On Monday July 8th, the first day of school holidays, Mrs Rose McAllister, Mrs Julia Nolan and Miss Ashley Ruddy set off to Honiara and then on to the isolated island of Vaghena to engage the youth and women’s group in a holiday program.
This was the second visit for both Rose and Julia who worked with the girls from St Theresa’s rural training school in July 2018.
We were surprised to see many new faces to the island and were warmly welcomed back by the friendships formed twelve months ago.
After efforts in fundraising, we were able to purchase a computer, projector and camera for the community to use. Having this resource enriched the program as we were able to watch instructions and demonstrations on arts and craft, how to brush your teeth, the impact of plastics on the environment, reading music as well as numeracy, literacy and phonic activities. The community also loved viewing photos at the end of each day of the activities they were involved in.
On the first day, we worked with the women’s group making hair clips from ribbon, weaving and painting. The women especially enjoyed watching demonstrations of a variety of hair braiding techniques as many of their daughter’s, and granddaughter’s, hair was beautifully done in the days which followed.
The following day we worked with 25 youth on painting and music. We purchased three ukulele, two xylophone and eight recorders, the students loved engaging in playing the instruments, and as a result, on returning to Australia, Julia purchased several more instruments to be sent back to the students.
The group grew in number over the following days and were engaged in drawing and reading activities, competing in memory game challenges and physical activities in the afternoon.
Each day Sister Tabiria and Risia cooked enough food for all of the young people. It was beautiful to join with the community to pray the Angelus each day, attend mass in the morning, rosary at night and witness the blessing of the food each time we ate.
On our final day, we met at 10am for a rubbish pick up challenge. It was wonderful to see so many people from the community wanting to assist in picking up the rubbish.
As a final farewell, the community gathered to share our last meal together and enjoyed an evening of song and dance. The Catechist thanked us for our efforts and pointed out that the community is looking forward to our next visit.
Travelling to Vaghena was very rewarding; the women and young people were energetic, enthusiastic and truly enjoyed participating in activities, which they normally do not have the opportunity to experience.
Miss Ruddy reflects on the visit:
Walking through the little community of Vaghena for the first time was confronting on many levels. The island is in a very isolated location requiring boat transport, making you feel like you are a very great distance away from home. When looking around at the community, you would see litter among the footpaths including dirty nappies. The government does not have anything in place to help the community on Vaghena, therefore it is up to the people to do something about this issue. The community are very poor, there is limited resources for the people and they live a simple life. Many of the adult’s among the community do not have employment as there are minimal career opportunities for the people, therefore the women take care of their large families. Many of the people are unaware of the differences to their lifestyle to ours here in Australia and they do not have a great deal of knowledge around health care. Many homes on the island are little shacks made from the natural resources they can find on the island, this means that the majority of the island have limited or no bathroom facilities. Only a few homes on the island have any form of electricity which is run from small solar panels or from generators. Their food is very limited, most families live off the seafood they catch in the ocean, rice and crackers. Most families do not have access to fresh fruit and vegetables causing many health issues such as diabetes within the community.
From an outsider looking in, this community has limited opportunities and experiences in life compared to Australian societies. When reflecting back on this experience, it makes me appreciate many simple things I have in my life, a warm house, electricity, a range of food, hot water, a comfy bed and many more of the necessities. San Clemente have been supporting this little community and are building a relationship with the people in the hope to enrich their lives.
Rose McAllister, Teaching and Learning Coordinator, Relgious Studies
Julia Nolan, Teaching and Learning Coordinator, Science
Ashley Ruddy, Science Teacher