STRUMMING: Mt St Patrick's students busk to raise funds to send ukuleles to Pacific Island children, (from left) Oliver Twohill, teacher Chris Eaton, teacher Mitchell Rice, Emily Keogh, James Bagnall, Tahlia Hall and Darby Waters.
STRUMMING: Mt St Patrick's students busk to raise funds to send ukuleles to Pacific Island children, (from left) Oliver Twohill, teacher Chris Eaton, teacher Mitchell Rice, Emily Keogh, James Bagnall, Tahlia Hall and Darby Waters. Scott Powick

Strumming the giving spirit in ukelele fest

THE gulf between them is a few thousand kilometres of coral, island land parcels and blue Pacific Ocean, yet a couple of feet of nylon strings now connects a group of Tweed students to a Solomon Island village.

That connection was first made when Mount St Patrick College music teacher Chris Eaton first visited the tiny surfing island of Papatura, which is a speck north-west of the capital, Honiara, in May 2016.

Mr Eaton, who plays in popular Tweed Coast band Round Mountain Girls when he's not teaching, spent days catching waves or fishing and nights playing guitar, which was how a Solomon Island tribal chief stumbled across him, inviting him to return to teach music to their children.

"While we were there - I was with a group of teachers - we went across to this tiny little school on Santa Isabel, a tiny little school of about 70 kids and we just fell in love with the kids and the place,” Mr Eaton said.

"They really have nothing: there's no electricity, no running water, no roads; there's nowhere to spend any money, so it's pretty rustic.”

It was while on Santa Isabel the teacher met the village chief.

Deeply affected by the experience, he made a pact with himself to do anything he could to help and promised to do this despite any obstacles.

"When I spoke to the chief he said: 'Listen, anything you can do to help us, send books or anything, we would love you to get involved',” he said.

On return, Mr Eaton shared his experiences with his students who were also touched and decided they wanted to become involved.

The student representative council organised a busking event at lunchtimes so money could be raised to buy a collection of ukuleles Mr Eaton would then use to teach the village children.

He said Papatura Island Resort, which is capped at about 25 guests to prevent surf overcrowding, paid for shipping the instruments and Australian Music Supplies also sponsored.



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