While many teenagers spent the school holidays hanging out at home or with friends, five teens from Wollongong travelled to a rural village in Vanuatu to help build a water tank.
They were part of a 13-member team connected to Tarrawanna Salvation Army church.
The group’s mission was to build a 9000-litre concrete water tank for the community but the Wollongong teenagers also spent time with primary school children in the rural village, reading books and sharing games.
The Tarrawanna group donated books and sporting equipment to the school.
The team was led by Tarrawanna Salvation Army pastor Lieutenant Matthew Moore and youth group leaders Paul and Emma Mather.
It was made up of five high school students, a school chaplain, health worker, plumber and two retirees.
Adult members of the team paid their own airfares, accommodation and living expenses but the students were sponsored by the Salvation Army and individual church members.
The Salvation Army and Corrimal Rotary Club financially contributed to the cost of building materials.
Tarrawanna Salvation Army church arranged the project through the international assistance organisation, Youth With A Mission, which has a base near Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital city.
Team members were housed at the base during their trip, travelling up to an hour each day to and from the construction site on the back of an open truck along deeply pot-holed roads and dirt bush tracks.
The tank was built in the village of Emorwerik, which is a community of about 250 people, accessed by a rough dirt track almost two kilometres into the bush from a main road.
Their houses, built of concrete, tin or bush materials, are mostly one or two rooms and are scattered through the bush.
Lt Moore said the work was done in hot and hard conditions, but the lasting value of the water tank to the village community was immeasurable.
‘‘For the first time, these people will have a guaranteed storage of fresh water. Until now, they have collected their fresh water whenever it rained in buckets, cans and anything else they could find,” he said.
“Now, they will be able to turn on a tap at the tank and get instant fresh drinking water. Not only will it provide instant drinking water, but it will also enormously assist their health. They won’t have to rely on water for drinking from a well, which is of questionable quality.
‘‘I am proud of and mightily impressed with how our team members conducted themselves during this project.
‘‘It was tough work, especially for those of us who don’t do this type of thing every day,’’ he said.
‘‘Wollongong can be proud of the work done. We were always identified as being from Wollongong.”