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By FRANCES RAND
A DREAM of building a community
hall in a remote part of Papua New
Guinea became a reality in 2011.
After two years of planning, nine
months of fund raising and only nine
days of building, the village of Koko
has a community hall.
The man behind the project is
Mollymook resident Milton Lay.
Mr Lay was the executive officer
with the Shoalhaven Area
Consultative Committee in 2008
when he first walked the Kokoda
Track and visited the village that is
home to 250 to 300 people.
He was co-ordinating a youth
development program of year 11
students and was keen to follow in his
The Koko villagers all have relatives
who served as porters and carriers
helping the Australian troops,
including Mr Lay's father, during
World War II.
Known as the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels,
they risked their lives to help the
Diggers in 1942, and now their
descendents were living in a village
which lacked basic life essentials we
take for granted.
"The villagers didn't have access to
water," says Mr Lay. "They had to
walk 400 metres to get water for
drinking, cooking and washing."
Although Mr Lay had never built a
thing - or even worked as a builder's
labourer - he knew he could do
something with his organisational
skills to help the villagers.
After the Kokoda Hall Steering
Committee raised $60,000, $4000 shy
of the total required, he returned to
Koko last month with 13 other
volunteers including Radio 2ST's
Graham French and Nowra
Chemicals' John Lamont.
Getting there is no mean feat. After
flying to Port Moresby, there's a flight
to Popondetta and then a three to five
hour "road" trip to Koko.
"You cross over four rivers where
the bridges have been washed away
in a cyclone," says Mr Lay. "You take
The volunteers spent two weeks
there, the first five days waiting for the
building kit to arrive, leaving the men
with nine days to put it together. They
succeeded and now the village not
only has a community hall but also
two 5000-litre water tanks.
Mr Lay was incredibly touched by
the reception the villagers gave the
volunteers. "It was unbelievable -
there was a very moving ceremony
where the villagers got dressed up in
headdresses and sang a welcome
song when we arrived. The village
women cooked for us and gave us
vegetables and fruit."
Mr Lay is still fundraising for the
Koko village hall to install floor
coverings, a generator and school
details on the project.
Village hut and dancers
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