Tag: Visits

Remembering Sister Helen Barrett

MMUK friend and film maker Alex Leger, sent his memories of Sister Helen Barrett following the tribute in our Summer 2020 Melaneisa 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.

Alex in 1967 having spent the day working fruitlessly on the school generator...hence the oily rag!
Alex in 1967 having spent the day working fruitlessly on the school generator…hence the oily rag!

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.

I really liked her.

Alex Leger

To read more about Sister Helen Barrett;
Anglican Sister who served here for years dies in Australia
Helen Barrett MBE AO: St Aidan’s alumna revered in the Solomons

Project Trust Volunteers

Half English, Half Solomon

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!

Ellen, Project Trust Volunteer 2019/20

Cosimo Lewis with Melanesian Brothers at Chester Rest House

My Time With The Melanesian Brotherhood

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.

Melanesian Brotherhood at Tabalia

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.

Cosimo Lewis

Fanalei Island - Village Life

Village Sharing

On the 1st of September 2019, I left the UK for Solomon Islands, where I spent six months living and experiencing the simplicity of everyday village life. In my village, different responsibilities belong to women, men, girls and boys. The girls learn their role from older women, and the boys learn theirs from the men. They learn through involving and, in that way, everyone passes on their knowledge from generation to generation. A villager must know about everything since the entire world is in his/her hands. For example, one needs to have the skills of planting and growing different types of crops. A girl must learn to weave baskets and mats. The boys must learn to fish or dive. Learn to build a house with local materials, build a canoe, hunting skills as well as skills for climbing coconut, breadfruit, nut trees and sago palm tree. 

Fanalei Island - Village LifeEvery villager must have a general knowledge about everything in a villager’s world. There is no such thing as specialized work even though some people are and can be more skilful than others. While in the village, I noticed a massive change in people’s lifestyle. I saw the influence of modern technology had increased immensely – the use of mobile phones, solar panels, the internet, water supply, sanitation & transport.  

Village Sharing - This is one of the most excellent values in village life in Melanesia. Everyone shares and helps one another in every village activities and gatherings; for example building houses, crop planting, weddings and funerals. Hence I will always treasure the joy and the richness of community life.          Fanalei Island - Village

Climate ChangeToday the impact of climate change is horrifying. I have seen in the past 20 years to date the unpleasantness it has caused on my late mother’s village of Fanalei and Walande. The shoreline has changed dramatically as well as the weather. It appears there is an increase in irregular rainfalls and floodings, land erosion, bleaching of coral reefs and extremely low tides and high temperature. As a result it changes the way people do their gardening, fishing and living lifestyle.  

Fanalei village was privileged to host a PhD student from Southampton University, Marie Schlenker. The purpose for her trip was to research the impact of climate change and costal hazards on the Solomon Islands. She carried out interviews and participatory workshops with the locals about their insights, experiences of climate change and its impact on coastal areas. She also taught the locals how to do measurements of rainfall, temperature & water levels of the shorelines. My role was the interpreter. Coming from this area myself I was able to help the locals to understand the questions and the purpose of this research. 

I am delighted that this study is taking place in the Solomon Islands where a lot of places are experiencing the same effect of climate change. People who are being displaced from their environment and are forced to move to new settlements which can cause a total change of lifestyle and traditions. They could experience rejection and discrimination from the people on the main land. The other is the loss of certain skills and knowledge from where they used to live.  

In conclusion we are so grateful and thank MMUK and the University of Southampton, for sponsoring Marie Schlenker to carry out this scientific research which will be very useful for the future.   

Kate Pwaisiho – MMUK Trustee

Lambeth Conference & The BIG Hello

Lambeth Conference & The BIG Hello

In the summer of 2020, over 1,000 Anglican bishops and spouses from across the globe will attend the fifteenth Lambeth Conference in Canterbury.

Convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference is a once-a-decade meeting of bishops and spouses. People will travel from over 165 countries of the Anglican Communion – one of the largest Christian communities in the world, with tens of millions of members.

The Big Hello’ is a large hospitality programme that will see dioceses and churches in England, Wales and Scotland hosting guests for up to a week in advance of the event. It is open to every active bishop and spouse invited to the Lambeth Conference in 2020.

Getting ready for ‘The Big Hello’ from Lambeth Conference 2020 on Vimeo.

MMUK is delighted that the Archbishop and eight Bishops from Melanesia along with their wives will be attending the Lambeth Conference and will also be meeting friends in Cheshire, London and Devon as part of the BIG Hello programme. Over the next couple of months MMUK will be sharing details of where you can meet the Bishops and their wives at services and events.

Please do pray for the Lambeth Conference and this hospitality programme.

People wishing to join the Prayer Journey for the Lambeth Conference can access a seasonal Prayer Diary. The journey also invites people to send in prayers, which will be displayed on a prayer wall to encourage those attending the conference. Some of these will also be featured on the Lambeth Conference website between now and the event.

Get your copy of the Prayer Diary and Join the Prayer Journey for the Lambeth Conference.

The Lambeth Conference Ltd

Welcome at Chester Rest House

A chance to see : The Solomon Islands

A chance to see : The Solomon Islands
A chance to meet : Melanesians
A chance to learn : The life and faith, challenges and hopes of the people of these islands

Two weeks in Guadalcanal and Nggela Islands.

Visiting : Four Religious Communities in their households (Melanesian Brothers and Sisters; Franciscan Brothers, Sisters of the Church), villages, schools and local sites.

Tuesday September 15th to Thursday October 1st 2020.

For many this may be a ‘once in a lifetime’ visit to the far side of the world, so we are suggesting everyone makes their own way to and from Honiara (via Brisbane, Port Moresby or Nadi) – you may wish to visit India, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, China , Philippines, USA, New Zealand en route. The choice is yours! (We will certainly help search for flights if you wish!).

Accommodation : Chester Rest House in Honiara, Religious Communities’ and Mothers’ Union Guest Houses.

Travel : Public Transport in Honiara district is by mini-bus and ship.

  • The Religious Communities have their own ‘trucks’ which may not be very comfortable, but very memorable.
  • The Church of Melanesia owns the ‘Southern Cross’ ship, which it may be possible for us to use, depending on its September schedules.
  • 15-seater Mini-bus if and when needed.

Cost : Depending on your route, you should be able to get to Brisbane and back for around £750. The Air Fare from Brisbane to Honiara is about £400 return.

Travel costs around the Solomons are impossible to calculate. A Self-drive 15-seater would cost about £150 per day + fuel.

Tony and Alison Sparham spent two years in Melanesia in 1998/99 working at Kohimarama Theological College. They have agreed to lead this proposed group.

At present, we would like to know who is interested – we can arrange a meeting(s) to go over more details in the New Year.

Be warned!! Anyone who has visited the Solomons Islands has become very committed to developing relationships with them. The people and the places grow on you – life will never be the same again!

Please contact MMUK to receive more information. Numbers will be limited.

Tony Sparham

Dean of St Barnabas Cathedral receiving Prince Charles before the service

HRH The Prince of Wales – Honiara, Solomon Island Speeches

In November His Royal Highness Prince Charles made his first visit to the Solomon Islands, delighting crowds with a speech at the Lawson Tama Ground in Pidgin and an address to Parliament, which focused on democracy and protecting the natural environment.

Prince Charles Delivered His Speech In Pidgin To A Packed Lawson Tama Ground

Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation

A speech by HRH The Prince of Wales at the Solomon Islands Parliament, Honiara

In this shared endeavour, it is my dearest wish that The Solomon Islands might become a beacon – in this region and across the Commonwealth as a whole – showing how extraordinary natural capital can be harnessed sustainably to guarantee the prosperity and security of future generations.

Your Excellency;
Honourable Speaker;
Honourable Prime Minister and Ministers of the Crown;
Honourable Members;
Officers of Parliament;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

I need hardly say how delighted I am to be able to join all of you here this morning and to bring with me the warmest greetings of Her Majesty The Queen, who has asked me to convey her heartfelt best wishes to this assembly.  For my part, I cannot tell you what pleasure it gives me to have this opportunity to visit the Solomon Islands and to be able to speak to you here, at the very heart of Solomon Islands democracy.

It has long been my wish to visit these islands, having heard so much about them from The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh following their own visits, which they both recall so fondly.  I remember my father telling me about the warmth of the welcome he was given on his first visit here in 1959, when an extraordinary multitude of canoes was paddled out to greet the Royal Yacht Britannia and escort her as she approached Gizo Island. Much more recently, my son and daughter-in-law, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, greatly enjoyed their visit to the Solomon Islands in 2012, as part of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and were enormously touched by the welcome extended to them.

Over the years I have had the particular pleasure of meeting a large number of remarkable people from these islands, either in London or at Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings and other gatherings, and have followed closely the journey that this country, and her people, have taken.

Your journey has not always been an easy one, of course, as each of you will know far better than I do.  This building, and this city, are built on the very ground on which the Battle of Guadalcanal was fought. This was a crucial turning point of the Second World War, when so many Solomon Islanders endured such immense suffering, and served with such distinction, in order to defend their own freedom as well as that of their Allies. We must never forget their sacrifice, or the immeasurable difference it made to the course of the war, and to the preservation of the democratic freedoms we all hold dear.

Those freedoms thrive today, as demonstrated by the public support and enthusiasm for the election which took place here recently. The triumph of democracy is a fitting tribute to all those who laid down their lives in these Islands, not just in the Second World War, but also during the difficult period of the tensions in the Solomon Islands almost twenty years ago.

As all of you know, Ladies and Gentlemen, since 2017 and the end of the RAMSI stabilisation mission, the Solomon Islands Government has had sole responsibility for the security of this country.  To have so successfully and peacefully held elections this year without the presence of any external security is a mark of the Solomon Islands’ success in this regard, and a tribute to the Solomon Islanders’ remarkable resilience and commitment to democratic values.

A strong and vibrant democracy, it seems to me, offers the firmest foundation on which to build the future – ensuring that the Solomon Islands and her people are able to rise to the many challenges that lie ahead. How best to maintain peace and understanding. How to improve access to education and healthcare – including the eradication of malaria. And how to empower future generations to achieve their full potential.

With seventy percent of the population of the Solomon Islands aged thirty or under, it seems to me that there is such great opportunity to harness your human capital in support of your future economic growth and collective wellbeing. This means giving young people the skills and personal development training they need to lead productive, fulfilling lives.  It also means tackling the appalling scourge of gender-based violence, as I know so many of you are determined to do, and empowering women to play a full and equal role in your society. In the Solomon Islands, as elsewhere, as long as women face the despicable threat of physical and sexual violence, or discrimination on the basis of their gender, your economy and your society will simply never be able to achieve their full and extraordinary potential.

Alongside this country’s remarkable human capital, the precious natural environment and biodiversity of these islands, both on land and below the water, represent an immense reserve of natural capital.

For, Ladies and Gentlemen, as you appreciate far better than me, your islands are blessed with astonishingly high levels of biodiversity. Your forests are of global importance, as are your coral reefs which are the second most diverse in the world.  But such natural capital wealth – which, if sustainably managed, should be the bedrock of your economic growth is, at the same time, so very fragile.  And, as I am sure you are only too aware, its very fragility is increased immeasurably, and alarmingly, by the growing impact of global warming, climate change and natural capital depletion. As elsewhere in the world, the uniquely precious ecosystems on which we depend for our very existence, are perilously close to a tipping point – after which it will be impossible for them, and indeed for us, to recover.  This is surely a risk we cannot run, for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

However, despite the daunting challenges we face, there are nevertheless immediate remedies to hand which both conserve biodiversity and help to build climate change resilience and economic prosperity.

For example, I have been particularly struck by what I have heard about the great success of the Arnavon Community Marine Park. Such initiatives are absolutely vital for the survival of the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles, and for the protection of significant areas of coral reef that support such high levels of biodiversity.

At the same time, the Marine Park is, of course, crucially important for the local communities who rely upon it for food.  And as has been proved in these Islands, and elsewhere in the world, Marine Protected Areas are an utterly essential mechanism to increase fisheries catch in the surrounding area. Indeed – and this point requires constant stressing – if the world achieved the target of protecting thirty percent of the Ocean by 2030, the global fishing catch would actually increase by thirty-seven percent. Now I hope you will forgive me saying so, but it seems to me that there is such immense potential for the Solomon Islands to take a leading role in this regard, by protecting, and thus enhancing, more of your marine environment. This would, above all, help to increase dramatically the productivity of your fisheries whilst also offering a major boost to your tourism sector. With this in mind, I have been greatly encouraged to learn of the Solomon Islands’ new Oceans Policy and can only urge you, if I may, to maintain the highest level of ambition in protecting the priceless asset that your oceans represent.

Because the rewards of sustainable oceans management have never been higher, and the costs of inaction have never been more clear. Choosing a healthy ocean, and an inclusive and sustainable blue economy, will require investment and effort, but this will be repaid many times over –  not least through tourism.  And one compelling example of this can be found in the Galapagos islands, where the market price of a shark is about $300, but it has been estimated that the amount the same shark generates over its life through tourism is $5million.

In the same way, on these islands, I know just how crucial your native forests are to your economic prosperity, and how vitally important it is that you secure them as the natural capital from which to draw a continuing income for the future. As the world finally wakes up to the potential of a truly circular economy to decarbonize our world, and to set it on a genuinely sustainable course, it is becoming only too apparent that the bio-economy is going to be of enormous importance. And here again, if you do not mind me saying so, there is an opportunity for these Islands to lead by example and to secure and strengthen your own future prosperity at the same time. Your precious forests, smartly managed, offer a rich and durable source of income, as a uniquely sustainable supply of biodiversity for the new technologies that are now already emerging. At the same time, we have to remember that they play an indispensable role in improving our shared resilience to climate change, which threatens the prosperity and security of us all, by capturing carbon and maintaining essential rainfall.

Now responding to these challenges will require us all to work together across boundaries, and between Governments, the private sector, and populations. At last, the financial services sector and the capital markets have woken up to the huge potential now available from genuinely sustainable investment opportunities and the natural assets represented by your forests and the surrounding ocean could offer increasingly valuable structured investment opportunities.

In this shared endeavour, it is my dearest wish that The Solomon Islands might become a beacon – in this region and across the Commonwealth as a whole – showing how extraordinary natural capital can be harnessed sustainably to guarantee the prosperity and security of future generations. It is my dearest wish that the Commonwealth might become an ever-more important means by which its members, united as we are by historic ties and common values, work together to make full and sustainable use of the natural and human capital upon which, collectively, we can draw in order to secure the future for our grandchildren.

Honourable Members, I know how seriously you take this responsibility which rests with each of you. I know you are determined to do what is right, not just for today, but in the interest of the generations that will follow. For my part, I can only say how closely I will be following your progress, wishing you well, and praying for your success.

May God bless each of you and may God bless the Solomon Islands.

ACoM Communications
Photo Credits – Solomon Focus and Alex Waimora

Daphne Jordan, His Excellency Sir David Vunagi, Lady Mary Vunagi and Cate Edmonds

General Report of Melanesian Trip September 2019

After a long journey it was great to be greeted by Father Rayner in Port Villa. After settling into our hotel, we were visited by Karen Bell the new High Commissioner for Vanuatu. Karen explained her new role as there hasn’t been a HC in Vanuatu for fourteen years. It was interesting to note that with Brexit looming the British Government were setting up fourteen new High Commissions in the South Pacific, the West Indies and in Africa. Karen explained that she had three main roles; Working with the Government on issues of democracy, World relations and especially trade with Britain, and Climate Change. We introduced her to the work of MMUK and the schools and links programme as well as promoting the Article One project. Karen has a limited budget for projects but would be interested in a proposal from Article One. She was also interested in being introduced to Bishop James and I have forwarded his contact details. She saw that the three important and leading groups in the Vanuatu life were the Government, the Chiefs and the Church.

Cate Edmonds, Rt Rev James Tama Bishop of Vanuatu and New Caledonia and Daphne Jordon
Cate Edmonds, Rt Rev James Tama Bishop of Vanuatu and New Caledonia and Daphne Jordan

The next day we departed early for Espiritu Santo where we were met by old friends Joses, Diocesan Secretary, though recently retitled Operations Manager and Augustine, Director of Education. We later met with Bishop James and his staff at the Diocesan offices. We were able to explain a little about ourselves, they were shocked that as a Rural Dean I had responsibility for oversight of 32 parishes, and our project. The next few days were spent visiting school and a report has already been made.

We were invited to a special service at the Cathedral on the Sunday for a Mother’s Union Service where 10 new members were admitted by Bishop James. It was a wonderful, joyous service and an honour to be present.

Before leaving Santo, we visited a Rural Training Centre which had been relocated from Ambae, they were struggling in the limited facilities. They we pleased to receive visitors but looked forward to returning to Ambae.

Finally, we met with members of the Mothers’ Union who explained their work. We were particularly interested in their work around gender-based violence. Much good work is being carried out by the MU.
Leaving Vanuatu, we departed for the next leg of the project to Honiara to start the school visits etc. a separate report is available.

We were honoured to be part of the Enthronement of Archbishop Leonard and took the greetings from Bishop Robert and the Diocese of Exeter as well as greetings from ASM associates and people of Feniton. Following the 4-hour service and speeches we were invited to lunch, presentations and entertainment.

Cate Edmonds at Archbishop Leonard Dawea’s Enthronement
The highlight of the afternoon was the Cathedral Sunday School’s presentation of a worship song by dance and drama. They were inspirational and certainly raised the roof.

Cathedral Sunday School worship song by dance

The next day Rev Cate travelled out to Verana’aso to visit the Sisters, see separate report and Daphne spent time in the Education Office. The Sisters are struggling to raise funds for a new chapel as theirs is unsafe. Sadly, it feels that the Sisters are the “poor relation” and receive little support and guidance.

During our stay in Honiara we also visited the Mother’s Union Headquarters and received updates on their work. They were preparing for a grand celebration of 100 years of Mother’s Union later that month.

We also visited the Christian Care Centre, at present there are 40 residents including children and many of these residents were teenage girls who had escaped their abusive homes. The Sisters of the Church and the Melanesian Sisters work together at the CCC to provide a safe and homely environment. We were very impressed by the facilities in a beautiful setting. On arrival we met Sister Veronica who was visiting as well. Most residents are only there for a couple of weeks before they return home if it is felt safe. Sadly, many return again later.

During our stay we made a courtesy visit to David Ward the British High Commissioner to explain our project. It was interesting to meet up with him before he departs for Samoa and to hear more about the political situation in the Islands.

After negotiation we were invited to tea at Government House to meet Sir David and Lady Mary Vunagi, the recently appointed Governor General of the Solomon Islands. It was lovely to meet up with old friends, who certainly were having to get used to a very different way of life.

Eventually it was time to return home. It had been an exhausting but interesting and enjoyable 3 weeks. We hoped that we have made some significant contributions in education and relationship building. We thank MMUK for all their support and look forward to further engagement.

Rev Canon Cate Edmonds 

Green Apostle Training

The Anglican Church of Melanesia and Climate Change

Climate change and the future
The Anglican Church of Melanesia [ACoM] considers climate change one of the most significant environmental and social issues facing its community. With more than 100 years in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, ACoM understands that it can play a crucial role in solving future challenges. To do so, we need bold, innovative steps.

The remains of Fanalei Island
The remains of Fanalei Island

Sea level rise, increased severity of storms and flooding, droughts, saltwater intrusion into freshwater agriculture, and reef habitat loss, all threaten to destabilise local communities. Knock-on social consequences could result in ethnic conflicts, land disputes, and internally displaced peoples. Latent social tensions may be exacerbated if adequate preparations are not undertaken.

One challenge is a lack of accurate local data and environmental monitoring. The Solomon Islands Government does not have sufficient infrastructure or systems to monitor ongoing environmental change. International monitoring is focused on the wider Pacific region. Fisheries, forests, extreme weather events, and shoreline changes, are not sufficiently studied. The reality is stark: without monitoring we cannot know local conditions. We therefore cannot develop evidence-based mitigation plans.

The Anglican Church of Melanesia considers this an opportunity. We can contribute to sustaining local communities and supporting the people of the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. We are undertaking the following initiatives.

The ACoM Environment Observatory
The creation of the Anglican Church of Melanesia Environment Observatory is forging new alliances between the environmental sciences and the Anglican Church of Melanesia. It aims to solve the dearth of local environmental monitoring. With a majority Anglican population, we are using churches throughout the archipelago as a network of scientific observatories. Installing monitoring equipment operated by clergy and lay people, churches are beginning to measure shoreline change, rain fall, storm intensity and duration. Daily readings are sent at regular intervals to ACoM headquarters, Honiara, where they will form the basis for scientific analysis.

In our first year of implementation we established three observatories on three islands. Students and faculty from the Solomon’s Island University are undertaking shoreline measurements on Guadalcanal north shore.

In the coming years, we will expand stations to all islands with ACoM churches and integrate observing with clerical duties. This will produce a close-range portrait of environmental change and the basis for accurate mitigation strategies. Data will be in the public domain and a valuable resource to local and international climate change scientists. Rather than import costly monitoring equipment and expertise from abroad, the observatory repurposes existing church infrastructure and expertise.

This innovative approach is appealing to churches in the Asia Pacific region and beyond. Anglican and other Christian communities in Australia, Vanuatu, Samoa, and the UK, are developing partnerships to extend the observatory network. Post-graduate architectural design courses on the observatory are being development with the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building, University of Technology, Sydney; and, the School of Design, Harvard University. The observatory is being studied as case study of the integration of science and religion in courses at the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, and Malua Theological College, Apia Samoa.

Green Apostles
To link environmental sciences with the Anglican Church of Melanesia community we have developed the Green Apostle award in collaboration with the Melanesian Mission (UK). Each award is given to monitors operating Observatory stations. Interested lay members and clergy have been trained in measuring shoreline change, operate rain gauges, and notating storm intensity and durations. It incentivises, recognizes and gives thanks for the efforts of our participants and contributes to skilling our community.

Green Apostle Training
Green Apostle Training

Education
We are undertaking initiatives to combine climate and environmental sciences with theological and religious education. With Bishop Patteson Theological College, international coastal scientists, theologians, and social scientists, are developing curriculum that integrates the study of climate change science with theological training. With faculty at the Solomon Islands National University, we are developing climate change curriculum. Our educational efforts endeavour to cross conventional boundaries between science and religion.

Coastal Erosion
To facilitate climate change research, we have formed a partnership with the University of Southampton, UK. We are supporting PhD research into coastal change impacts in the Solomon Islands. The research combines physical evidence of historical shoreline change from remote-sensing technology and a study of social implications based on participatory workshops and interviews in affected communities.

Measuring Coastal Erosion
Measuring Coastal Erosion

Relocation
Widespread coastal erosion threatens the well-being and development of communities in the Solomon Islands. The majority of the population live in highly vulnerable, low-lying coastal areas and relocation is already occurring across the country, most notably on the outer reef islands and small offshore artificial islands. At present, relocation efforts are rarely assisted by the government or NGOs. Unaided relocation of whole communities has led to the formation of illegal settlements and overcrowding, land disputes, and social conflict. ACoM, the Melanesian Mission UK, and the University of Southampton recognise the immediate need to develop adequate strategies to manage climate-induced relocation and intend to develop partnerships to support relocation efforts.

Combined strategies
Through this work we hope to be good stewards of the Solomon Islands for future generations.

Marie Schlenker and Dr Adam Bobbette

Shoreline Erosion on Fanalei Island

Climate Change in a Melanesian Context

When I first started my PhD project about climate change impacts in the Solomon Islands, neither myself nor my supervisors expected that I would be telling a story about land disputes, traditional customs and the wantok system. I considered myself a natural scientist, with an academic background in Geosciences and Environmental Physics, keen to collect and analyse numerical data. However, as I started delving into my project, I had to rethink this initial perception. How can I study climate change impacts if I do not consider the people who are being impacted by it?

ACoM Environment Observatory: Measuring shoreline change on Fanalei Island
ACoM Environment Observatory: Measuring shoreline change on Fanalei Island

My research still focuses on the analysis of physical data to gain insights into climate change impacts in the Solomon Islands. I use satellite images, aerial photographs and beach surveys to understand how shorelines of small islands have changed in the past and how they might evolve in a changing climate. However, I also added a significant social science component to my work. During my two-months long fieldtrip to the Solomon Islands, I conducted interviews and participatory workshops with local people to learn more about their perceptions of climate change and its impacts on coastal areas in the country.

Both, government representatives and leaders of the Anglican Church, confirmed what I had already expected: many coastal communities in the Solomon Islands are already experiencing adverse impacts of environmental change, including severe shoreline erosion and increased flooding frequency. The good news is that the majority of these communities seem to be highly resilient to the new environmental conditions. Most Solomon Islanders live a simple lifestyle in rural areas. They reside in palm leaf or wooden huts and subsist on fishing and growing crops in small gardens. As shoreline erosion and flooding threaten their villages, people simply dismantle their houses and rebuild them further inland on higher ground. Due to the strong sense of solidarity and social cohesion within extended families, known as the wantok system, people who are forced to relocate will receive boundless support from their relatives.

Flooding at Fanalei Island during high tide
Flooding at Fanalei Island during high tide

While this system of assisted relocation within villages currently seems to work well in many places across the Solomon Islands, it is simply not an option in some other places. Why? Some communities do not own any land to fall back onto. As part of my trip, I visited two communities in South Malaita, Fanalei and Walande, which have been dealing with this problem. Both communities are seafarers from Lau Lagoon in North Malaita who migrated to the small islands off the South Malaitan coast generations ago and have been growing ever since. Their status as migrants means that they do not have any original ancestral lands in the region. Land ownership in the Solomon Islands is tribal and passed down from generation to generation. As rural communities depend on the land for their survival, they guard it like nothing else.

Shoreline Erosion on Fanalei Island
Shoreline Erosion on Fanalei Island

Fanalei and Walande have experienced severe shoreline erosion and flooding in recent years. Fanalei community lost the majority of its former settlement area to the waves and is regularly flooded at high tide. Walande transformed from an island that hosted a population of over 1,000 people in 2002 to a deserted sandbank. As a result, the majority of the villagers migrated to the nearby mainland of South Malaita. Unfortunately, not without complications. Fanalei people are illegal settlers on the mainland and the traditional landowners will not let the issue slide, leaving Fanalei Islanders with an uncertain, possibly bleak future. Land ownership and land use are common sources of conflict in the Solomon Islands and even led to violent ethnic tensions in the past. Unfortunately, climate change and population growth are very likely to significantly exacerbate the issue over the next decades and, currently, the Solomon Islands government neither has the capacity to handle the increasing number of land disputes, nor to effectively support resettlement or to slow down the alarmingly high rate of population growth.

Walande Island - 2002
Walande Island – 2002
Remains of Walande Island - 2019
Remains of Walande Island – 2019

However, just a few kilometres further north, Walande people have found their own strategy to secure their livelihoods. In the 1940s and 50s, Walande’s leaders had the wise foresight to acquire land from tribes on the mainland by negotiating a payment consisting of traditional shell money, dolphin teeth and modern currency and maintaining close friendships with their neighbours. After Cyclone Namu hit the island in 1986, the villagers decided to take their fate in their own hands. Educated community members created a settlement plan and obtained the support of Australian Aid to bulldoze the land for relocation. When storms were becoming more frequent in the 2000s, leading to increased erosion and flooding of Walande Island, villagers had the opportunity to build a safe new home on the mainland.

New Walande on St Michael’s Day
New Walande on St Michael’s Day

The story of Walande shows that rural communities in the Solomon Islands are capable to manage their own local climate change adaptation. However, any kind of support from outside is greatly appreciated by the communities and can go a long way. The Melanesian Mission UK currently supports the development of an environment observatory within the Anglican Church of Melanesia, which will empower local people to create their own scientific evidence of climate change and shoreline erosion, increase environmental knowledge within communities and facilitate the design of effective adaptation strategies.

More information about the communities of Fanalei and Walande and the ACoM Environment Observatory can be found in my travel blog: Save Islands.

Marie Schlenker

Marie Schlenker is a PhD student within the Energy and Climate Change Research Group at the University of Southampton, researching the impact of climate change and coastal hazards on the Solomon Islands. Her project is jointly supervised by Prof. Robert Nicholls, Prof. David Sear and Dr. Ivan Haigh and supported by the Melanesian Mission UK, the Anglican Church of Melanesia and the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute. She has just returned from a 2-months long fieldtrip to the Solomon Islands.