For DUKES WEEK 2013, Strathcona BGGS did a celebration with a difference. Duke of Ed and Compass Participants organised the DW3013 ‘Live the Dream’ Pencil Drive, donating pencils, pens and all things stationery for schools in the Solomon Islands. They got to give their gifts in person, making the trip of a lifetime in the process. Rhonda Burns, the school chaplain who attended with the Duke of Ed girls, recounts the experience.
The very first Solomon Islands Service and Study Experience offered to 14 girls, from Years 10 and 11 a further opportunity for Global Citizenship. This social service opportunity, was organized and led by School Chaplain, Mrs Rhonda Burns, who was accompanied by Deputy Principal, Mrs Jenny Farmilo and Mellor House Principal Chris Phyland. The Solomon Island’s population is over half a million people, with an alarming population rate of 3.5% per annum. Within the countries, amongst local youth there are issues of, aimlessness, lack of community participation, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy, illiteracy and poor youth activities. Yet, despite such daily struggles there was witnessed a tenacity to overcome life’s obstacles and welcome visitors being apparent.
The spirit of Strathcona, was clearly evident as girls adjusted to the remote conditions of village life. The local people bestowing their generosity, by feasting us to cultural ceremonies, dances, pipe bands, choirs and tropical food. It was delightful to find masses of local children gather and charm us with their smiles and their eagerness to play, learn and sing.
Strathy girls were active in teaching classes at the Florence Young Christian and Gwonoa Village Primary and Secondary schools with the local Kinder, Primary and Secondary students. Although vastly different to the Australian education system, with large class sizes and few resources, our girls were ably innovative and brought with them a bundle of educational surprises to captivate the eager learners.
We were honoured to learn that we were the first visitors to the Gwonoa school in its 45 year history. A particular highlight of our inaugural visit was the vibrant welcoming ceremony, where the village elders had trained senior student’s in cultural dances. At the concluding ceremony, the Principal expressed appreciative words and presented to Strathcona a banner to acknowledge our partnership along with the cultural gift of bridal money. The pledge of ongoing support was reciprocated by a financial donation to support the schools ongoing educational program.
During our time in the Solomon’s, we were able to also offer to local groups, gifts of stationary, lap tops, sporting equipment and craft supplies. The Duke of Edinburgh, Compass Girls collecting four suitcases of pencils and stationary to donate to locals. Strathcona was able to leave donations with Short Workshops in Mission (SWIM), World Vision, Buma Village Kinder and Woman’s Ministries and Gwonoa Primary and Secondary Schools. All these organization being most helpful in the organization of our visit and also being most appreciative of these gifts.
Global opportunities such as those mentioned above, provides students with an occasion to be innovative in their desire to serve others. It also is an opportune time to build strong cultural bridges and friendship bonds and to mutually share life experiences in such a way that are personally meaningful and life changing.