New Classrooms for Mercy School Reply

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The dedicated building team: Patteson Amos, Genesis Suka, Phillip Toside, Denmark Ata, Henley Anika, Stephen Parfeta, and Benjamin Waneta.

Mercy School and international charity, Make A Mark Australia, are working together to build two new classrooms for primary school children in Burns Creek. Currently, the over 800 children of Mercy School share nine classrooms (made from six built classrooms and a leaf hut divided by tarpaulins) and so more educational spaces are needed to enhance learning outcomes.

Make A Mark Australia focuses on providing improved resources and learning environments for impoverished children worldwide. They are a volunteer run, non-profit that relies on the kindness of the community to support their work.

After the project plans were finalised in June this year, one of the first steps was to get the land ready for construction. To achieve this, Mercy School Head Teacher, Simon Rilaua, organised Year 5 and 6 students to clear the land with their own large machetes. The students did an efficient and thorough job in preparing the ground, getting ready for the construction team to move in.

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The school children clearing the land.

When the site was ready to go, the project team began sourcing construction materials from local businesses. A number of hardware stores around Honiara heard that this was a charity project, and so offered generous discounts on essential items. Cheng’s Hardware, John Wesley Timber and Top Timber have all supported the project enthusiastically, recognising its value to the Burns Creek community.

The two new classrooms are now coming along well, with concrete poured and most of the frames constructed. This is hot work for the six workman who have been employed in the project. As it is often over 35 degrees and humid, the men generally work in the cool of the morning and then again in the late afternoon.

Project Manager, Leigh Pirie, who is a teacher when at home in Australia, said the building project had been a new experience for her. ‘So far it has been an enjoyable, frustrating, challenging, hilarious, empowering and rewarding experience. For the first time in my life, I have spent large amounts of time at timber yards, hardware stores, and building sites’.

Leigh also commented that it had been a great chance to learn more about Solomon Islands from the people she had met through the project, ‘I have had some deep philosophical discussions regarding religion, marriage, the role of women in the Solomons and even etiquette in catching taxis’.

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Project Manager Leigh Pirie and Lead Builder Patteson Amos outside the first new classroom.

The larger aim of the project is to move the entire school from its current location, 40 meters from an expanding pig farm, to the playing fields in the centre of the Burns Creek settlement. This area has easy access from the road and plenty of room for the children to play at lunchtime.

If anyone is able to contribute, either with funds, goods or services please contact Leigh Pirie on 7804912 or leighsouthwell@yahoo.com.au. Shelving, door locks, window security mesh and playground timber are desperately needed to finish the project.

To celebrate the building of these two new classrooms, Mercy School is holding a fundraiser on Saturday 18 October to raise money for desks and other furnishings. More details on the fundraiser will be put on The Pineapple Post once they are available.

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Concrete posts are in for classroom number two.

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