Hello from the Solomons! The little island of Guadalcanal has gained a new biggest fan! Since moving here I’ve been overwhelmed by the generousity, warmth and spirit of both the Solomon Islands’ people and the three ‘wonder women’ FMA sisters, Sr Anna Maria, Sr Sesilia and Sr Sialei. I’ve been based in the Laura Vicuna hostel, which houses women between the ages of sixteen and mid-twenties who are completing their secondary/ tertiary education. As well as running activites in the hostel of an evening, (drama, music, sport) I’ve assisted Sr Sialei in teaching Form Three English at Don Bosco Technical Institute where most of the boarders attend school.
The hostel provides opportunities for these women to excel in their studies in a culture which unfortunately all too often does not recognise their potential.
Don Bosco and the Salesians talk about presence and how it is through spending time with people that we really forge a connection. I have loved being present with these girls. We sleep, eat, laugh, cry and pray together. While I came here as a missionary to ‘do’ things, for me, the most value and learning has come from the ‘moments in between’. The laughs we share from scaring each other in the dark, the in-jokes and spontaneous singing sessions.
I’ve loved learning about the history of the Solomons, how they reconciled following the disturbing violence of ‘The Tension’ and now consolidate their tribal roots in a modern world. I’ve amused locals as a ‘white man’ catching the bus and attempting to communicate in Pijin (‘mi save lelebe Pijin nomoa’). I’ve admired the efforts of women who travel extensive distances to fetch water for their families and have been in awe of the musicality of everyone.
The biggest piece of advice I could give to anyone traveling overseas is to be open. There are so many experiences and friendships that await you – you just need to be present. While I am only here till July, I hope that the young Salesian presence will continue to be felt through future volunteers.
The Cagliero Project provides overseas volunteer opportunities in Asia and the Pacific. Applications can be obtained on the Cagliero Project website: www.cagliero.org.au