25 Jul 2016

Pacific school visits important -NZDF

2:03 pm on 25 July 2016

A New Zealand Defence Force lieutenant says school visits should be a regular part of humanitarian efforts by military forces in the Pacific.

Members of a multi-national task force led by the New Zealand Defence Force recently visited primary and secondary schools in one of the main islands in Tonga’s Ha’apai island group.

Members of a multi-national task force led by the New Zealand Defence Force recently visited primary and secondary schools in one of the main islands in Tonga’s Ha’apai island group. Photo: Supplied/NZDF

The Defence Force is in Tonga to lead the humanitarian and disaster relief exercise Tropic Twilight which includes engineers from Tonga, China, and the United States.

Seven schools were visited by members of the defence force to spread messages about dental hygiene, respect, and the importance of education.

The medical planner for the exercise, Lieutenant Aidan Bilbe, said the visits were a spontaneous idea to give back to the community that had welcomed them and he would not hesitate to do it again.

"It was bit of an impromptu task here but it's been so well received, the teachers are really happy that we're reinforcing their positive messages and I think it's something that next time, it should go into the planning phase and we should come out here with an idea of doing it before we even set off from New Zealand."

Lieutenant Bilbe said many of the students said they wanted to join the armed forces.

Lieutenant Aidan Bilbe (centre) with Solomone Pule (left), who is the principal of Ha'apai High School, and Olivia Mafileo (right) from Tonga’s Ministry of Education.

Lieutenant Aidan Bilbe (centre) with Solomone Pule (left), who is the principal of Ha'apai High School, and Olivia Mafileo (right) from Tonga’s Ministry of Education. Photo: NZDF

The defence force also installed water tanks and a toilet block throughout the Ha'apai group under the Tropic Twilight exercise.

Lieutenant Colonel Josh Wineera said the Ha'apai group was devastated by the cyclone and water installation is a much needed requirement.

"There's a number of community halls and churches where we've been able to use our engineers to bring in and just assistance with some of those plumbing and some of those engineering type tasks."

Lieutenant Colonel Wineera said a public ablution block and nine water tanks have been installed throught the two main islands of Ha'apai.

The project has been handed over to the Tongan Government.

Nine water tanks were installed under the Tropic Twilight exercise including these at Pangai fire and police station.

Nine water tanks were installed under the Tropic Twilight exercise including these at Pangai fire and police station. Photo: NZDF

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