In this week's PHA Q&A, we hear from one of our most experienced volunteers, David Kaunitz, Board Director and Regional Manager for Vanuatu, as he reflects on what brought him to PHA, and what the organisation is bringing to the South Pacific region.
Why did you join PHA?
In 2007 during the response to the tsunami and earthquake in the Solomon Islands I met Rod Johnston, the President of PHA. As Operations Director of Emergency Architects Australia we collaborated on projects where PHA provided engineering support and sometimes funding. It was a very productive symbiotic relationship. When I left EAA Rod invited me to be on the board of PHA. It has been a great way for me to use and transfer my skills from my time in the field responding to disasters whilst living in Sydney.
How long have you been a volunteer with PHA?
I have been a volunteer Director since 2011, but was collaborating with EAA from 2007.
What skills do you bring to PHA?
I have worked with communities throughout the Pacific and in parts of Asia on post disaster and development projects. This includes supporting projects in over 200 schools. My particular focus is Melanesia where I gained most of my experience. I also speak fluent pidgin. This combines to enable me to initiate and support the implementation of projects as well as provide board level oversight.
We are focused on the challenge of making the change we support long term and lasting. The patience and commitment this requires over decades is a challenge in itself.
What are you excited about in the work you're doing with PHA?
The truly special aspect of PHA is its long term focus on grassroots activities and engaging with communities and areas over the long term. This as enabled us to set up several local NGOs including on Ranongga Island in the Solomon Islands where I first worked. This allows us to continue to support communities we have been working with for thirteen years, and increasingly divest and expand the grassroots activities. It is a rare opportunity that PHA affords to engage in truly long term and lasting change.