By Casey Neill
A Keysborough couple has installed solar panels on a Papua New Guinean school.
Trek 4 Education Kokoda founders Mark and Julie Capper made the journey to Kagi Elementary School in the highlands of the Kokoda Track in July.
“As with our previous projects, we ask the village leaders and school teachers what they would require in the next 12 months,” Mr Capper said.
“So this was part of their wish list from last year.
“Last year we didn’t have the opportunity to do the solar power, but we did build school desks.
“We normally do projects every two years but the Bendigo Bank gave us a grant this year so we were able to go back.”
Instead of walking into the jungle the Trek crew used a helicopter.
“We also donated two laptops with speakers and a printer,” Mr Capper said.
“It was a bit of a win-win because we hired an electrician who grew up in the village. He put it all together.”
He said the PNG education department supplied all school teachers with USB drives loaded with learning programs.
“A lot of those learning programs were around singing,” he said.
“They couldn’t access that until we put the solar panel system in.
“With the extra speakers the whole class could hear and sing along.
“They learn to speak English.
“It’s very special.”
Mr Capper said arranging the projects could be frustrating.
“When you actually arrive in the village and you do these things, you just can’t help but have a tear in your eye,” he said.
The team received a welcome song and gifts when they arrived.
“It’s just magnificent,” he said.
“While I was in Papua New Guinea we received a letter of appreciation from one of the councillors of the village.
“It was great to be acknowledged by the local government.
He plans to return to PNG next September and is seeking a new wish list from a different school.
“We’ve been concentrating on this one particular school. They are scattered throughout the track,” he said.
“We’ll put some emails out and messages through Facebook over the next few months and find out what’s required and take it from there.
“I met with some people from a group over there that are helping out the families along the Kokoda track with school fees.
“We’ve decided we will sponsor one child next year with school fees.”
The Cappers are moving to Cairns in November where they’ll be only an hour’s flight away from PNG.
“We can fly over there just for a day,” he said.
The Cappers and 10 other people made the inaugural Trek 4 Education in September 2014.
“Many Australians use their trek to raise money for causes back home – all very worthy – but most people forget that the people of the Kokoda Track area also need our help,” Mr Capper said.
They made their second journey along the Kokoda Track in August and September last year, delivering educational supplies to schools along the way.
One in 12 children in Papua New Guinea dies before their fifth birthday.
“Kids that survive past the age of five are confronted every day with the daily struggles of living in a Third World country and this is even more exaggerated in rural areas,” he said.
Mr Capper said the country was rebuilding schools and training teachers but still lacked basic supplies.
“The kids along the Kokoda Track are direct descendants of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels and it is very well-known that our Diggers received much-needed support and comfort from them during the Japanese attacks in 1942,” he said.