Before embarking on an aid mission around the Pacific, a former cargo vessel will first sail to Whanganui to collect a shipping container full of dentistry tools.
Outfitted by Whanganui engineer Jaime Barrett from Blacktech, the container will be transformed into a dental clinic containing dentistry cabinets, sterilisation bays, fresh and waste water, air conditioning and a dentist chair.
The involvement in the project came when Whanganui District councillor Hadleigh Reid showed Barrett a photograph four months ago of a 48-metre cargo vessel sitting in Tauranga's port that had been transformed into a volunteer aid ship.
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Recognising his old Whanganui Collegiate friend Marty Emmett was aboard the boat, Barrett decided to get in contact and inquire about the project.
Barrett, who has previously repaired and installed dental and other medical equipment, got to work inside the container that was donated by Emmetts Civil Construction.
Emmett, who is the New Zealand operations director of the Christian humanitarian organisation Youth With a Mission Ships (YWAM), said the Ywam Koha ship will carry out a medical mission trip in the Melanesia region from May 1. This will include the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.
"We just really want to help people. The goal is to use it up in the Pacific to bring free healthcare to people in isolated communities who can't access it."
He hopes it will be able to provide dentistry, eye surgery, vaccinations and primary health care like bandaging wounds and giving basic instruction on how to be responsible for their own healthcare.
For now, they are focusing on installing dental equipment as, Emmett said, they felt dental care can help people quickly.
Currently, the organisation is talking with the Solomon Islands Government about its needs and has three ships in Papua New Guinea working with the government.
"Really the goal is to go where the greatest need is and how we can help them get healthcare to their people, so partnership's a really important thing for us."
Barrett's container will sit alongside two others that Emmett said they were hoping to turn into a pharmacy, a room for general consultation and, potentially, a TB testing room.
"What would be awesome is when they get to a point and, say, there's an ongoing need here, let's take that container off and leave it here and then we'll knock another one off as a replacement," Barrett said.
Emmett said they hoped eventually all the containers could become independent and be left on the islands for use when the ship leaves.
The 48-metre ship will arrive at Whanganui's port within the next four weeks where it will remain for a further two weeks.
Emmetts Civil Construction will use its crane to transport the container onto the ship.
It will then set sail to Nelson to raise more awareness and recruit mariners and surgeons and raise donations to help run the voyage.
It will return to Tauranga for Christmas and sail to a few more ports recruiting volunteers until the end of April.
"I think with medical people it really strikes a chord with them because they want to help people."
The ship was gifted to YWAM in April this year by Nigel and Brenda Jolly from Stoney Creek Shipping Company.
Barrett said donations of timber, steel or financial aid would be appreciated.
To donate to the YWAM Koha visit YWAM's website and specify donations are to go towards the container at https://www.ywamshipsaotearoa.org.nz/donate/