Thank iu tumas – 6 months ago, I dragged myself through Honiara international airport, to the plane that would take me home. A sea of crying faces lay behind me, and in front of me airport security guards, who I doubt could have looked more scared had they found a bomb in our bags. Jet and I were in an absolute state: weighed down by generously gifted presents, which we were ready to defend to the death from security; crying inconsolably after having just said goodbye to our Solomon family; and crying all the more as we laughed at our ridiculous situation. But while we undoubtedly looked like a mess from the outside, what we were feeling on the inside would have made my dump of a teenage bedroom look like a model showroom. We were painfully aware that we were about to do one of the most difficult things we have ever done: to leave the Solomon Islands. [Flora Hamilton]
Flora shared her Project Trust volunteering experiences with us in her own short film;
I am the assistant curate of Tavistock, where we are fortunate to have a faithful group of Melanesian Brotherhood Companions. In 2001 the late Fr George Elo and Bishop Leonard Dawea (then both Brothers) came to Tavistock to work and live in the parish under the guidance of the then Vicar, Fr John Rawlings. Since then we have maintained strong links and, earlier in 2017, Bishop Leonard came to visit Tavistock to see old friends. I was invited to become a Companion and was soon gently ‘encouraged’ by Katie Drew (let the reader understand, and be warned—her enthusiasm is infectious) to visit the Solomon Islands to see and experience the Church there for myself.
I spent my three-week trip on Guadacanal, first at Honiara, before travelling to the Brotherhood’s Headquarters at Tabalia, working my way westwards to the Franciscan community at Hautabu, visiting the Community of the Sisters of Melanesia at Verana’aso on the way. I also paid a call to see the Project Trust students working at St Nicholas’s School and Selwyn College. It was good to see the students so well received and integrated into the communities they serve.
I ended my trip back in Honiara, from there I visited Norman Palmer School and the Community of the Sisters of the Church at Tetere Ni Kolivati (TNK). I led a study day for priests in Honiara, gave lectures at Bishop Patteson Theological College and at the various communities I visited, and was honoured to be invited to preach and celebrate services for my various hosts.
The trip was full of rich and wonderful experiences. I was fortunate to be present at Tabalia for the Ss Simon and Jude festivities. The Chapel and surrounds were richly decorated with beautiful orchids and fragrant frangipani blossom. I arrived on Saturday afternoon, the before the big day, and attended Choral Evensong. The singing was superb: the Psalms and Canticles are sung in blazing four, six and sometimes eight-part harmony. The music is based on Anglican chant, so it is easy to join in – familiar, but different, and certainly very exhilarating to be a part of.
At the Eucharist the following morning Bishop Sam Sahu presided at the installation ceremony where thirty-six novices became brothers, and three brothers (Brothers Thomas Suia, Mark Tafodi and John Alley) renewed their vows. The community said goodbye to seven Brothers: Nathanial Tagoa, Albert Iroga, Culbert Moana, Mostyn Tugu, Winston Heke, Lazarus Vavaha and Francis Mauru, the second-oldest member of the Solomon Island Brothers. Brother Francis entered the novitiate in 1984, became a brother in 1986, and served in Australia and Fiji as well as in the Solomons. It was clear that many novices and brothers will miss his wise support and guidance. Like many leaving brothers, he became a Companion later in the week, before he prepared to return to Makira.
The Chaplain, Fr Richard Nokia, kindly invited me to celebrate and preach at several Eucharists during my stay, and to officiate at Choral Evensong on my final Sunday, which was a huge honour. Fr Nokia has a great rapport with the novices and brothers, which is not surprising as his motto is: ‘give them everything!’. Mrs Veronica Nokia is also a much-loved member of the community and gives an incredible amount of time and energy to running a successful literacy course for the novices. During my stay, I was privileged to attend the Literacy Awards Ceremony, which was organised by Veronica and the Mothers’ Union, represented by their president, Pamela Abana and her colleagues Emily Pengalo and Adriana Estrada who are based at St Agnes Rest House in Honiara (an excellent hostel where I stayed towards the end of my trip).
The celebrations around Ss Simon and Jude’s Day lasted a week – lots of feasts, dancing and general socialising. It was wonderful to see thousands of supporters and Companions, many of whom stayed for the week, helping to prepare meals and tidy the site as they waited for boats to take them back to their islands.
My flying visit to the Sisters of Melanesia was a treat. After speaking to the novices and sisters, I was invited to sit down to a lavish tea, complete with boiled eggs, custard creams and coconut juice straight from the husk – an unusual teatime combination, but it worked for me!
I then travelled to see Noah and Ultan at Selwyn College. Like their colleagues Juliette and Flora at St Nicholas’ in Honiara, Noah and Ultan had settled in extremely well and had been welcomed wholeheartedly into the communities. It was wonderful to see all four of the Project Trust students at the various services and celebrations, in Honiara, at TNK and Tabalia – they had clearly become part of the Anglican family. There is also a bit of cultural exchange going on, as they had begun teaching the Solomon Islanders Scottish Country Dancing…
During my second week, I stayed with the excellent Brother Jonas and the community of Friars at their beautiful hillside home at Hautabu. Any nerves I felt about giving my theology talks here were soon forgotten as our friendly discussions continued in our outdoor classroom under the shade of palm and mango trees, looking out over the Pacific Ocean.
Once I got back to Honiara, I travelled out to see the inspirational Sister Veronica and the Community of the Sisters of the Church at TNK. Their work building up the kindergarten and women’s refuge is truly inspiring, and it was a huge privilege to attend Sister Kristy’s life profession there just before I flew back to Britain.
My trip was a hugely encouraging experience. The hospitality I received from everyone I met was truly incredible; all the clergy and religious communities work as part of a big family and work hard to support each other. All were present for Sister Kristy’s profession, so I could say goodbye to almost all the people I had met over the past weeks. I owe so many people a debt of thanks for making my time in Melanesia so fruitful and enjoyable, but I must thank Fr Nigel Kelaepa especially for his organisation, kindness and hospitality.
Project Trust has since 1967 been the leading gap year provider here in the UK representing 50 years of volunteering and 7800 volunteers overseas.
Project Trust has been based on the Isle of Coll in the Scottish Hebrides almost since its inception. Some might argue that our wonderful shell sand beaches rival those of the Solomons. Maybe, but our sea and air temperatures most certainly do not, languishing at around 12C and 15C respectively around our mid-summer. Here we have our offices and residential centre which is used for Selection and Training.
Selection is a key part of the process and all aspiring volunteers must attend a four day assessment course before any decision is made as to suitability and if so, which placement overseas they would be most suited. Training is the next stage in the process and this takes place in July prior to the volunteer departure in August. This is a four day course where we focus on skills and preparedness for 12 months overseas.
It is important that volunteers bring added value to any of our projects worldwide, currently 22 countries worldwide. Areas which have been identified by both St Nicholas and Selwyn College include spoken English, IT and mathematics. In addition extracurricular activities such as drama, sport, music to name but a few are areas where volunteers can make valuable contributions. Through daily interaction with the students it is hoped that the overall standard of spoken English will improve, certainly this is our experience elsewhere in the world where English is a focus of their activities.
Oceania is a new region for Project Trust. The first approach with regard to sending volunteers was made early in 2016 by the then British High Commissioner in Honiara, Chris Trott. Chris is himself one of our Alumni having been a volunteer in Egypt in 1984/85. He was very enthusiastic about the possibilities for volunteering and introduced us to the Anglican Church through the Melanesian Mission in London.
To the future we look to placing volunteers in schools on some of the other islands in the Solomon group and Vanuatu has also been discussed. We look forward to a developing and sustained relationship.
As a Companion and Associate, I’ve long wanted to spend time and experience Solomons life with the Brothers and Sisters of Melanesia. This summer I experienced both joyful pilgrimage and a great adventure of faith that continues to enrich my faith and Curacy.
My first night in the Solomons was spent at Chester Rest House which helped me to get my bearings in Honiara and appreciate how much the Brothers’ guest house is valued by all who stay there.
It was so good to be met by Sr Veronica the next day, who drove us to TNK for an overnight stay. The Sisters and Novices of the Church of Melanesia were very kind and sensitive to my jetlag! The beauty and peace of TNK is complemented so well by the worship, hospitality and ministry to the local community and wider church. It was delightful to meet Tina and David Arnold who kindly facilitated my trip back to Honiara, stopping at the Christian Care Centre en route to see their hugely important work.
The Sunday service at St Barnabas Cathedral became an unforgettable experience of worship – as swifts flew around the Chancel and a pair of Mynah birds showed off their nesting skills.
The following day I was met by Flory and her husband Charly who are such good advocates for the Sisters of Melanesia. We set off for Verana’aso where I experienced the most incredible welcome and hospitality from the Sisters and Novices during the following five days. Being invited to teach the Novices was a great privilege and joy as we shared experiences, worshipped together and got to know each other more. Visiting neighbouring Franciscans at beautiful La Verna was a precious time, hearing stories and seeing the lasting legacy of Br Giles.
After a moving farewell at Verana’aso, I set off for Tabalia, blessed with the joyful company of Franciscan Br Clifton – also a great truck driver, skillfully negotiating huge pot holes.
St John The Baptist Satellite Church Highway Community
Melanesian Brothers and Novices at Tabalia
At Tabalia I continued to experience the precious worship and partnership in the Gospel that I’ve always found through the Melanesian Brothers ministry. It was wonderful to see Head Brother Nelson leading Evensong in his home setting. The beautiful peace of Tabalia, being near the graves of the Seven Martyred Brothers, the worship and hospitality of the Brothers and Novices was humbling and profoundly moving.
Returning to Honiara, I stayed at St Agnes Guest House, a lovely place, run by the Mothers Union. MU President Pam and team are doing such great work with the Anglican Church. We visited two satellite church communities and also spent time with the MU at All Saints Church in Honiara. The MU are incredibly inspiring, speaking out for justice through practically helping families to flourish through educational and life skills programmes.
I’ve learnt so much from the witness of all those I met, experiencing how much goodness and flourishing the religious orders and local churches bring to their surrounding communities. Melanesia is very beautiful and life incredibly fragile. The people value and do so much with so little, in comparison to what we have in Western Europe. It was a real lesson in life to value every drop of water and realise how many people throughout the world really do live without running water or electricity.
This Melanesian pilgrimage has shown me the true Agape love of God, which I’ve always experienced through times spent with Melanesian visitors to the UK. Agape love as joyfully knowing ourselves part of the global Christian community, drawn together through the depth of God’s love. I thank God for our Brothers and Sisters.
Revd Cathy Scoffield – Curate at St John the Baptist Churches, Bishops Tawton & Newport, Barnstaple, Diocese of Exeter.
It’s August, I’m home now and so nice to be back amongst my friends and my family! However, it is an incredibly strange feeling to be thrown back into a totally different environment and way of life and it’s a difficult one to try an explain what it was like. As it got closer, I’d built up the idea of coming home so much and I was so excited but when it finally arrived, it wasn’t the same picture I’d painted in my head, it wasn’t that it was not as good as I thought it would be, it was just not quite what I thought it would be like. The first week was all a bit of a blur and I think it was all a bit much to appreciate everything that I had missed so much and take it in fully. I remember sitting in front of my TV in my living room, with my 24 hour constant electricity, hot running water, and my big comfy bed and I just didn’t really know what to do with myself, I felt a wee bit lost. The things I’d been craving while I was away were suddenly not really what I wanted.
I went away to Spain for a week with my family and that was really nice just to spend some time thinking about it all and reconnecting with my Mum, Dad, Brother and Sister. That week was really helpful for just getting back used to normal life here without being overwhelmed by too many people and things at home.
Now I’m back at home and it’s so much better than it was during the first few days of my return. I’m able to take everything in a lot more and really enjoy all the things that I’d missed out on all year, like hot showers! Being back around all my friends has been one of the best things, catching up on a year’s worth of events isn’t a short conversation and trying to tell them how my year was isn’t exactly easy, as sometimes I just don’t know where to start, it’s hard to condense a year into one story. But I’m loving every minute of being with them.
Thinking about all the experiences I had throughout my year in Solomon Islands, all the things I saw, all the things I learnt and all the friends and family I made, is quite a hard concept to grasp, there’s just so much. Spending a year there was like nothing I’ve ever done before. You can’t compare it to a holiday or a long term expedition, it’s just not on the same level. I’m so glad that I chose to go over seas with Project Trust, it opened so many doors for me, started a lot of new amazing things, and helped me decide on things I didn’t really have a solution for beforehand. I sometimes wonder how different things would be now if I hadn’t volunteered with them. Now I’m home, fundamentally I don’t think I’ve changed that much as a person but I’ve just got a different view on some things and I’m a lot better at appreciating the small things in life.
However, as good as being back at home is, I miss the wee group of islands on the other side of the world that I call home, I miss being hot and sweaty 24 hours a day, I miss the beautiful ocean (that is so much warmer than the North Sea), I miss everything and everyone constantly being late and no one really caring or stressing about it, I miss riding around in the back of a truck, I miss people laughing all the time no matter the situation and most of all, I miss my Solomon Island Mums, Dads, Brothers and Sisters, my Friends and family I left over there. I guess the grass is always greener… But hey, I’ll be back one day for sure.
Rev. Preb. Cate Edmonds (Exeter Diocese) and Canon Daphne Jordon (Blackburn Diocese) accompanied by technician Graham Jordon, returned to Melanesia in July for three weeks to undertake Christian Distinctiveness Training for ACoM Schools.
Daphne first went to Vanuatu in 2013 and 2014 and had visited schools, introduced the concept of a Christian Distinctiveness and Character and made recommendations to the ACoM Board of Education about further developments. Cate had been on a fact-finding Mission in 2016 and was concerned about the lack of real understanding of the distinctiveness of Anglican Schools.
Daphne’s recommendations were eventually acted upon and a volunteer from New Zealand, Joan Middlemiss, was commissioned to develop these recommendations into ACoM Education Authority Standards:
Quality Education and Assessment
Access and Student Services
Integrate Christian Values and Holistic Development
At a similar time funding was available from MMUK to continue the work Daphne and team had started in 2014.
Cate and Daphne were therefore commissioned to deliver two Conferences, in Honiara (S.I.) and Luganville (Santo, Vanuatu) for Principals, Teachers and Chaplains of Anglican Schools and members of the Diocesan Education Team, exploring and developing Christian Distinctiveness and Christian Character of Church Schools.
Each conference followed the same pattern, with a brief catch up in Luganville as a few of those present had been at the initial training in 2013/4. Some progress had been made, e.g. all Principals had mobile phones in order to keep in contact, but with changes in personnel progress had been limited.
The day began with themed Worship:
Who are we?
The Environment – God’s Creation
The Family of God
Attendees were asked to be children and young people and to participate in order to experience a range of ways of worshipping. They experienced different music, Bible reading and prayer and were encouraged to interact with the worship rather than observe, which was new to them, but they grew in confidence.
Following worship the hard work began and with four sessions per day over three days, there was much to cover. Each school was presented with a jigsaw puzzle which was completed over the days of the conference when each element had been introduced.
Wherever possible participants worked in their school groups and drew up new Vision and Mission Statements for their schools as well as developing Action Plans for the future.
Throughout the training there was an emphasis on a Church School being a place where God was working already but where we needed to work with Him to be the best that we could in all areas of school / college life. On reflection and debate we felt that the ACoM Standards needed to be reordered and that the first should be about Christian Values and that everything else flows from this.
Participants were encouraged to look at their schools and colleges with new eyes, there was some hesitancy in doing this but gradually participants saw the value of this approach as well as finding it amusing. All our sessions were well received and participants appeared to enjoy the approaches as well as developing their skills, particularly in looking at more creative ways of delivering the curriculum and of prayer.
There was much more we could have developed and although we managed to visit six schools in the Solomon’s and four in Vanuatu, it was felt that further training would be useful based in a school or college.
As well as preparing for and running the conferences we were able to make additional visits. Daphne and Graham visited TNK and the relocated, due to volcano ash in Ambae, St Patricks School. They we deeply saddened by the conditions that the school was enduring whilst awaiting a more permanent site. We also met with Melanesian Brothers who were suffering accommodation problems as well due to their Main House being destroyed in the same way on Ambae.
Cate visited Ysabel and met with Bishop Ellison and his team and also spent some time a Verana’aso working with the Novices of the Melanesian Sisters. More stories could be told by both; including Daphne and Graham experiencing two earthquakes in Vanuatu and Cate just one. A fulfilling and worthwhile trip which we would like to repeat to continue the work in the future.
John & Rachel from the UK with Saint Nicholas students (Head Boy & Girl)
My name’s Rachel and I work for St Mary’s Church Upton as a Youth Worker. As part of our ministry we provide the Chaplaincy Team at Woodchurch High School, an exciting opportunity and privilege which we love. Woodchurch High School, a CofE Academy, was lucky enough to develop a partnership with St Nicholas High School in Honiara, Solomon Islands earlier this year. To enrich the link and develop the relationship between the schools, we dreamt of being able to make a personal connection with teachers and students and find a way of bringing the link alive. Our dreams became a reality as we organised a trip for myself and an old Woodchurch student John, who also used to attend St Mary’s (now a freelance film maker and photographer) to travel out to Honaira. We spent two weeks in Honaira meeting staff and students and doing as much filming as we could so, now that we’re back, we can show the pupils at Woodchurch what their partner school looks like, introduce them to life in Honiara and Solomon Island culture.
Neither of us had been to the Pacific before so the whole trip was novel and exciting and we had the most fantastic experience. We were met at the airport by a group of students from St Nicholas School who had prepared frangipani garlands for us and on the drive back into town we chatted and got to know them, whilst trying to take in the environment outside as we drove through Honiara for the first time.
We had a brilliant welcome from the school. In addition to being met at the airport we were also invited for an Opening Ceremony where we were adorned with more garlands and took our seats on the stage of St Nicholas’ open-sided assembly hall. We were introduced to the school and welcomed by the Principle and introduced ourselves, bringing greetings from Woodchurch High School. We were amazed and awed by three groups of students who came and performed cultural dances in traditional dress. The dances were absolutely brilliant and there was a great atmosphere in the Hall; the whole school was enthusiastically cheering and clapping their support of their fellow pupils.
A timetable was organised for us by two teachers at St Nicholas which allowed us to travel around Honiara and Guadalcanal and capture lots of different aspects of life on the Solomon Islands. We also wanted to be able to embed some of the things we filmed into the curriculum for our students here at Woodchurch. So, we visited a Museum and interviewed a local artist so that when Woodchurch students study Art, they will be able to see and think about the kind of art produced in the Solomon Islands. We interviewed a Geography teacher at St Nicholas and several individuals so that when Woodchurch students study Climate Change in Geography, they will be able to see and hear the stories of real people whose lives and homes have been drastically affected by rising sea levels. For History, we visited the American and Japanese War Memorials, Bloody Ridge (the site of an intense battle during the Second World War) and Vilu Museum where many of the artefacts found on Guadalcanal have been taken, including old guns and parts of planes. And we visited and attended many churches and services, so RS students can see the differences and similarities between Christian worship in the Solomons and here in the UK.
We visited Konguli Water Source (which supplies 95% of the capital city with their water) and Point Cruz, Honiara’s busy dock. We wandered round the Central Market and city centre and enjoyed visiting local hotels and watching more performances of traditional dancing (although none was as good as the performance from St Nicholas students!).
In our own time we stayed on Savo Island for a night which was an incredible experience. The volcanic island, about 2 hours boat journey away, is a must-see for visitors to Honiara; it’s a beautiful island on which locals bring up hot water from many of the wells which has been heated by the volcanic activity.
We trekked up to Mataniko Waterfall with a wonderful guide. It was great to get away from the sounds and dust of the city and spend some time in the rainforest and enjoy the natural beauty of Guadalcanal.
We also visited Tabalia, the central Headquarters of the Melanesian Brotherhood, and were there for Palm Sunday which was a great celebration. We attended Evensong on the evening we arrived and were greeted warmly and asked to introduce ourselves at the end of the service; they welcomed us by singing two brilliant songs – the brothers don’t hold back when they sing; the wall of sound that hit us as we stood at the front of the chapel was astonishing. We ate a delicious evening meal with the community of guests who were visiting for the weekend, food prepared by lots of different members of families and friends who often visit Tabalia together. We participated in the Palm Procession, the brothers, novices, priests, and all the guests; men, women and children, had a freshly cut palm branch and palm cross which they wove into the leaves of their branches. There was a great swell of song as the crowd sang in beautiful harmony “Lord we lift up your name, Lord we lift your name on high, Lord we lift up your name! To the king of kings, all glory! Glory, glory to the King of kings! Hosanna, hosanna in the highest!” and clapped, whooped and cheered as we made our way to the chapel for the service.
We had a very comfortable stay in Chester Rest House, run by the Brothers and named after Chester Diocese) and were well looked after by both the school and the Brothers, who helped organise our trip to Tabalia. We had a fantastic two weeks learning about this part of the world, the rich culture and wonderful people. Two weeks wasn’t long enough!
At the end of May we launched the St Nicholas Link at Woodchurch with a number of introductory videos shown in form time and in the year group assemblies every morning for two weeks. We’re excited about what the future of the link holds for the two schools and to see all that can be learnt and shared through our global link.