• Nicola Smart

Peter Cheers on working with PHA

Updated: Jan 22

This week we hear from Peter Cheers, Regional Manager for Fiji and a Director on the Partner Housing Board. He highlights the current challenges we face with COVID-19 and how that has impacted some of our projects, and talks of his hopes for the future.

How did you come to be involved with PHA?

I know Rod Johnston from my work with the Australian Building Codes Board, where I was Director/Project Manager of one of the technical teams. In 2012 I spent a year away from my Canberra base (at the time), in the Solomon Islands, where I was a volunteer teacher, helping out with the carpentry students at a Honiara technical school. I was aware of Rod's involvement with Partner Housing and when I was asked by the school principle for some engineering advice I thought of Rod. He was kind enough to arrange for some engineering checks on a water tower at the school for me and for the structural design of a new teachers' accommodation building. A little while later Rod asked if I was interested in joining PHA and of course I said yes. I've been with them ever since.

What is the most fulfilling aspect of the work?

Helping others to help themselves. There are many countries that are close neighbours to Australia that have not been as privileged as we have. I've been lucky enough to have been trained and educated well enough to support myself so I like to be able to give a little something back and help those that have not been so fortunate.

Are there any challenges you've found?

There are always challenges but nothing that can't be overcome, managed, or turned into new opportunities. We're currently going through a big challenge - COVID19. International border closures have substantially set back the on-site commencement of what will be PHA's biggest project yet - the new Freshwin Community, in Vanuatu. There isn't much we can do to change the current situation but we can, and have been, using the delay to progress our project planning and design preparation which, in construction, means we will ultimately get a better site product.

What does the future hold for you? What are you excited about in the work being done with PHA?

For now, it's business as usual - to the extent it can be at least. PHA is still doing good work in PNG, the Philippines, and the Solomon Islands and anything we can do to improve the lives of those less fortunate is exciting. The Vanuatu project is exciting, because of the scale - a complete village, including infrastructure through our MOU with the Vanuatu Government, is something that should excite us all. Fingers are crossed that borders can reopen soon so that we can 'put boots on the ground' in Freshwin. That will be exciting!

Peter on a 2017 site visit to a Habitat for Humanity Fiji's Women's Build project,

which PHA helped fund.

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