Rebuilding young lives
By MEGAN KINNINMENT
"I NEVER thought I'd see and smell death like that."
Dance teacher Sue Whiteman's life has changed forever after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunamis which killed 32 of her Thai dancing students.
Since then, through the Heart to Heart Foundation, she has busied herself raising $1 million towards a school in Thailand for young survivors.
"It was the most tragic thing I've ever experienced," Sue said, before flying to Thailand for a memorial service on the first anniversary of the Asian tsunamis.
"But it has also been humbling to see the good that has followed.
"To see people who have lost everything and still be smiling."
There has been another heart-warming connection for Sue following the tsunami.
She had previously taught ballet to 32year-old Moi Vogel, the former Mullumbimby woman who was three-months pregnant and, along with her husband Christian Nott, died in the Thailand tsunami while on their honeymoon.
Sue has now teamed up with Moi's grieving mother, Joy Vogel, and together they are taking on a project to support single mothers in Thailand.
With Sue, Joy has visited the Nam Khen tsunami refugee camp.
Joy said she felt she could pay tribute to her daughter Moi by helping survivors.
"Moi lost her and her baby's life and I lost my grandchild," she told New Idea magazine this month.
"But giving some hope for survivors is a way for me to still connect with them."
Last week, Joy joined Sue in southern Thailand where they will continue their work to build the Tsunami Volunteer Centre and Village ? a housing project for the many volunteers, including the five teachers at the new school.
Three schools were totally destroyed by the tsunami, and one has been rebuilt, called the Bar Nam Khen School, enabling 600 children to return to their classes.
Now Sue is working towards the Volunteer Village, building bungalows for the teachers to live in. She has already received money from a German fishing village and from Brunswick Heads.
Six months ago, Sue also opened a brick factory to provide the Thai people with materials to rebuild, with people still needed to sponsor bricks.
Just before she flew out for Thailand on Friday, Sue emailed The Northern Star to say it was now flooding in the village ? turning the rescue camp into a swamp and forcing volunteers to move from the camp into the school.
"Mother nature again," Sue wrote.
Anyone who wants to be involved with Heart to Heart can contact 046443396 or send an email to: suewhiteman@hot- mail.com