On Monday 21st September, the Melanesian Mission held its first online AGM and Festival, with over 70 attendees from across the UK, Australia and Melanesia.
The event was due to have taken place in London in July with all the Bishops from Melanesia, just before they were to attend the Lambeth Conference. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and postponed Lambeth Conference, plans were changed and the event went online.
The evening began with worship led by Trustees Canon Daphne Jordan from the Diocese of Blackburn and the Ven Mike Gilbertson, Archdeacon of Chester. A recording of the congregation at Tabalia singing the Lord is My Shepherd (Psalm 23) hymn was played, and the Collect for Patteson Day read.
The Ven Mike Gilbertson was re-elected as a Trustee for three years, and Canon Jane Brooke from Chester Cathedral was elected as a Trustee for three years. Mr Andrew Cartwright stepped down as Trustee and was thanked for his many years of service.
At the Festival there were presentations from MMUK Trustee Kate Pwaisiho on ‘village life and climate change’ and from Sam Rylands who stayed with the Melanesian Brothers in March. There was also an opportunity to hear from Revd Sr Veronica CSC, joining the meeting from Honiara, and Revd Br Nelson MBH who is training in Fiji. In a pre-recorded address, the Archbishop of Melanesia thanked members for their ‘unwavering support to Melanesia’.
The Archbishop went on to speak about the current COVID-19 situation in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, the importance of climate research in the region and his church’s priorities for mission, including the reintroduction of ‘health ministry’.
Archbishop Leonard ended his address by saying: “I wish you all God’s blessing on your work and our partnership for the Kingdom of God. It is good to talk to you. Though we missed out a lot on the face-to-face communication, may I assure you that ACoM holds you and your families and the work you do to heart. And most especially during this time of extraordinary uncertainty and fear. May God bless all the Trustees, supporters, your families, and our partnership in mission. Thank you.”
The Rt Revd Mark Rylands, Chair of MMUK, finished the evening by sharing the charity’s priorities for the year ahead, recognising that events and visits in both directions will probably be impossible. The charity will continue to facilitate climate change research in the region, and review how it communicates with supporters, and create more online resources and events, including online coffee mornings.
Finally the date and venue of the 2021 AGM and Festival was announced. It will be on Saturday 18th September at Exeter Cathedral, where the charity will celebrate the life and ministry of Bishop John Coleridge Patteson, first Bishop of Melanesia, on the 150th anniversary of his martyrdom.
Hear more from Sam Rylands in our Summer 2020 Magazine on his time spent with the Melanesian Brothers;
The Most Revd Leonard Dawea, Archbishop of Melanesia, gave this address at the Charity’s AGM in September.
It is good to talk to you at this Annual General Meeting. It is a shame that we cannot see each other more often, however we applaud this technology, and how it enables us international communications which, though virtually, is still helpful. I commend you for the invitation to give a brief address to your meeting.
First I convey greetings to you from the Anglican Church of Melanesia, the members of the Council of Bishops, Clergy, Administrators and General Laity. Grace mercy and peace to you from God our father.
Appreciation – On the outset let me on behalf of ACoM convey to you our deepest acknowledgement for your unwavering support to Melanesia, for all that we do together as mission partners, and that includes moral and spiritual support. On our side this partnership is so valuable, a one that we embrace to heart, a partnership that has lived through centuries. It grows stronger with the new emerging issues affecting us.
I particularly want to convey our heartfelt appreciation and thank you too for supporting us after Cyclone Harold earlier this year. The Diocese of Vanuatu, which was mostly affected, is gradually coming back to normal, although Bishop James’ home and the Diocesan Office are still in temporary residence. We appreciate your ongoing support in this rehabilitation process.
It is also important for me to particularly offer words of acknowledgement and thank you to Andrew Cartwright for being a Trustee of MMUK for the past years. Thank you Andrew. I understand that Canon Jane Brooke will succeed him, and I welcome and congratulate Canon Jane Brooke for her appointment. Having met and talked with Canon Jane, I see a growing love and passion for Melanesia. Thank you and welcome Canon Jane.
COVID-19 – As we speak the two countries maintain their COVID-19 free status, however nobody can be certain about what tomorrow brings. There are now cases as close as Bougainville in the western border, placing Solomon Islands vulnerable as a high-risk nation. Even with the COVID-19 free status both countries are feeling the socio-economic impacts. More and more employees are losing their jobs as a result of scale down of most private companies and government ministries. Where life in Honiara appears normal, there is growing unemployment. We are praying that your scientists will quickly provide a vaccine.
Worship life throughout the province remains the same, but with ongoing awareness and preventive measures in churches and other related gatherings. Lately the Council of Bishops agreed on a paper outlining possible changes to worship in the event COVID-19 enters our countries. You know too well how we Melanesians look to faith; it is what our people still holding on to. That said, we educate our people to be careful and that our faith should lead people to act with responsibility.
Climate Change – In recent years, this has topped the chart of issues, until COVID-19 interrupted our attention. However COVID-19 is an outbreak, and will through the grace and love of God, cease in time. Climate change issues will persist and our partnership on this issue should continue its momentum, if not further improve. We are well ahead with our response, for the example, the setting up of the Church Observatory project in Malaita and Guadalcanal to provide scientific data. At this stage it is too early to have any tangible results from the observatory, resulting from inconsistent data collections due to the public state of emergency and the tropical Cyclone Harold. We trust our combined effort on this project will continue to bear fruit.
ACoM – I have some updates for you on ACoM administration and leadership. Bishop Alfred of Hanuato’o Diocese, officially retired on the 15th August, and the Bishop Nathan Tome of the Diocese of Guadalcanal had his liturgical farewell on the 20th September, being the day of Bishop Patteson. Elections and consecrations for their successors will be later this year and early next year. The Diocese of Ysabel has given Bishop Ellison an extension of five years in office after his 60th birthday this year.
Having served two terms, I am delighted to inform MMUK that Dr Abraham Hauriasi, the General Secretary of ACoM, has agreed and signed another term of five years. We all appreciate the huge impact Abraham, through his sound knowledge and experiences, humility, and thoughtfulness, has contributed to ACoM efficiency in administration, operation, and the training of green hands for finance.
The global pandemic has disrupted some of our scheduled programs for this year. The General Synod which was scheduled for November has been deferred to next year. Five dioceses have also decided to defer their Synods to next year.
The Southern Cross – After almost a year of huge refurbishment work, ACoM’s mission flagship the Southern Cross is now back on mission. According to our finance manager the refurbishment cost around 2 million Solomon dollars. We render massive appreciation and acknowledgement to MMTB in Auckland, for facilitating resources for the renovation. We hope she can further serve ACoM mission for some more years, after which a new and bigger vessel can be considered. And, as the saying goes, the sooner the better.
ACoM PHQ – Since relocating the Provincial Office by the main street of Honiara in 2019, actual work on the new complex has not yet started. That said, a committee consisting of PHQ staff has been setup to oversee the initial planning stages. It is going to be a huge project, so we are concerned about securing maximum funds to ensure that initial plans are correct. It is hoped that this project will begin next year.
John Coleridge Patteson University (JCPU) – It has been a long overdue project of ACoM. However, in terms of academic programs, a diploma in primary school teaching has been introduced and is gradually attracting enrolments, not just from ACoM, but from other churches. One of the huge steps forward to this program is that the South-Western Commission has accredited the programs offered. A concept implementation plan has been designed, for land east of Honiara, further inland from TNK. According to the document 80% of the university’s income will be locally generated, by allowing some hectares of the land for farming. Definitely support for tools and machineries for the proposed farm will be welcomed.
ACoM Health Ministry – In the early days of our core mission, health ministry was strongly linked with education. It lost its grip, probably when the government of Solomon Islands and Vanuatu started improving their health services. Now there is a huge realisation resonating with the climate change experiences, for the need to re-engage in this ministry, most probably on a higher level. To that end a resolution was made in the 2018 General Synod in Port Vila to revive ACoM’s heath ministry, first by establishing a position of a Health Coordinator in the administration office. That has now been done and the pioneering work is in place to scout opportunities to gradually rollout this ministry. Sadly only two ACoM clinics survive, the Epiphany Clinic at Fauabu on Malaita, and the St. Clare Clinic at Taroaniara on Gela. Unfortunately both clinics are now in dilapidated stages.
With those brief remarks, I wish you all God’s blessing on your work and our partnership for the Kingdom of God. It is good to talk to you. Though we missed out a lot on the face-to-face communication, may I assure you that ACoM holds you and your families and the work you do to heart. Most especially during this time of extraordinary uncertainty and fear.
May God bless all the Trustees, supporters, your families, and our partnership in mission. Thank you.
Minister General for the Society of St Francis, Brother Christopher John, writes about environmental justice.
Franciscans are rightly concerned with the needs of the environment in which we live. Francis might have turned into the saint of birdbaths in popular thought, but his approach to creation was much richer than that simple image. He affirmed the value of creation and saw that God entered the world in human form in the humility of frail human flesh. And he recognised too that God continues to dwell among us in the bread and wine of Christ’s body and blood. The world we live in is a sacramental encounter with the divine. Likewise, Clare writes to Agnes of Prague that by gazing on the figure of Christ on a painted crucifix, considering and contemplating ever more deeply that image painted on wood, one is transformed by the divine.
The things of our physical world are important; in other words, “matter matters.”
Justice is a rich concept in biblical terms. More than the punishment of wrongdoing, it means giving people their rights, and especially to those most vulnerable.
If we bring environment and justice together as environmental justice, Franciscans have a powerful lens to look at the world. We love and care for the material things of creation, since they are for us signs of the divine presence. But we also hear the voices of the suffering. The poor, the marginalised, the oppressed peoples of the world. Just as we hear these human voices, we also need to hear the voices of the whole created order crying out for justice because the voices of the rivers, lakes and forests and so on, these are the voices of the vulnerable.
But justice requires more than just listening. The biblical phrase is to “do justice”; justice is action. One group who are very active in environmental justice is the Franciscan NGO at the UN, Franciscans International, who take the voices of the vulnerable (of humans – and of all creation) and let these voices speak in the UN gatherings where policies can be set and programmes initiated.”
Our best witnesses to the cry of the environment are those living most closely to the land and sea and rivers. They see and know the daily changes caused by climate change or rising sea levels. They know what it is when their land no longer produces the crops it has for generations, or when their fresh water supplies become undrinkable. They have no alternative supplies. Their daily food comes from the land and sea round them—or it doesn’t.
Franciscans are (or should be) the people who know intimately the needs of those living on the most vulnerable margins. We are privileged by education and status. Let us also be the people who “do justice” for all our sisters and brothers in creation.
Christopher John SSF
Many thanks to Franciscans International for permission to republish this article by Brother Christopher John SSF
Watch a short film from the Franciscans here Solomon Islands Self-Sufficiency – Society of St Francis
More than 150 synod participants, observers and guests gathered at Kia Parish, in the Diocese of Ysabel (DOY) for their 16th Diocesan synod. The tri-annual meeting was officially opened on Sunday 26th and ended on Thursday 30th July.
The 16th Diocesan synod brought together representatives of the Church, Government (both National and Provincial) and the House of chiefs in Isabel (Tripod system). The meeting was officially opened by the Guest speaker, the Honourable Member of Parliament of the Host constituency Hograno, Katova, Kia and Havulei, who is also the Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Honourable Jeremiah Manele.
Amongst other dignitaries were the Member of Parliament for Maringe Kokota Constituency and Minister for Environment Hon. Dr. Culwick Togamae, a team from the Anglican Church of Melanesia Provincial headquarters led by Chief Operating Officer Mr. Peter Pitia, the Premier of Isabel Provincial Government Hon. Leslie Kikolo and his team, Paramount Chief of Isabel Retired Bishop James Mason, and General Manager of Isabel Development Company, Mr. Welchman Rubaha.
The Diocesan Bishop of Ysabel, The Right Reverend Ellison Quity, in his inspiring sermon at the Opening Eucharistic at Saint Luke’s Church, reminded and challenged the synod delegates and all who attended the service on the theme – Bloom the Mission and Ministry of God where you are planted.
“Every single person in this room is called to be a living witness for Jesus in Isabel, Russell Islands, Western Province and Choiseul Provinces in Melanesia, in your workplace, in Solomon Islands and elsewhere,” said Bishop Ellison.
“We are to bloom wherever we are planted, sent or posted. Be reminded, that if we remain faithful and connected to God in our everyday life, the truth is that we can bloom in the toughest of circumstances,” Bishop Quity said in his sermon to a packed Saint Luke’s Church.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,” said the Bishop, quoting Col 3:23-24.
On that same note, Hon Manele in his Address as a guest speaker said, “Church is a divine institute of God that needs a healthy and viable church with opportunities of working together in partnership and deliverance. We need each other to elude the challenges we face and will face in the future”.
ACoM General Secretary Dr. Abraham Hauriasi in his key note address read to the synod delegates by the ACoM Chief Operating Officer Mr. Peter Pitia, urged synod delegates to agree on a pathway for greater collaboration in the leadership, resourcing and fulfilling the mission of God in the diocese that will produce a growing and living Church in the diocese of Ysabel.
“As each of us ponders on what ministry we can play in the mission of God in the Diocese, let us always be optimistic about the difference our ministry can make in building God’s Kingdom in the DoY. Let us not underestimate the impact of our contribution however small we feel it may be. We indeed need collaborative efforts to advance the mission of the Church,” Dr. Hauriasi said in his address.
Amongst the many motions discussed, carried and accepted by the 16th Diocesan synod were; to amalgamate Laity Training and Clergy Training at Mano Wadrokal School of Theology and Ministry (Tasia) with support from the Diocesan staff and administration; the establishment of a new Community High school in the Western Province to cater for the growing Anglican Community in the Western and Choiseul Provinces in particular; the extension of the Diocesan Bishop’s tenure in the office for another term.
The transition of Bishop Naramana Vocational Training Centre into an Institute of Technology on Carpentry was also highlighted at the synod. A report presented by the Principal of Bishop Naramana Vocational Training Centre, Fr. Christine Advent revealed that, “Works are progressing really well and once completed and everything went well according to plan, it will begin next year and there will be a Government fully funded Scholarship open to any RTC Carpentry graduates with a two year programme that is equivalent to Certificate IV standard of Australia”.
Awareness talks and teachings were also part of night’s activities during the week.
At the end of the synod business, Bishop Quity thank the Paramount Chief of Isabel, Retired Bishop the Rt Rev. James Mason who had rendered his commitment and time taking part in the 16th diocesan synod with the wealth of knowledge and experience he shared with synod members.
Bishop Quity also acknowledged the presence of the National Government and Provincial leaders, staff from the ACOM office in Honiara and other prominent members as well as the chiefs and people of Kia village, surrounding communities, Business houses and families and those who have supported and contributed to the for successfully hosting the 16th diocesan synod in one way or the other.
The Diocese of Ysabel comprises four regions namely, Lawe, Zamako, Tuvano and Gaoma regions and covers Isabel, Central Islands, Choiseul and Western Provinces.
Members of the ACOM Religious orders also attended the Diocesan Synod. A recommendation for a new CSM Household which was put forward and was approved by the synod. This proposed household had been requested by one of the pioneer sisters named Lily Tetehu who gave the site for the Church purposely for the mission and development of the CSM.
The impacts of climate change can be surprisingly far reaching, affecting families in unexpected and complex ways. Here, Tagolyn Kabekabe, the Anglican Alliance’s Pacific facilitator, talks about some of these impacts in the Solomon Islands, describing a chain of consequences that include a change in the types of diseases affecting communities.
The whole of the Pacific is affected by rising sea levels but it is worst for the low-lying islands. We have had instances when a spring tide has washed through the islands taking everything with it: the chickens, the pigs; it washes through the kitchen taking the pots, the pans; everything into the sea. These are phenomena that people are now experiencing, which they say never happened in the past. They used to have high tides, but they know it was only half a metre – but that has changed so much in the last 15 years.
When we have this rising sea level and unusual high tides and things like that, it actually destroys whatever crop is grown not necessarily just along the beach or coastline, but it also affects inland. A lot of people plant swamp taro and this needs a certain salinity to be able to grow well and produce tubers. But when you have extra salt it disturbs the level of salinity-it becomes too salty and it affects the crop. It rots the tubers and in the long run it kills off everything. This affects not only the current harvest but also the ability of people to replant the following season. Too much salt in the soil also affects the growing of bananas, bread fruit, even coconuts. A certain level of salt is suitable for these plants but too much kills them.
Our rainfall patterns have changed too, in two major ways: one is that we don’t get the rains when we expect them and the second is that when we get the rain it is too much-or maybe too little. The unusual rain pattern also affects crops. Too much rainwater disturbs the balance. So it is both ways, and these are things our people have no control over. We cannot control sea level rise and we cannot control how much rain falls onto the crops. Our people cannot protect themselves from these things and so the people simply go with what happens.
Swamp taro is the staple food of these islanders. As swamp taro has declined due to increasing soil salinity the diet of the community has changed drastically. People start to depend on imported foods such as rice, flour, noodles, sugar, tea, and canned meat and fish. And for these, people are dependent on supply boats. There is a time known as the time of ‘hunger’ when the boats that bring the imported foods, medicines, etc, do not follow the monthly schedules and this is a very common occurrence, especially when it is not bêche-de-mer (sea cucumber) season. People then, for a month or more, eat only fish and coconuts, which greatly affects their wellbeing especially young children. Malnutrition then becomes an ever-increasing issue among children, and under-nutrition among adults.
The change from a very traditional concentrated and nutritious diet to a foreign and less nutritious one has resulted in many problems for the islanders. Traditionally, our people are very healthy but now we are seeing increased levels of obesity and non-communicable diseases. There is an increase in diabetes and high blood pressure, diseases that we did not know of in the past. These problems are further compounded by the lack of basic medicines, diagnostic equipment, technicians and qualified medical staff in rural areas, resulting in patients not knowing their statuses and so succumbing to disease. The fact that rural health facilities lack trained nurses means referrals of patients is virtually non-existent and many people do not have the money to pay for the boat fares to Honiara because of their limited resources. In these situations, people die of treatable diseases in the islands.
The forced change in diet affects families in other ways too. For our very rural people who are subsistence farmers and who live off the land, it is a struggle to be able to buy the rice, which means that what little crops they have, they have to sell or, if they have children who are working in towns and cities, they depend on them. That is one of the patterns we are now experiencing-that our families who live in the villages now depend on the children who are working and earning money to actually supply the rice for them. And this puts a strain on our community.
Communities in Solomon Islands have been identified to be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and associated sea-level rise. Some evidence of these impacts is already visible. For example, the artificial island of Walande, located off the coast of South Malaita, has been submerged by rising sea-levels in recent years and the community has been faced with relocation onto the nearby mainland. Low-lying coastal communities across the country are threatened by similar scenarios. Scientific data is urgently needed to understand the environmental changes that communities are facing in the Solomon Islands today and in the future. The Anglican Church of Melanesia Environment Observatory aims to create an extensive database of environmental change across the country, based on local observations of Anglican communities, which will increase local understanding of climate-related issues and build resilience in vulnerable communities.
At present, the ACoM Environment Observatory consists of four different monitoring test sites, located at Fanalei Island, Walande, Selwyn College and Red Beach, Honiara. These test sites are coordinated by trained representatives of the respective communities, the “Green Apostles”. At the test sites, continuous data on temperature, rainfall, water levels and shoreline change are collected. The observatory project is managed by a local ACoM staff member, Freda Fataka, and supported by a team of international scientists, including Dr Adam Bobbette (University of New South Wales) and Marie Schlenker (University of Southampton).
The first 6-months of environmental data has been successfully collected at the test sites and has been shared with the research team for analysis. While it is too early to see any trends in the data, it has been a great opportunity to review the set up and organisation of the observatory. In February, Selwyn College was flooded and evacuated; in March, the Solomon Islands Government declared a State of Emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic; in April, Cyclone Harold caused widespread destruction in the Pacific and affected the test sites at Selwyn College, Red Beach, and Fanalei. The observatory has been through some extremely testing situations this year. The good news: while there have been temporary disruptions to the data collection and some adjustments needed to be made to the measurement structures, data collection in the ACoM Environment Observatory continues and the spirits of all participating people are high. Freda highlighted that her visits to the test sites showed that Green Apostles and community members “were committed faithfully and put all their efforts towards the success of the project”. We look forward to continuing to work on this exciting project.
Revd Sr Veronica reports on the ongoing impact of COVID-19 in the region.
The most affected victims of COVID-19 in the Solomon Islands are the students in Honiara and on Guadalcanal. Their education has been disturbed, because schools are closed down and the government moved them to their respective islands. Most of them do not know what to do in their villages, as there is no access to any learning facilities. Now the schools are opened but the students from remote islands could not make it back in time. Boats travelling to remote islands like Temotu are rare, because of the great distance and the boats have to be seaworthy. Furthermore, parents of the students do not have the money to pay for their return fares. Most of the students have outstanding school fees and COVID-19 added another burden to the parents.
The Ministry of Education provide lessons for the Students through the Solomon Island Broadcasting (SIBC), but the network is very poor in the remote islands.
Parents with little income
Most parents depend very much on the sale of the crops they grow to meet the needs of their family, especially school fees. COVID-19 had a huge impact on such people as most markets in Honiara are closed down. Many people have asked the Prime Minister to re-open the small markets in Honiara. However, the government has to protect the people from the virus and stand firm against the market vendors.
The Economy of the country is badly affected
The Economy of this country is affected both locally and internationally, and the resources are no longer sustainable to keep up in the world market. These resources are badly affected; Agriculture, Fisheries, Mining, and Tourism. Last year, tourism was picking up in this country after been affected by the Ethnic Tension. However, COVID-19 puts tourism back on its knees. The hospitals and clinics are also affected, and rural clinics badly need new supplies, but nothing is being provided and this causes great risk to our peoples’ lives.
People working for the government had to be repatriated to their home islands, and so most offices are closed. These people too found it hard to sustain their families as they returned home without jobs. Some people lost their jobs, especially those who are working in hotels, due to lack of customers. People are encouraged to work from home, but this is a huge challenge, as most houses are crowded and have a lack of privacy.
Pastoral Ministries are affected
Social distancing is one of the challenges in the field of Pastoral Ministries and Church Services. Fortunately church services are not closed in the Solomons, because this is the very heart of the people. People are more committed to attend church services and more connected with their neighbours and are kind to them at this time. Although the government, through the Leaders of the Churches, discourage big gatherings and conferences, Christian people are really committed to their faith and belief.
Religious Communities’ pastoral ministries are scaling down and this is another challenge for the Sisters and Brothers. Although, we’ve minimised visiting villages and communities, we still attend to visitors coming to our doors. People are desperate to hear the good news and be encouraged to stand firm in their faith.
MMUK friend and film maker Alex Leger, sent his memories of Sister Helen Barrett following the tribute in our Summer 2020 Melanesia News.
I was very sad to read that Sister Helen had died but at 98 she had quite a long innings. I last saw her in 2000 in Brisbane when I was on my way out to the Solomons on the recce for the Blue Peter filming. She was as sprightly as ever and remembered me (thank goodness) from when I was the VSO at Alangaula in 1966. She was the Sister at Kerepei Hospital (her second stint).
In 1966-7 we had dinner on a few occasions and at the first occasion she told me that Father Brock was going dangerously deaf but refused to go to Honiara to be seen by a specialist. She wanted me and Doug Henry (who was a teacher at Alangaula) to ‘soften him up’ before she tackled him yet again! Thanks to Doug, Dan Brock went off about a month later. For me, with the headmaster gone, it was a wonderful respite from the irascible Father B!
I subsequently got the 1st Ugi Sea Scouts to trim the Kerepei Hospital grounds for her with a young Willie P in charge! I remember Willie chastising members of the troop who wanted to speak pidgin English while they worked. It was a school rule that only proper English should be used.
Later in 1967 some American scientists (seismologists) from Hawaii University stopped off for a couple of days before continuing to Honiara. They came ashore bearing gifts – fizzy drinks tablets. The boys ate them without putting them in water first and the gases swelled up inside them causing them to pass wind continuously. They flocked to Sister Helen in alarm for urgent medical treatment. She told me later that when she realised what it was she had trouble keeping a straight face!
She also mentioned her time in the Torres Strait and was very proud of still being useful in her 70s! She was always filling up shipping containers in Brisbane and shipping them out to the COM.
In December 1966 I travelled with her on the Southern Cross (when Captain Eric Healy was in charge) and we went from Ugi to Walande en route for Honiara. That was my first sight of the artificial island in the Port Adam Lagoon that has held my interest since. As we left the lagoon the sea picked up and we were literally ‘shipping it green’ over the bow. I had a deck cabin and I remember waiting between the waves before dashing into the cabin and slamming the door before the wave hit. The water spurted in around the door to about waist height…Sister Helen was no sailor and the evening meal was an interesting affair with waiters posted behind us to catch the plates as they flew off the table! She only lasted about 5 minutes before rushing off to be seasick. Poor woman.
Before her evacuation from the Solomon Islands, Project Trust volunteer, Ellen wrote this for the Anglican Church of Melanesia
My time at St Stephen’s Community College, Pamua, has been better than I ever dreamed of. My friend Cerys and I arrived in Pamua at the end of August 2019 and have been working and living there since. We are from the United Kingdom and have come to the Solomons with the educational charity ‘Project Trust’. ‘Project Trust’ sends 17-19 year old volunteers around the world to 20 different countries, one being the Solomon Islands. Myself and 3 others were selected to come and teach in the Solomon Islands. Two boys are currently working at St Francis, Vaturanga and myself and Cerys are teaching at St Stephen’s, Pamua.
At Pamua, I teach both Form 1 and Form 4 Maths and Cerys teaches Form 2 Science and English. Aside from teaching at the secondary sector we help out at Pamua Primary in our free time. We also enjoy playing sports with both the students and teachers. For example, last year, we played friendly netball games against various local schools, such as Waimapuru and Campbell School, of course Pamua were victorious!
We also love being involved in traditional living and island customs. For example, we both danced custom dances with Bauro and Temotu ethnic groups for the school’s Saint’s Day in September, whilst wearing custom banana leaves. In October, we took part in the School’s Graduation Day, helping prepare local foods, and we both enjoyed celebrating the achievements of the school’s leaving students.
Whilst staying on Makira we have attended the island’s famous ‘Banana festival’. Here we were able to experience the many different types of Makira banana including the famous ‘torroka’. Additionally, we enjoy regular trips to Maworah Island, directly opposite Pamua. During these times we have learnt how to paddle banana boats and I have even attempted spear fishing!
Various Madams and students at the school have been teaching us the ‘Solomon way’ so we now know how to scratch coconuts, peel cassava and cook pumpkin. It has been good fun trying new foods that we do not have in the United Kingdom such as Makira’s famous 6 month pudding. Madam Lucy, the school’s home-economics teacher, has taught me how to make island kaleko, such as dying lavalava and making pacific dresses. I have also learnt how to plant kumara, cassava and pana, when I help my Solomon family in their garden. Many students have also taught me how to brush and chop firewood. We truly have been fully immersed into the ways of island living.
We have both loved our time in the Solomons, everyone has been so kind, welcoming and friendly to us. I would like to send out a special thankyou to everyone at Pamua for making our experience at the school so incredibly special and something we will never forget. I will take what I have learnt from the amazing people here in the Solomon Islands back to my friends and family in the United Kingdom, sharing my stories and adventures. As a result of these experiences, both Cerys and I now consider ourselves to be true ‘island girls’ and I feel as if I am half English, half Solomon! Pamco nao best!
A little over a year ago, two members of the Melanesian Brotherhood came to my school to give a sermon during our morning chapel service. They talked about some of the history of the Brotherhood, the work it does now, and closed off by encouraging us to spend part of our gap year working with them in the Solomon Islands. This caught my interest, as at the time I was deliberating whether or not I should take a gap year. I was able to meet the brothers, along with some other boys who had expressed an interest, where we were able to hear in more detail what a gap year would entail, as well as ask some questions.
Following this, I was put in to contact with the Melanesian Mission UK, as well as Brother Alphonse, the secretary for the Brotherhood, who helped me organise the 3 months I planned to spend there. All of this came as something of a surprise to my parents, but when I explained to them what I would be doing, they were very supportive. English is the official language of the Solomon Islands, but the most commonly spoken language is Pidgin. Therefore, I agreed to teach English to the novices at Tabalia Central Headquarters, on the main island of Guadalcanal.
At the start of my gap year I spent some time working to raise enough money for the flights, and in mid-January, flew from Gatwick to Honiara, via Honk Kong & Port Moresby. Upon arrival, I was greeted by three of the brothers, including the Assistant Head Brother, as well as the sweltering heat of the tropics. Although I had arrived towards the end of the wet season, it was still extremely hot and humid. We were driven to Tabalia, with a short stop at Chester Rest House, where I was introduced to the Head Brother and the novice in charge of guests, and treated to some local delicacies, including fresh fruit and coconut, and given a flower garland.
On one of the first Sundays after I arrived, a Saint’s Day feast was held. This involved a great deal of preparation, including grating cassava for a pudding with which I helped. The feast itself was very impressive, laid out on palm leaves, and preceded by some excellent singing. Several brothers from other parts of the mission had also travelled to Tabalia for the feast, and to bring greetings from their stations.
The general routine of my day included chapel in the morning and afternoon, meals in either the guest house or the dining hall, and teaching English to the novices on Monday & Thursday. Teaching and getting to know the novices was a very rewarding experience, and the main feature of my time there. Their classes were separated into Year 2 and Year 3 (new novices having not yet arrived), who each had a double English lesson once a week. My lessons included explaining grammatical concepts, and then having the novices answer questions about them, both verbally and on the blackboard. One area I particularly focused on was explaining tenses, as Pidgin has no real equivalent. Towards the end of the lesson, we would usually play a few games of Hangman, which the novices really enjoyed, as well as being a good way of improving vocabulary and spelling. I also set the novices several essays to write for homework, to allow them to practice writing longer pieces, as it helps them prepare sermons.
Of course, it wasn’t all work. I greatly enjoyed taking part in the Sunday football matches (admittedly with more enthusiasm than skill), including one memorable match in the pouring rain, which resulted in some very entertaining tackles. It was also very refreshing to be able to walk down to the beach, through the jungle, to go for a swim. Along the path to the beach, one can also see the remains of a WW2-era Japanese tank.
While I had originally planned to stay for three months, unfortunately I was forced to return home after only two, due to the coronavirus pandemic resulting in borders shutting and flights being cancelled. While of course I was very happy to be seeing my family again, it was a great shame to not be able to stay the full three months, as there was still a lot to do and see. For instance, I would have spent Holy Week staying with some of the novices in one of the local villages, helping out with their teaching. I hope to be able to visit the islands and the Brothers again soon, but in the meantime, I aim to encourage others to do the same, particularly those from my school who are considering taking a gap year.