On Monday 6 May, MAMA’s CEO Mark Fraser, General Manager Paul Singer, and Board Member John Fraser, arrived in Kiribati to put the finishing touches on the new MAMA Resource Centre in Bikenibeu village ahead of the official opening on Tuesday 7 May.
The new centre is located at the Aia Maea Ainen Kiribati (AMAK, the National Women’s Centre) in the heavily populated eastern region of South Tarawa. With the main library located over an hour away (and therefore inaccessible to many I-Kiribati children), the MAMA Resource Centre will give pre-primary and primary aged children in the surrounding villages easy, regular and much needed access to books and educational resources.
During a busy visit program, the MAMA team met with the Australian High Commissioner, His Excellency George Fraser, and took time to thank the High Commission staff for their valued assistance in preparing the centre in collaboration with the women from AMAK.
In the afternoon, Mark, Paul and John met with Mr Rokobati Tearo and students at the Kiribati Institute of Technology to thank them for building shelving units and other furniture for the Resource Centre as part of their woodwork class.
On Tuesday morning, the team visited the Te Toa Matoa Disability Centre in Nanikai village. Mark, Paul and John sat with the patients and heard of the significant challenges faced by people with a disability in Kiribati. The MAMA team donated some art and craft supplies and sporting equipment to the children at the centre.
Afterwards, Mark, Paul and John visited the Kiribati Mental Health Facility. They were confronted by the social stigma attached to mental illness in Kiribati. During the visit, they were inspired by the tremendous generosity of spirit as the patients performed a number of dances and songs, before taking Paul and John on in an international ‘friendly’ match of volleyball – Kiribati versus Australia (Australia won 11-10).
The team then visited a number of villages that will benefit from the MAMA Resource Centre, before returning to AMAK to prepare for the opening ceremony.
The MAMA team were joined by the Minister for Education, the Honourable Maere Tekanene; the Australian High Commissioner; the Vice President of AMAK, Mrs Terengaiti Kaure; members of AMAK; and local community representatives for the opening. The Minister gave a wonderful speech acknowledging the importance of early education and praising MAMA’s practical grass-root approach to empowering children in need through improved access to education.
Mark then responded on behalf of MAMA’s Management Committee, thanking AMAK, the local community and the Australian High Commission for their involvement with the project. Mark highlighted the value of locating a children’s library at the women’s centre, underlining the critical role mother’s play in nurturing their children and being actively involved in their educational development. Mark completed the handover of over 4000 books, with the presentation of books from Australian children’s authors Narelle Oliver and Bronwyn Bancroft.
The ceremony included a traditional dance and garlanding ceremony, and culminated in the Minister and Mark cutting the ribbon to officially open the centre.