Howie Smith is volunteering as a Infrastructure Adviser with the Ministry of Education, Human Resources and Development in Solomon Islands. He will complete his assignment in May 2017.
Published on 14th March 2017
Our newest volunteer in the Solomon Islands gives us a run down of his first week and a half in the country.
I thought that this would be I good time to give a quick update on how it’s all going for me now that I’ve been here for 10 days and am nearly a week into work.
The first week after we arrived was taken up mainly with my in-country orientation which was organised by VSA. I arrived at the same time as another volunteer, so we went through the orientation together and are living in the same joint accommodation. We were shown around the city, how use the buses (a lot different to back home!) and had language lessons, which all made settling down a lot easier. We also did an overnight stay at a traditional village which was an awesome experience. The way of living is a lot different here but I feel like I’ve settled in pretty comfortably. The fresh fruit and fish at the markets is unreal so I’ve been eating well.
I started at work on Tuesday this week and now that I have found my feet, I’ve got some clear goals and tasks ahead of me. The asset management division (AMD) of the Ministry of Education, Human Resources and Development (MEHRD) deals with all the school infrastructure around the country, which includes classrooms, dormitories, road access etc. There are 790 schools in the Solomon Islands, scattered across hundreds of islands. Each year, MEHRD funds new school infrastructure projects. The projects are aimed to help meet the goals of the national development strategy. This year there are 44 new projects across different schools. The majority of the projects are new science laboratories, girl’s dormitories or standard classrooms.
In past years, there have been issues with aspects of project management mainly due to a lack of staffing. I am currently working on improving the project setup and putting procedures in place to get this year’s projects starting off on the right foot. I will then assist with the project management side of this year’s projects, which are planned to begin in a month’s time. Previously, MEHRD has contracted in consultants to assist with the project management, however this is finishing in June. So we are going to be employing more staff and will then need to build the AMD’s capacity so that they can self-manage the projects. On top of this, there are also some projects that are rolling over from last year that I will be involved with.
I’m looking forward to having a bit of down time this weekend to explore around Honiara and hopefully get out for some snorkelling or diving. I’ve attached a couple of photos from our village stay.