From Ingleburn to a remote island in Vanuatu

Ingleburn Rotary Club members with Emae Island locals. Picture: Supplied
Ingleburn Rotary Club members with Emae Island locals. Picture: Supplied

For 12 years Ingleburn Rotary Club members have been dedicated to improving the lives of residents on a small island in Vanuatu.

It takes a 20 minute plane ride to get to Emae Island from the capital of Vanuatu, Port Villa.

The 10-kilometre long and five-kilometre wide island is made up of about seven separate villages that live off the land. There is no running water and only a small source of power from solar panels funded by the club.

But for Ingleburn Rotary Club members, Emae Island is a home away from home.

Ingleburn Rotary Club members with Emae Island locals. Picture: Supplied

Ingleburn Rotary Club members with Emae Island locals. Picture: Supplied

For more than a decade the local rotarians have raised funds to put towards the construction of a school. They’ve also made several visits to lend a hand in the construction.

Member Reg Robinson said he enjoyed every minute spent on the island during his several visits over the years.

“In many ways it’s a beautiful experience and puts life into perspective,” he said.

“It’s a bit like camping where you have to forgo a couple of things.”

Ingleburn Rotary Club members with Emae Island locals. Picture: Supplied

Ingleburn Rotary Club members with Emae Island locals. Picture: Supplied

The school’s reputation has continued to grow among Shepherd Islands – the cluster of islands where Emae Island is located.

Teens in years 7 to 10 now come from neighbouring islands to attend the school.

However, the walls don’t just provide an education.

In 2015, after the first building was complete, Cyclone Pam decided to pay the Emae Island a visit.

Sixteen people were killed as the storm swept through the South Pacific. But if it wasn’t for the school, residents on Emae Island could have been added to that casualty total.

“The building stood up and saved the lives on many people on the island,” Mr Robinson said.

The school, funded by Ingleburn Rotary Club.

The school, funded by Ingleburn Rotary Club.

Three members of the club recently flew over to the island for the naming of the school’s second building, the Wazza Purcell Classroom – named after late member and former owner of Bob Jane T-Marts Campbelltown, Warren Purcell.

There are also plans in the pipeline to construct a third building, with about $30,000 needed to fund the project.

Mr Robinson said all Ingleburn Rotary Club members were proud to be part of the Emae Island project.

“We are blown away (by what we have acheived) because we are just a small club – just a bunch of people from Ingleburn,” he said.

“We are punching above our weight.”

Ingleburn Rotary Club members with Emae Island locals. Picture: Supplied

Ingleburn Rotary Club members with Emae Island locals. Picture: Supplied

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