When President Paul Hawkins of Rotary Club of Koh Samui, ROCKS, decided to launch an appeal for aid for the victims of the devastating tsunami on 24th December 2004, he decided to approach Rotary International Foundation to see what funds would be available. He investigated the possibility of applying for a ‘Matching Grant’, but knew that it would require another Rotary Club to join with ROCKS in this venture. Former Rotarian Linda Cartlidge had been a resident of Tahoe City, California, and suggested to Paul Hawkins that he contact the Rotary Club there, as she was sure that they would be anxious to help. Sure enough, Tahoe City expressed their willingness to form such a partnership.
In the early days after the tsunami, it seemed that the most pressing need was to obtain a good water supply for ROCKS ‘adopted village’, Tung dap, and also to construct or repair boats. Thus the Matching Grant paperwork was put into place with those two items as the main aim. With both clubs putting some funds into place, Rotary Foundation topped the fund up to 1.2 million baht ($30,000). ROCKS and Tahoe City were delighted.
What neither club could envisage was the long lead up time before the partner club would actually receive the funds. By that time, Tung Dap had an adequate water supply, and all of its boats were repaired. Then the idea formed of building a large water tower, so that the village would have a supply of water ‘on tap’ for the first time in its existence. Furthermore, with very little adaptation, an escape platform could be added, so that in the event of another tsunami, all the villagers could climb to safety, above the reach of the lethal wave. The concept of the water tower was approved by Tahoe City and Rotary Foundation, as well as the adaptation, to the delight of ROCKS.
On one of ROCKS trips to Tung dap, the idea was floated with Bodhi Garret of North Andaman Tsunami Relief, NATR, who oversaw and monitored all of ROCKS’ projects. Bodhi was enthusiastic, and set about finding a suitable contractor, willing to undertake the task, as it involved transporting all materials and builders to the island of Koh Pratong. It still took some months before final negotiations were complete, and plans drawn up. The structure would be 10 metres high, with a large square tank at the top, surrounded by a wide platform for villagers to assemble in time of need.
Work commenced in December 2005 and proceeded apace. Rotarians Adèle and Wally Smith on a visit in January 2006 were able to see the solid foundations in place. By the time of next ROCKS visit in March, the structure was up and awaiting finishing work. It was envisaged that the tower would be completed by April, and the date 6th April was chosen to officially ‘open’ the tower. During the construction period, another organisation had offered to sponsor all the pipe work necessary to carry the water to all homes and to newly completed toilet blocks. For the first time in their, villagers would be able to turn on a tap in their homes, and to have proper sanitation.
A large party of ROCKS members, spouses and some children, made the journey to Tung Dap. For some, it was a return trip, and for others a first visit. Among the party was Immediate Past President Paul Hawkins, who was the instigator of the project, President Paul Watson who had been with Paul Hawkins on the journey of discovery to ‘adopt’ an island and a village. Rotarian Adèle Smith, who with husband Wally had overseen this and all other ROCKS projects. The party was given a warm welcome by the villagers of Tung Dap, who were delighted to receive the organisation that had provided so much. They proudly showed off the water tower, and its depictions of logos of Tahoe City, ROCKS and a Rotary Wheel, all hand painted on the tower’s faces. After officially declaring the water tower open, Adèle opened the stopcock to start the water flowing. There was ‘glitch’ in the ceremony, as water erupted from the ground some 20 metres away; clearly one of the joints was less than perfect. The stopcock was hastily closed to allow for repairs while the ROCKS party as escorted to the community centre for lunch. Adèle was then presented with an orchid which was indigenous to the island in thanks for all her help over the past year.