Final Week

Sitting in a hotel lobby in Brisbane, Solomon Islands already seems a long way away. This week in the Solomons was as busy as our first week. 

In ClassOn Monday, we went in to St Nicholas school. In HallWe toured the classrooms and were encouraged to see many of the teachers carrying out the activities we had shared with them in the training. This was enabling the children to practise their English whilst having fun. The teachers were making good use of the In Lessonspace they had, including taking some of their lessons into the school hall. We were able to join in and assist, answering any questions. 

On Tuesday, at Norman Palmer school, we were pleased once again to see many of the teachers using the planning format we had given them and showing that they had already been practising many of the games and activities with their children. The children in Grades 3 and 4 were very grateful to receive the loom band bracelets that had been made for them by some of the children from Tipton and Feniton Primary schools. 

At our final evaluation session on the Wednesday, the teachers were able to reflect on what they had learned and share action plans together across both schools. It is hoped in the coming year that opportunities will be provided for further school based workshops and joint ACoM training. The teachers in Honiara were also excited at the prospect of the potential opportunity for a chosen few to visit the UK as a reciprocal visit. 

Monday and Tuesday were the hottest days we had experienced since we arrived in With The British High CommissionerHoniara, so it was a real treat to be invited to have afternoon tea with the British High Commissioner in his air conditioned home. It was interesting to share our own observations with him and to learn more about the background of the Solomon culture from him, as well as hearing some of his insights into the islands and their people.

Shortly after returning from this visit, we were picked up by the Archbishop of Solomon Islands’ driver, to take us for a lovely meal with the Archbishop and his wife. He is an Farewell Super With   David And Maryincredibly gracious and gentle man and we enjoyed our evening getting to know both him and his wife better, hearing a little of their plans for after his retirement next year. It was also reassuring for him to tell us as he drove out of the car park to take us home after the meal that he ‘always drives slowly at night’…until he added ‘because I’m short sighted’!!

A big thank you to Norman Palmer School, who invited us out for a lovely meal to mark our last night in Solomons. There was certainly no shortage of food and drink to be ploughed through. It was nice to be able to socialise with those who had helped to organise our trip from the Solomons’ end. We enjoyed sharing our experiences from our visit and talking about how our partnership may develop in the future. 

This morning saw our final farewell at Norman Palmer School. The service was filled with song and we were able to exchange gifts and share our gratitude for the time we had spent in Solomon Islands and the hospitality we had been shown. After the service, we were given a tour of the new school building…much progress has been made since Colin was there for the ground breaking ceremony last year. 

We were driven to the airport after this and arrived in plenty of time but, true to our experience of the last 10 days, the plane left on ‘Solomon time’…an hour late! Now we’re on our way home, ready to hand the baton on…

Amanda, Ruth and Ruth

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A busy first week

Teacher TrainingAt the end of day two of teacher training we were proud of what had been achieved. The Solomon teachers were keen to stand up in front of their colleagues and present how they wanted their schools to move forward with behavioural management and share the aspects of their schools which were working well.  At the end of the afternoon, watching the teachers plan their lessons collaboratively showed the potential they already have within the ACoM schools to move their own professional development on.

The teachers fully participated in the behaviour workshop and talk workshops and were able to support each other. Networking with colleagues is an opportunity they rarely have, so it was great to be able to facilitate that.

By the end of the day we were looking forward to our weekend break at Tabalia and Savo.

Tabalia TaxiTabalia was a peaceful and tranquil end to a busy week. The brothers’ singing had previously been described to us but having now heard it first-hand we realise the description could not come close to the reality of hearing it.

We enjoyed their friendly hospitality and hearing the novices tell stories and try to teach us pidgin!!

The boat to Savo on Saturday morning was an hour late (Solomon Time) and the crossing was a bit like riding a log flume. However the flying fish who accompanied our journey made it all worthwhile. We arrived at Savo slightly damp (!) and enjoyed a relaxing couple of days. A stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of Honiara.

Amanda, Ruth and Ruth

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From 15 to 72…

First Day of Training

It’s hard to believe that we’ve only been here two days!  We have been made to feel very welcome, and it has been amazing how familiar everything has felt, following our many conversations and photo viewings with the Butlers and the Drews.  We were a little apprehensive about our first day of training – as so much was unknown to us about the people and schools we were working with.  Our apprehension was heightened by an email we received on the day we left the UK to inform us that the 15 teachers we were expecting had grown to 50. In true Solomon style, this actually turned out to be 72! Despite this (and lots of extra photocopying yesterday) the first day has been an encouraging and rewarding time, getting to know the teachers and seeing everybody’s confidence grow during the first few sessions.  Today’s workshop has focused on talk for learning and strategies the teachers can use in their classrooms to engage the children in purposeful talk and group interaction. We especially enjoyed making hats for our fictional characters! Making Hats

Tomorrow, we will be looking in more detail at using talk techniques to help children become familiar with a story. At the request of the Solomon teachers we will also be running a short session to discuss and share ideas to improve behaviour management in the classroom and techniques for improving listening skills – a challenge for children in England as well as the Solomons! After tomorrow’s training we are looking forward to an overnight stay at Tabalia and a trip to Savo on Saturday.

Amanda, Ruth and Ruth.

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And so the baton passes to…

UK teachers during their arrival at Honiara AirportUK Teachers Arrive 2
Three teachers from Devon who will be running teacher training courses in Honiara for Introducing themselves to the teachers and students of Norman Palmer schoolACoM teachers this August. Amanda Parsons and Ruth Clarke from Feniton Church of England Primary School along with Ruth Ingrouille from Tipton St John Church of England Primary School are the latest volunteers from the UK giving up their summer school break to continue the links between UK and Melanesian schools. Here are some pictures of their arrival and welcome at the Norman Palmer School. We look forward to reading their blogs…
Three UK Teachers Day 2
Left to right Amanda, Ruth C, Ruth I

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Catherine Duce – Final News From Melanesia

Dear friends,

My final three weeks in Melanesia have been extraordinary. Sorry for taking so long to send news.

I’ve lived with the Solomon Franciscan Friars in their novitiate training centre (wooden huts) perched on top of a hill overlooking the Pacific, a mini Assisi, surrounded by trees and fruits and coconut trees, sharing in their simple lifestyle (a relief to have less excessive hospitality coming my way as is custom in Melanesia), sharing in daily jobs of feeding the pigs, picking up litter from the beach/coral, preparing dramas about St Francis for mission, eating Kanku (river cabbage) and Kakake (swamp tarro), giving classes on St John’s Gospel and prayer, sharing in much beautiful singing and rhythm of prayer.

I’ve spent 10 days with the Community of the Sisters of Melanesia (a young community who follow the same lifestyle and prayer as the Melanesian Brotherhood).sisters This was a tough experience (not helped by my own exhaustion and short-lived illness , there was no access to running water and sanitation (over 50 mosquitos in the one guest toilet made it unusable so I joined the 50+ novices and sisters who use the bush), I washed only in the sea for a whole week, trying to avoid the river where washing up, clothes washing, sewage from upstream all gathers in a pool, I cried with joy when the heavy rain came which meant I could have a fresh water shower fully clothed standing under the guesthouse roof using shampoo! I would wake up in the night to find the contents of my bag being eaten by rats (payback for sneaking in food thinking I’d be hungry). It was tiring being the constant centre of attention in a community of sisters, many of whom come from the provinces who had minimal experience of talking with foreigners who giggled every time I approached them for the first four days but slowly I found ways to communicate. There were more sick novices than any other community due to stomach ulcers (poor diet) and malaria. I plan to write more about my experience and thoughts about the sisters – when ive had time to sit and process everything. There were SO many blessings too at veranaasoVeranaaso, breakthroughs in conversations with the sisters – taking about their lives and reasons for joining the community and opting for this poverty which was what constantly amazed me. Their stories were humbling… 

I rested a few days in Tabalia. Then went back to the Sisters with renewed energy and determination to talk with chaplain and tutor to find out what hopes they had to improve the water situation. They all said what was needed was a pump pipes and borehole but for 10 years funds had not been forthcoming. There was a general resignation it wasn’t possible. I encouraged them to gather proformas for costings, some actual facts to work with for long-term fundraising, – thinking it would be next year earliest before anything happened and worried I was raising false hopes…

Well, I can honestly say I’ve never had greater proof than last week that if you show one small act of kindness it is returned ten fold with blessing… A purchase of a water pump has been followed by free donations of pipes,  an offer to drill the borehole boreholeby the end of (now last) week (for later payment of 2000 pounds after UK fundraising), there were a succession of astonishing small miracles which made us all laugh – bumping into the right people at the right time, email offers of funds coming from UK and Australia, tax deduction forms being processed in time… In short, hopefully, this community should have cleaner water by the end of next week…

Yesterday over 25 people gathered at the airport to wave me off from across all four religious communities. I was surrounded by so much love and friendship. It has been the most extraordinary summer. Thank you to all who encouraged, helped, and supported me get here in so many ways. Please pray as I adjust to hectic West – I’m dazed! Back to UK on 9th.

Much looking forward to seeing you all again soon,

Love Cath

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Leaving thoughts

Since I have been here in the Solomons for the last three and half weeks I have had to give a few speeches – no lots of speeches. Speeches have been to family groups and a school of about 30 to 1,500 at the feast however  the speech I gave yesterday at the leaving ceremony at Norman Palmer was by far the hardest.

I was stood in front of the school in the Church of Christ the King because of a man who left Feniton to spread the word of God about 150yrs ago and then was martyred – Bishop Patteson. Nearly 2 years ago I stood on the same spot with a glimmer of hope that I would one day return and bring my family, this summer that hope has turned into reality. The memories and the friendships made will hopefully last a life time and I hope Liz, Charlie and Henry understand and forgive me for dragging them half way across the world to go to school and work in another country during their summer holidays.

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Highlights, there have been many! Renewing and making friends, working with the staff and pupils at Norman Palmer School – both groups loved working with the parachute given by Bovey Tracey Primary School. Other highlights include being part of the choir (I am not sure I added much to their wonderful singing!), seeing more of the islands – going to Isabel and Savo although the trip back on the Isabella is not one I care to repeat, the atmosphere when we were painting the school and now how amazing it now looks, working with the ACOM school leaders for a day, going to Tabalia, seeing Charlie and Henry becoming companions officiated  by Arch Bishop David and with Head Brother Mathias watching, the list could go on and on. But three things stand out. Firstly the signing of the partnership agreement, it has been hard keeping the partnership going at times and I have sometimes asked are we making a difference? Now know how important the link is to Norman Palmer and that it has made a huge difference. Secondly another milestone as less than two weeks after the signing we took part in the ground breaking for the new classroom this was made even better by seeing that by the next day the contractors were on site and starting work!

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The biggest highlight was / is the people. Mother Teresa said “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for a smile is the beginning of love”. To come here and be made to feel so welcomed and loved by everyone has shown us the true love of God. Everyone has been so giving, it has been humbling and I only hope that our work will continue to make a difference. Because that is what education should be about – making a difference in people’s lives so they can make their school and world a better place.

Hope for lookim iufala sometime more lon future.

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The last day farewells and last blog

Tomorrow we leave and therefore this will be our last blog as we are handing over our trusty laptop to Mr Benjamin. We arrived at Norman Palmer School after the morning break. The staff and pupils had prepared a farewellling ceremony in Christ the King church. As we walked down the aisle of the church it has felt familiar and comfortable as we have now come to know the staff and students of the school, so different to the first day.

We received beautiful garlands and listened to the amazing voices of the Norman Palmer School Choir. Father Bobbie spoke and then I gave a reply. It gave me great pleasure to present the Norman Palmer School with the parachute donated by Bovey Tracey Primary School. Henry presented each form and class with a union flag. Colin then took the opportunity to give his final farewell speech. Hearing the Celtic blessing in translated into Pidgin was moving and made the moment feel so final.

The overwhelming generosity of the staff and pupils continued as we were each dressed Solomon style with a lava-lava, t-shirt and shell jewellery. The boys also received a Solomon Island Scout neckerchief. The choir then sang their farewell song to us. It was a sad and joyous occasion, we are of course very sad to be leaving but happy to rekindle old friendships and make many new ones.

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In particular we would like to say thank you to Principal Mathias who has made us feel so welcome and feel so much part of Norman Palmer school. Thanks also to Mr O’Brien, head of primary who supported our work in the school and with the painting. Thanks to Madame Rosa for her fantastic friendship and food. Thank you also to Father Bobbie and Marylyn who gave our boys some fantastic opportunities and us care and guidance.  Thank you to all the other staff we worked with, in particular Louise, Susan, Alice 1 and 2, Portina, Inga, and The scout leader (I am sorry I don’t know your name).

Our final thanks must go to Benjamin, Kate, Frizzwell and David. Benjamin has become a close friend and a personal local ‘ fixer’ for without him we never could have achieved all that we did.

Friends at Norman Palmer we will miss you all. Thank you for all your wonderful gifts, we have felt quite overwhelmed by your generosity and care. Our promise is that we will stay in touch, watch for the post and in emails, for although we are half way around the world the hand of friendship will stretch the distance between our two island nations.

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