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Sandpit build brings a smile to local kids

Private Chantelle Mooney of Combined Task Force 635 gives the class a thumbs up after she ran an impromptu class for the students of the Gifu Primary School in the Solomon Islands.

Jamie Clark’s name has not been forgotten by the children who attend the Kindergarten that bears his name in the remote village of Barana.

Member of the Combined Task Force 635 (CTF 635), preparing to leave the Solomon Islands as the mission drew to a close, volunteered their spare time to visit the kindergarten and build a sandpit for the local children.

Built with surplus timber, sand from a local beach and the trade skills of some of the CTF Reservist members, the sandpit brought about big smiles all round.

Chaplain Mark Dunn, the organiser of the event, said the community were delighted to have the team of 40 come out to visit the school.

“They’ve been very enthusiastic and welcoming of the opportunity,” Chaplain Dunn said.

“We enjoyed a number of activities on the day, including a traditional welcome with some singing and dancing by the women in traditional dress, and playing some sport with the kids in the community.”

As the sandpit was being built, the laughing, singing and screaming of the children having fun with the volunteers continued throughout the day.

Lance Corporal Lucas Brown from Alpha Company said it was a privilege to have the opportunity to help the local community.

“I’ve barely been able to wipe the smile off my face today. Helping the kids and actually getting the opportunity to get out and help people has been unbelievable, Lance Corporal Brown said.

Private Clark was the only Australian Defence Force death during the 10-year contribution to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

Private Clark died while on patrol searching for possible weapon caches when he fell into a sinkhole.

Although many on the current rotation did not know Jamie, meeting with his mother Avril in April this year gave members an understanding of the significance his legacy has in the Solomons following his tragic death eight years go.