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  Volume 4 - Issue 02
FEBRUARY 2006
 
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WATER PROJECT FOR ABORIGINALS IN TOOMELAH, AUSTRALIA


Heart2Heart received an account of wonderful seva in Australia which will have far-reaching and life changing affects on 250 Aboriginal people. The hearts of the Sai Organsiation had gone out to this native community who were suffering from contaminated water. The Toomelah Aboriginal Community is located around 40km from Goondiwindi near the Queensland and New South Wales border, in Australia.

Seventy families are living there, including approximately 100 children and their facilities are very basic. Their water supply is from a borehole piped to ground storage tanks. This water is then pumped to an overhead tank and then distributed to the community through a network of pipes.

It was scientifically and independently demonstrated that the Toomelah water was not up to the standards of the Australia Health Regulations for Drinking Water and that it therefore required treatment before drinking. Even the clearest water, with apparently no health risk, can result in a high level of microbiological contamination.

Many of the micro-organisms found in the water are pathogenic causing disease in humans. Most susceptible to these illnesses are the young and the elderly. A rubbish site is located 100 metres from the borehole. The pump house and the storage system are not maintained properly. The annual cleaning for the storage tanks have not been carried out in years.

One of the community members, Elder Albert said that Toomelah had been asking for clean drinking water since 1913 but nothing had been done. He said that the main problem is the cotton farming in the region. The bore water is contaminated with chemicals eg. Round-up, insecticides and many other chemicals. He said that the "The chemicals in the bore water makes the youth go Wooba (sick). Also the poor water quality and the contamination from the tanks can lead to many illnesses such as depression, skin diseases, cancer, dental problems etc. One of the main illnesses among the youth can be excessive anger and a degree of poor concentration which is caused by the chemicals in the water and many Elders are very sick.”

 
Installation underway
 
The Water Purification Plant

After liaising with the community, the Sai Organisation decided to install a water purification system and 1000 litre storage tank. After extensive organization and procurement of materials the 12 hour installation work was carried out on 4th November 2005.

They told Heart2Heart that “On arrival at 2.00pm, the youth unloaded and assembled the shed that will house the Water Purification Plant (WPP). We then had to level the ground to sit the WPP on cement blocks. The team worked to 8.45pm that night. We then retired to the caravan park for supper.”

 
Sai Volunteers working at night to complete the WPP
 
Aboriginal Youth Leader Jack Dennison putting on the Water Purification System

The next morning after Bhajans the team left to complete the installation of the WPP. “We had to divert some plumbing pipes which we had never planned for (Swami's Game),” the Sai volunteers continued, “The young people, who had no plumbing experience, had to buy some accessories for this diversion, having to go to the town three times for the correct parts. This was indeed a learning experience for them! At about 1.30pm the WPP was installed and filling up.”

Aboriginal Water Purification Ceremony

Elder Roger told the Sai volunteers that he was going to the bush to get some herbs for the opening ceremony of the water purification plant at 4.00pm.

 
Aboriginal Elder Albert thanking the Sai Organisation
 
Aboriginal Elder Jacko consuming safe drinking water

Aunty Eda and Elder Roger from the aboriginal community asked the Sai Volunteers to participate in the inaugural Ceremony which they gladly did. This took the form of a smoke ceremony based on Aboriginal traditions. Another community elder, Aunty Ada McGrady, commented that “Many people and organisations come with promises but never come back to carry it out. But the Sai Organisation is very different and you will always be our friends. Today is a magical day in our lives - at last something good has come to Toomelah!”

 
Aboriginal Larry consuming purified water
 
Traditional Cleansing Ceremony

As Aunty Ada drank the water she said that “This is yummy!" She was overwhelmed with excitement and was unsure whether this water purification plant belonged to the community, a Sai Volunteer said. When reassured that this was indeed the case her eyes filled with tears. On behalf of the Elders, Elder Roger asked Jenny and Mr. Pather – two of the organizers - if they could adopt them as Elders in the Goomeroi Community. “We kindly accepted this with their blessings,” they said.

The Sai Organisation’s work also came to the attention of the local press which carried this story on Swami’s birthday. An excerpt from the article follows:

“Mr Pather (one of the organizers) said that the main highlight of the project was when the elders adopted he and his wife as members of the community. ‘I was lost for words and it brought a tear to my eye when Aboriginal people take you on’ he said. (The Sai Organisation)…is currently working with 25 indigenous schools in need of improvement and are looking at assisting the Toomelah preschool with a breakfast programme and bringing in their own doctors where need be.” The Goondiwindi Argus, Nov 23rd 2005

Heart2Heart would like to thank the Sai volunteers for sending in the account of their very important work, which has obviously been inspired by Swami. This same group is also involved in some EHV work with the Aboriginal community and Heart2Heart will be making efforts to carry an account of this in a later issue. Their website is at www.aboriginal-torres-strait-saiseva.info

- Heart2Heart Team.


 
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Vol 4 Issue 02 - February 2006
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