Big year for Kokoda Track Foundation

2013 has been one of the Kokoda Track Foundation's most eventful years. We have made record progress on many fronts: our scholarships, our projects in education, health, community development and microbusiness, and our fundraising.

In particular, the Ralph Honner Oration Dinner was a sellout and raised a record $120,000. We are very grateful to all to came along and made the night such a success.

We awarded another 330 scholarships and supported 40 schools with the educational resources they need to operate. We built the Naduri Elementary School and Enivilogo Elementary School and are now working on new classrooms in Buna, Sanananda and Manari which will take us over into the next year. Our 25 committed elementary teachers have continued to operate the schools along and around the Track – keeping them open and giving children in remote communities access to a high quality education. Likewise, our extraordinary health workers have operated the aid posts along and around the Track providing vital healthcare to very remote communities – often for the first time ever. Our programs in microbusiness, agriculture, food security and solar lighting have all grown throughout 2013 thanks to the generosity of our supporters.

But at the same time we've encountered some testing obstacles, particularly in our efforts to build the Kokoda College. A combination of logistic bottlenecks, dysfunctional bureaucracy and weather have temporarily slowed our progress in constructing the College campus.

Nevertheless, our selfless and tireless team - led by Gen and supported by Vera, Petra and Jonathan in Australia and Saii, Wampy, Grayson, Theo, and Elijah in PNG - has met the challenges. I must single out the wonderful work of Petra Arifeae and her husband Charles on the ground at Kou Kou village. They answered our call at the eleventh hour to rush to Kou Kou to take command of the College campus creation after the unforeseen withdrawal of our project manager. They drew on their wide experience - Petra as a school principal and Charles as an engineer - and they performed magnificently under great pressure. We owe them a great debt of gratitude and as the team now withdraws for the wet season we are optimistic with the progress that we have made in spite of the challenges and what 2014 holds.

The year in prospect is an exciting one. 

We are determined that the College will be constructed and operating by the end of 2014 and we are on track to take our first cohort of teacher trainees in the middle of 2014. We will push ahead with building the campus while we continue to deliver our other vital programs.

Our Executive Director, Dr Gen Nelson, will be taking maternity leave from late January. We wish her and James well as they welcome their baby daughter. Gen plans to take a six-month leave period and then return to her role. It's a well earned break as Gen has managed her pregnancy during a tumultuous period for the Foundation. She has handled the pressure with aplomb.

We will miss her leadership and in her absence Bernie Egan will take the reins with our team all stepping up to share additional responsibilities.

Thank you to everyone who supported the Foundation in 2013. Your generosity has once again kept the spirit of Kokoda alive and in action. I wish you all a happy and peaceful Christmas and a healthy and prosperous 2014.