Dilly Faulkner, 52, is a general construction supervisor who worked on a key part of the Kiribati Road Rehabilitation Project. He oversaw a team of workers that had to dig up and repair sections of the unsealed road so that it was flat and stable enough for the sealed road to be built over the top of it.

The project sought to rehabilitate South Tarawa’s main road, which runs the length of an extremely narrow and densely populated atoll that is home to more than two-fifths of Kiribati’s people. It connects the airport in the east to the seaport of Betio in the west, running through the administrative capital of Bairiki. There are no alternative routes: this is the only road and provides access to all essential services, including government services, education, health services, and markets.

Which section of the road were you working on?

Pretty much I was doing the feeder roads, all the roads around here in Tarawa, I dug them up and then smoothed them over and then they put the concrete on.

How many people were you in charge of?

I was looking after about 25 workers. All from Kiribati.

Is this the most ambitious project you’ve worked on?

Yes, this one was pretty tough. We came across a lot of things, like underground services and those kinds of things. By underground services, I mean electrical wiring. That was the main problem we faced. Because nobody knows where they were. Nothing was done properly, wire was just running everywhere, people buried wires wherever.

Was that dangerous to the crew?

When we did this job, we set up something in place, an electrical crew, and they shut off the areas where we were doing most of the digging.

Tell us about the team you were working with?

Most of them were new. By teaching them and working with them, they started to learn the job. And the job became easier because they learned what to do.

So they learned valuable skills?

Some of the boys who were working here, they’ve gone overseas because of their skills. And they came from nowhere. Myself, I’m happy to see things like that happen because most of them hadn’t worked on this kind of project before. But with this job, their hard work paid off. So, I really like to help them and teach them for their future.

What was this road like before it was sealed?

Before, the road was just full of potholes. Cars would have to stop to let cars in the other direction go by. That is what it was like before.

And how did that affect life on Kiribati?

Especially when we were working. You go by time and it was really difficult. You would try to get to work early, so you would have to leave at least an hour ahead.

What is it like to see Kiribati transformed by this road?

It makes me feel great. I’m happy about it. For myself too, trying to get to work or trying to get to an appointment you need to get to, you get there on time. It really helps to be driving on a nice road now.

How has that helped the quality of life here?

It’s really improved. Before, people didn’t want to buy vehicles because of the condition of the road. Now, you see so many vehicles. Everybody enjoys the ride on the road so they buy cars for themselves. People can pretty well go straight away to the hospital or go to the airport to catch a plane. It makes me feel proud. Really proud.

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