Rebuilding a village

For Tero Rimon, being in the United States is a world away from her home on the Solomon Islands.

According to the 21-year-old, if she were still in the islands located north of Australia, she would be running around barefoot, singing "the morning song" and starting her day's labor by climbing up a coconut tree.

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In the U.S., her labor is in education, as she works her way toward a nursing degree from Colorado Northwestern Community College.

If she were in the Solomon Islands today, she would be helping rebuild her home village, Nusabaruka, after it was it hit by a tsunami -- the result of an ocean earthquake that measured 8.1 on the Richter scale -- April 2.

Despite being half a world away, rebuilding her home village also is on Rimon's mind.

And she hopes to do so with the help of area churches and the CNCC international honor society -- Alpha Phi Psi chapter of Phi Theta Kappa -- by raising funds to help rebuild Nusabaruka.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday in Room 201 at CNCC, Rimon will give a lecture and Power Point presentation on the Solomon Islands and the effect of the tsunami's aftermath.

There is no cost to attend, but donations from the public are being sought.

"We don't have an established ultimate goal," said Mary Shearer, PTK adviser and CNCC director of education. "But we would like to raise enough funds to help rebuild the homes that are being rebuilt there," estimating it costs $800 per "leaf" home and $500 per water system.

"As an on-going project, we want to provide support services for rebuilding and provide supplies for the elementary school that Tero wants to rebuild. ... Her goal is to help her villagers get a start on their education."

Building off education

Education is one reason Rimon came to Northwest Colorado in the first place.

In 2003, Rimon left the Solomon Islands, an area in turmoil. Government corruption and tensions between the two battling provinces forced her school to close down.

It was on a vacation to visit her brother in Denver that he asked her if she wanted to go to school in the United States. She said yes, but under a condition.

"If I can find somebody who can be a parent for me here," she said, "then I will be willing to do it."

A trip to Steamboat to visit relatives and attend St. Paul's Episcopalian Church offered a chance to meat that condition. A note was put on the church bulletin board asking for people to watch over Rimon. Bain and Christine White, of Hayden, saw the note independently, but came to the same conclusion: Living in a big house, close to the high school, would be a perfect fit.

From there, Rimon attended and graduated from Hayden High School in 2004. She started attending CNCC after high school, with her family in the Solomon Islands paying her way. It was a task they were not able to continue.

Rimon returned to the Solomon Islands, which still was in conflict.

"It's not quite a civil war, but it's very, very close," Bain said. "We worried for her physical, mental and spiritual well-being (while she was there)."

The Whites "reached out" to Rimon, and flew her back to the U.S. in August 2005. They now sponsor her education, from funding her schooling to driving her back and forth from Hayden to Craig.

"They take care of me," Rimon said. "They are like my USA parents."

Back home

While the Whites look after Rimon here, the college student is now trying to look after her immediate family in the Solomon Islands.

A phone call from a relative in Steamboat first alerted Rimon to the tsunami.

"We all just keep updating back and forth between us because they have a sister over there to worry about," she said, "and I have a family over there to worry about."

Nusabaruka -- her dad's village -- and its 40 waterfront homes were destroyed. None of her immediate family was hurt in the incident, though two of her sisters and one brother live in the town.

"I have a lot of relatives, not siblings, a lot were affected," Rimon said. "Some are missing. Some are dead."

She hasn't had the chance to talk to anyone directly due to communication issues, but Internet savvy relatives keep her informed though e-mail.

While e-mails update her on the damage done by the tsunami, she also learns of the work being done to rebuild.

"They've already started rebuilding with the donations of two churches and the CNCC (honor project)," she said. "And everybody is really excited."

To donate:

  • Make checks out to St. Paul's Episcopal, and memo Solomon Island Relief
  • Donations can be mailed to CNCC Craig Campus, Attn: Phi Theta Kappa Adviser, Mary Shearer, 50 College Drive, Craig, CO 81625
  • Include a return address so a tax receipt can be mailed to you
  • Donations will be forwarded to St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

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