Think Aid is an ongoing community aid project from Think Water Members with the aim of assisting those that are less fortunate than us. When Think Water Members voted on Fiji as the location for the 2018 conference, most were thinking of white beaches, crystal clear warm water, and palm trees, not the impact we would make on the locals.
As a result, we ended up with a world-class conference location and the chance to collectively improve the lives of some local children with our 2018 Think Aid project. While the conference was our main focus for the trip, it was the Think Aid project that ended up as the highlight for many. Having the privilege to make a difference to this community was very special.
Working with the Shangri-La Fijian Resort we identified two local schools that could benefit from our water-related community aid projects as they relied heavily on unreliable water sources with no guarantee to continual supply. The project began with a call out to our Members, customers, and Preferred Suppliers which resulted in generous donations and multiple idea contributions.
Preferred Suppliers donated a variety of products including Philmac, Vinidex, and sister company Marley (NZ) offering a huge range of rainwater harvesting products, AIP donated taps, Solo NZ and Clayton donated a generator, and Davey a deep well pump to install in the local river. In addition, Philmac and Vinidex delivered 50 rugby balls to each school.
Several pallets of books were collected by participating Members with a plan to share them between the local schools. Cash donations were also gathered with the purpose of funding supplies of reusable ladies’ sanitary products. These products were bought from Mama’s Laef – a company based in Vanuatu who produce washable sanitary pad kits that last for 2-3 years.
Think Water Members, Preferred Suppliers, and families arrived in Fiji a day early to donated their time prior to the conference to this fantastic community aid project. The biggest challenge faced throughout the project was the management of over 90 people assisting with the various tasks at various times. This was a success due to the use of the Think Water Project Management system.
Upon arrival at the schools, the group split into designated teams to work on individual projects. With limited tools available, there was plenty of ingenuity and bush mechanic skills on display eventually resulting in the delivery of two successful projects.
Ratu Ilaisa located in the southern part of Fiji has 110 students. Our project here was to fit 30m of new guttering to the main building and repair the existing water tanks increasing their rainwater harvesting capacity by more than 30,000L. We also installed a pump at the local river to service the toilets. These installations provided a back up to the inconsistent town water supply.
Nadroumai is located in the southwestern side of the island and caters to just over 100 students, with 50 of those boarding at the school during the week. The team repaired 25m of guttering and resurrected three damaged rainwater tanks to increase the schools catchment by 20,000L. The school had an existing bore pump as their primary water supply, which could be out of action for weeks during frequent power cuts. We installed a generator to power the pump and ensure water at all times.
As a side project, we repaired the showers and installed carpet in the girls’ boarding room. The 35 young ladies that sleep in the boarding room were so ecstatic that their concrete floor had been covered with carpet that they were going to sleep on the floor that night!
With the books on the library shelves, water supplies now reliable and carpet laid the last task was to show the local girls how to use the 100 Mammas Laef kits that were donated. While this took place there was plenty of reading, singing, and games with the kids and some great bonds were formed. A few of the blokes were ushered into the Chief’s room at Ratu Ilaisa and had the honour of a Kava ceremony – luckily they didn’t have to drive the bus back to the resort!
While it is clear that our Think Aid project has made a difference to these local schools, most agreed that the real difference was the effect these kids had on us. Phil Best, one of our Operations Managers, was so impressed by the generosity he decided to continue raising money during the conference beach party. Phil raised money by asking for donations to support him on a marathon night swim (well, 200m). I don’t know if the result was gained from supporting his swim efforts or paying him to keep his clothes on. Regardless the funds have since doubled which will allow Think Water to continue to supply the Mama’s Laef kits to the surrounding schools.
Think Waters community aid fundraising continues to operate with donations funding future supply of Mama’s Laef kits to young ladies at the Fijian schools.