June 25th, 2007
Here is an update from Gizo, in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands, after the tragic earthquake and Tsunami of April 2. Three months later, we are still finding our way out of the rubble, and helping people to stand on their feet again.
I have just been attending the Caritas International Meeting in Rome, and I am happy to report that the Special Operations Appeal for Caritas Australia to work on Tsunami rebuilding in the Solomons has been accepted and signed! Caritas will soon be moving into their area designated by the government in a much bigger way. This will mean a concentration on the Shortland Islands and Moli with its nearby villages, in Northeast Choiseul. As many of you know, Caritas sent the first ship to the Shortlands and Moli with relief supplies, and have continued to help with relief ships every few weeks while awaiting the Special Operations Appeal funding to take effect.
First relief supplies come to Moli Island from Caritas
In Germany I met with Missio both at Aachen and Munich, who have been our generous supporters from years past. We hope to raise funds to rebuild the Diocesan structures which have been destroyed or damaged all over the Gizo Diocese which buildings Caritas under its working Mandate is itself unable to fund.
While I have been away, Fr. Simon Suvenava, the Vicar General, has been working with the diocesan staff to distribute the donations from overseas sent to the diocese. We worked first to meet immediate needs of food and essential items. Then, we moved into livelihood retrieval, which no one else was active in pursuing. I am happy to report that some of your donations have been spent on buying replacement dugout canoes and diving equipment. This is due to the fact that most canoes of the badly hit villages were either destroyed or washed out to sea. With new canoes and fishing gear, the men can get back into the sea to feed their families and to fish for a few extra to sell, in order to buy essentials, like clothes and staple food items.
The Diocese is also working with other NGOs in the area and with other churches to plan the rebuilding phase, and to enlist support wherever it can be found. Next week, our diocesan builder, Sebastian, will be traveling to the Shortlands armed with chain blocks, rope and crow bars to give 3 day trainings in the villages on re stumping houses (like the dangerous one in the photo below) pulling up houses leaning over, and bracing houses.
Dangerous house in Hare Hare, Shortland Islands (note child underneath)
Pittwater Parish, Broken Bay, Sydney has already sent 4 chainsaws and Caritas sent shelter kits with basic tools and nails, so rebuilding is moving ahead. With the recent approval and successful fund raising by Caritas for their operation, there will now be a one year project to rebuild in the Shortlands.
UNICEF has already facilitated repair of the broken water supplies to many of the villages, with the help of the Rural Water Supply workers from Gizo and some generous donations of pipes and water containers. Caritas paid for the Ship, the Government gave the workers, and Unicef gave the pipes, a real ecumenical-type effort!
We are confident that with your continued prayers and donations, we can get help to those who are being left behind, those who have been widowed, and those who have no hope for a new house, a normal life, a return to what they had before that terrible day in April. We are committed to helping those whose lives have been torn apart, and we could not do it without you, our overseas family of supporters and donors.
We are still having mass under the sun, in the garden of the church, as we search for enough funds to rebuild our beautiful but sadly unstable and damaged Cathedral. A large tent is being sent from Italy to serve as a temporary Mass Centre. Any donations which you wish to allocate directly to the Cathedral rebuilding fund, please let us know when you send anything. Donation information is listed on the website below. We still need so much for livelihood regeneration, for rebuilding of homes and infrastructure, and for helping people in a 101 big and small ways.
While in Rome it was officially announced that my resignation as Bishop of Gizo has been accepted by the Holy Father. My successor is Father Luciano Capelli, a Salesian of Don Bosco who has been working in Honiara for some ten years. I will continue as Administrator of the DIOCESE OF GIZO until his Ordination on the 1st of September. I am naturally sad to be leaving the Diocese at this time but happy that a person of such proven ability has been chosen. Let us all pray for him and the people of the Church who have such a huge task ahead of them.
Convent at Loga Island needing re-stumping
Thank you again for your continued generosity and prayers,
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Bishop Bernard O'Grady OP,
P O Box 22, Gizo,
Tel 677 60265
Fax 677 60121
see contact link on main page if you want to send a message
TO DONATE SEE INFORMATION LISTED ON WEBSITE