Published on 25th February 2014
The first VSA/Downer NZ cadet volunteer heads to the Solomon Islands in March for a three-month assignment.
Simon Trotter is the first in a series of six cadets over two years to do much-needed maintenance on classrooms and other school buildings in bad need of repair. VSA Solomon Islands Programme Manager Alexa Funnell says, “the VSA/Downer volunteers will be a big boost to the capacity of Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, and with this extra support and expertise it is anticipated that the current projects will progress in a more timely manner.”
The Solomon Islands Government has a goal of universal primary school enrolment by 2015, so making these repairs and building new classrooms is vital, especially as the Solomons has one of the fastest growing populations in the region, with 40% of its citizens under 15 years of age. Just 17% of the population is fully literate.
Chris Meade, Downer NZ’s Executive General Manager, was the first to undertake a volunteer assignment under the new partnership last year, spending two months with ChildFund in Dili, Timor- Leste. Looking forward to the cadet programme, she says Downer is “delighted that the partnership with VSA is now happening on the ground. It is fantastic that we can offer opportunities to our cadets and graduates to volunteer their skills on a real project, and at the same time, with VSA’s help, assist the people of the Solomon Islands improve their education facilities.”
Simon says, “I’m a fairly even mix of excited and nervous as I wait to depart to Honiara this week. I hope that while I am there I can gain some perspective on the standard of living we have available to us here in New Zealand and in some way aid the work of our partner organisation.”
Keziah George will take over from Simon at the conclusion of his three months. “As we are still quite young and only just beginning our careers, it can be difficult to get involved with projects that assist less financially stable communities,” she says. “My hopes are to transfer as many skills as I can during my time in the Solomon Islands and hopefully inspire young women to get involved in the construction industry.”
Chris adds, “This is true partnership for the good of others.”
VSA’s Partnerships Development Manager Ruth Harrison says of the partnership: “VSA is really pleased to be working in partnership with Downer’s cadet programme. It’s great to be supporting real change for the people of Solomon Islands while providing Downer’s graduates with practical development experience.”