Following the tremendous success of the Tsunami Aid Concert which raised a staggering 1.2 million baht in one successful night, President Paul Hawkins and President Elect went on a journey to search for a community that could be effectively helped with the funds available.
Their journey took them to Kuraburi in the Phang Nga District. Everywhere they went they saw devastation, and communities struggling to come to terms with the monumental disaster. Near Kuraburi, they saw a long, low island, Koh Pratong. Coming from an island community themselves, the idea of ‘an island helping an island’ had great appeal. They sought for someone who could help with finding out about the island and its communities. They met a young man called Bodhi Garret, who had lived and worked in Koh Pratong before disaster struck. Appalled by the effect on the people he had grown to know and care about, Bodhi founded the organisation North Andaman Tsunami Relief (NATR). He introduced Paul Hawkins and Paul Watson to the Head Man of Tung Dap, a small village in the south west corner of Koh Pratong. The Headman spoke of his village of 38 people, a mix of Sea Gypsies (Moken) and Thais, who had lost 11 souls from their midst. Children had been orphaned or lost their father or their mother. They were currently living on the main land in a row of shacks in the village of Tung La Ong, and subsisting on Government supplied rice and other basics. The children were attending the school in Tung La Ong, but only had a rat infested room with no furniture. The Headman with great dignity simply asked for materials for the villagers to repair their boats and make squid and crab pots so that they could start to care for their families themselves. Paul and Paul were impressed with the Headman’s modest requests and vowed to help this beleaguered village. Thus began a partnership between NATR, Tung Dap and ROCKS that was to endure for a full two years, and would result in the channeling of over 8.5 million baht into essential projects in the Kuraburi area.
With immediate effect, ROCKS arranged to:
- supply fresh fruit and vegetables, and fresh water
- repair the children’s classroom and supply uniforms
- supplement the teacher’s salary to maintain goodwill over her added burden
- supply materials to repair boats
- supply materials to make squid and crab pots
Back in Koh Samui, President Paul addressed the next meeting of ROCKS, and described their journey of discovery. He spoke about Koh Pratong, ad especially Tung Dap and the idea of adopting the village for a period of two years. The members endorsed the proposal without hesitation. A committee was formed to administer the funds and liaise with NATR so that projects could be selected as funds became available. The committee was chaired by Rotarian Adèle Smith with President Paul and Rotarians Wally Smith and Linda Cartlidge.