the distribution process. Shelter, food and water are the priorities on the needs list, however there are a large amount of people who are still wearing the same clothes they fled their houses in.

Diarrhea is now spreading amongst the children due to poor water and of course malaria will start to increase as mosquito nets are few. These however are also on their way.

Food is scarce as the Chinese shops have/ suffered greatly as well. I have walked up and down the main street many times in search of an open store. They line the shores and have both water and earthquake damage. Thankfully the bread shop is in operation.

Everyone is having a rough time dealing with the shock of feeling the quake and tsunami as well as the loss of lives and homes. I think most people feel completely helpless; me included and need some direction as to what to do.

For me, I feel the destruction all around me, and it is hard to describe the emotions here. I am still coping with the shock of the quake, and the tremors which are still occurring are frightening. It is only because the people around me are calm that I am trying to remain calm. But it is not easy.

The first couple of days I spent on the hills with everyone and wanted so much to assist but was at a loss. I tried to engage myself in small tasks around the makeshift hospital, interpreting, cleaning equipment, holding torches at night for doctors and just talking with people. Unfortunately, there seemed to be no one in charge therefore little direction given.

I am now sleeping at the Bishops house in which the water reached last Monday and am shaken by any sound I hear. Last night I jumped out of bed with a racing heart hearing what sounded like water rolling onto the shore line. It was a truck on the gravel road but the terror I felt is unexplainable. I suppose my nerves are a little haywire at present.

Obviously, it is going to take some time for people to come to terms with what has happened but the greatest thing is that people are in good spirits despite the recent events.


Shaz - June 4th, 2007

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