Solomon Islands immersion 2018

Blog post 1
Friday 28 September
Written by Crystal Azzi
Sydney to Honiara

Our extremely long day began at 4:30am where we all met at Sydney Domestic Airport. Due to an hour’s flight delay, the group decided to grab some breakfast at the airport. As we boarded the first plane to Brisbane, nerves and excitement were mutual feelings.

Upon arriving at Brisbane, the feeling of excitement had heightened. As we anxiously waited for our next flight, we began telling stories and playing Uno. Once we were seated on the much-anticipated flight to Honiara, some of us began to doze off while others continued playing cards.

The sudden humidity that circulated the plane was the first sign that we had arrived in Honiara. Stepping out of the plane, we were met with intense heat. As we stepped out of Honiara airport, we were greeted by Sister Teresa, Sister Fatima, Sister Salome and Sister Maria who provided us with frangipani leis, as a welcoming gift. The Sisters kindly brought us back to the Formation House where afternoon tea was provided. Following afternoon tea, we drove to the markets and purchased jewellery and sarongs. We then visited Holy Cross Cathedral where we met some of the locals. Returning to the Formation House, we had the opportunity to relax while we waited for dinner. Before we ate dinner the sisters said Grace and sang a welcoming song. Chicken and vegetables were then served.

After an exhausting day, we showered and prepared for bed.

Blog post 2

Saturday 29 September
Written by Ms Sarah Tynan
Honiara to Auki

Today began with breakfast with the Sisters at Formation House in Honiara. After that, we packed our things ready to board our plane bound for Auki. Once we arrived at the airport, we were notified that we had been delayed a few hours, so Sr Theresa loaded us back into the car and off we ventured to a beach just near the house. It was nice to sit and have some time to reflect on where we are, what we are here for and what we are about to embark upon. One of the challenges of the beach excursion was the amount of plastic that was present on the beach. The Solomon Islands do not have a recycling or rubbish disposal system, so rubbish builds up. Pollution is a real problem.

After a fresh young coconut to rehydrate in the intense heat, it was back to Formation House to say farewell to the Sisters until next weekend. After waving goodbye we ventured out on to the tarmac to board our tiny little propeller place that would take us across turquoise encircled Islands with pristine beaches, to a place that oozes peace, Auki.

Upon arrival in Auki, we were greeted by Sr Loretta and some students from Aligegeo School. The greeting was warm and welcoming and set the girls’ nerves at ease. After a bumpy trip in the back of the truck, we arrived at our home for the next week, Fanualama, which literally means, place of peace.

We unpacked our donations and teaching tools, after that we enjoyed what we have all heard about but not experienced, Solomon Islands time. Things happen when they happen, a new concept for those who us who live by the bell. After some journaling it was time for evening prayer, followed by dinner with the Sisters and Father James and an early night. The weather is beautiful, but very hot.

Blog post 3
Sunday 30 September  
Written by Sarah Chen

Today began with a beautiful mass in St Augustine’s Cathedral in Auki. Despite the heat and humidity, it was a great experience that reflected the Solomons culture. We were absolutely blown away by the amazing singing that filled the whole cathedral with an energy and liveliness that was awe-inspiring. During the mass it was beautiful to see the community immersed together and connecting in their faith. It was also an enjoyable experience to see so many children in the mass – so alive and energetic.

After mass we then came back to the house by sitting in the back of the truck which was a unique experience. After a delicious lunch of fried rice, we had a relaxing period of time where a couple of us slept outside. It was surprising and refreshing to wake up to a torrent of rain. The air and view were absolutely breathtaking and was a change from the heat.

After the rain had stopped pouring, Sister Loreat led us to the village of Lilisiana. Along the way it was eye-opening and made us feel quite sad to see the large amounts of rubbish. Upon arriving we were greeted by a number of cute children. Sister then led us to their chapel, with more children who were initially shy however came up to us when we played simple games.

We then had to come back and we were slightly sad to say bye however realised that we would be seeing them again tomorrow. We then returned home and played with the neighbouring kids and joined together in song and dance. Evening rosary followed and a delicious dinner. We are looking forward to the kindy activities tomorrow.

Blog post 4
Monday 1 October
Written by Keeley Flynn  

Today began with breakfast at our house in Fanualama village. After that, we headed off to Lilisiana Village, to the kindy where we were greeted by the children whose contagious laughter and happiness warmly welcomed us into their community.

The children sang us songs and we then split into four groups where we each did singing, limbo, soccer and outside games with the kids. The children were so excited and happy to be with us and we quickly learnt how it doesn’t take much to make them happy. We then all went inside, sat together and read a book and made friendship bracelets with the kids to show our appreciation for our new friends.

After that we gave our donations to the teachers, prayed together to give thanks for this opportunity and said our goodbyes. We returned back to Fanualama where we had lunch and a well-deserved afternoon rest. Soon after, the girls from Aligegeo School came to Fanualama where we danced and shared pictures of our families and lives at home with them.

We finished up with evening rosary, dinner with the sisters, a reflection on today’s highlights and some planning time for tomorrow.

Blog post 5 
Tuesday 2 October
Written by Catherine Hayes

Today’s extremely hot day began as do all of our days in Fanualama, with breakfast at our outdoor dining table. We then made our way over to the conference room where 15 Form 3 students were waiting for us to teach them Maths and English.

Like us, the students were shy and excited. A few more students wandered in as our lessons began, we played Maths and English games as icebreakers and later did some arts and crafts. It was a great experience that allowed us to develop our teaching and communication skills.

We also formed bonds with the students and they taught us games and different crafts. Today’s activity opened our eyes to the level of the children’s skills and gave us more insight into Solomon Island education. In the Solomon Islands, students can be any age in a “Form” or as we would know it, year group.

Teaching was more exhausting than any of us imagined, so after lunch we took the opportunity to rest and avoid the heat of the middle of the day. Later on, Brother Humphrey took us and two Aligegeo students – Ellen and Jennifer – to the centre of Auki town. We were able to admire the handmade shell necklaces, a common trade in Auki, especially near the coastal villages, go shopping at the markets and all enjoy and all enjoy a refreshing ice cream at the corner store. We were able to “shout” Jennifer and Ellen an ice cream, a treat that they do not often get to indulge in as they do not have the money to spare for things like that.

This was a concept we struggled with as we have so many things at our fingertips.

We were then taken to the river as a surprise, where we helped Brother Humphrey wash the Auki ute followed by a cool off splash. It was a lovely surprise that allowed us to cool down in the blistering sun and we also attempted to skim rocks.

We then made our way back to the peaceful village of Fanualama were we settled down and played with the younger kids. Later in the evening we said the rosary as the sun was setting and finished our night with the familiar dinner of hamburgers. We are all excited for what tomorrow brings and hope to see the Form 3 kids again.

Blog post 6
Wednesday 3 October
Written by Chanelle Hasham

 Today we were awoken at 5:30am by a loud church bell which signified the beginning of mass. We jumped out of bed and got ready for the 6:00am mass at Our Lady of Fanualama. We enjoyed a peaceful mass and started the day super early. We then came back and had breakfast on our outside table with a breeze. At 8:30 we all went down to the conference room with our computers and met with the students from Form 3. We got the chance to teach these students – some of whom have never touched a computer before – the basic skills of document writing, formatting and learnt more and more about each other as the day grew longer.

Afterwards we all gathered outside on the grass and the Alligegeo students taught us some of their cultural dances. Crystal then took the lead and everybody followed her as we danced all together to some more familiar songs.

Blog post 7
Thursday 4 October
Written by Isabella Lo Surdo

Again today, we were awoken at 5:30am by the sound of the ringing bell for mass at Our Lady of Fatualama. After a nice morning of prayer and a homily from Father Clemente, a priest who resides in Lima, Peru, that made us think about our impact on the works around us, we headed back to the house for some brekkie, and a little rest before we started our very hard working day. We made our way to Auki Community High School, where we would spend the morning with Brother Humphrey, staff and students. At the Auki Community High School library, we helped to reorganise the books and clean out their library in order for it to make it more usable for both the teachers and students. It was really eye-opening to see the comparison in the size of their library compared to ours and how lucky we really are. When we arrived we were greeted by about eight of the students who attended the school, who were aged from 13 to 19 in which we felt we really connected more with them as we were closer in age and had much in common. The students were eager to show us around their school and to tell us about how they do things. At about 11:30 we decided to head back, on our way we drove past the Auki hospital in which we noticed many different things, it was quite busy, and was also understaffed and under-resourced. After we had a look we drove back to the house and the teachers had organised for us to paint Brother Humphrey’s house and the Priest’s bathroom, surprisingly most of us found that this was a huge challenge for us, with both the heat and the paint fumes posing a challenge. Yet, it was an experience we definitely won’t forget. Four hrs later we had finally finished painting and we were exhausted, but felt accomplished. Each of us walked out with sky blue paint all over us. After we finished we all had a very nice shower and cleaned up before the bell rang once again at 5:30pm for evening prayer, we headed over and then soon had some dinner. We then went to bed ready for another big day tomorrow.


Blog post 8
Friday 5 October
Written by Charlotte Stuart

Today we were awoken by the bell signalling 5:30am mass at the small but lovely chapel next to our house in Fanualama. After mass, we headed back to the house for a small rest before breakfast, excited for the day ahead. We got all our painting supplies together and headed over the road to the library at Aligegeo High School. On the door of the library, we saw a sign saying the library was closed to all students until further notice, due to many of the books going missing. Upon walking in, we were surprised at the state of it. It was a small room with dusty, almost empty shelves. We were shocked at how different it was to our own magnificent library at Santa Sabina. It made us appreciate our own resources so much more, since there were no computers, air conditioning and hardly any books in their library. We met some boys who were students at the school, who we found out would be painting the roof of the library.

We all started to paint the walls and we immediately became tired from the heat and constant use of our muscles. After about four hours of painting, we had finished and thanked the boys for their hard work, especially since they had not complained at all throughout the tiring morning. After heading back for a delicious lunch of coconut buns and frankfurts, we were rewarded with a restful afternoon. In our room, we brainstormed some ways we could fundraise for the people in Aligegeo High School and Auki Community High School. After seeing the schools, we all felt very strongly about how we wanted to help them and possibly raise money at school when we arrive back for Term 4.

A boy named Franklin walked over to our house in Fanualama and started chatting to us about his school life in Form 7 at Aligegeo. We found out that there are no Form 7 teachers, and they have to learn completely from textbooks. We were surprised to hear this and made us appreciate how much support and help that we receive from the teachers at home. We were upset to hear this, and it made us understand more about the school life in the Solomon Islands. After rosary and dinner, we headed off to bed, excited for the next day.

Blog post 9
Saturday 6 October
Written by Isabella Lo Surdo

Today we woke up to our last full day in Auki, at 5:30am for Mass, with the Bishop elect, at the beautiful Fanualama chapel. We were then eager and ready for our exciting adventure day to Brother Humphrey’s village, which is about one hour away. We jumped in the back of the truck with a couple of girls from Form 7 at Aligegeo School who were coming along with us. It ended up taking about 1hr and a half with many potholes and the heat of the sun. It was an unforgettable experience with the stunning views of green jungle, mountains and the seaside. When we finally arrived we jumped out and Brother Humphrey showed us around and introduced us to his brothers and sisters and all of their children. We then headed down to the beach for a little walk and saw all the little kids catching the waves with hand-made wooden boogie boards. After our walk we headed back and said goodbye to the village of kids and people, and started to head to Booma, a Catholic teaching community which wasn’t far away.

We jumped out and saw a couple of the local kids and had some coconut buns for lunch by the river whilst enjoying the cool breeze, a welcome reprieve from the heat. We then met the Sisters of Charity who were staying there from Croatia and they showed us around their village where they will be staying for the next two years. Soon after it started to sprinkle so we headed back and the sky was very overcast. About half an hour in and we were hit with pouring rain soaking us to the max, it was so much fun the other girls in Form 7 were laughing at us and we were all singing together. It definitely made the experience for us – one that will never be forgotten.

By the time we got back to Fanualama we were already dry but were absolutely exhausted. We had a quick rest then some of us went and played with Christma, Lima, Chrisben, Glays and Junior, shortly after Ellen and Jennifer came to hang out with us and we played Uno and took lots of photos, and just talked. It was then time for our last dinner in Auki, and they put on a feast for us, Jennifer and Ellen also joined us, we were having an amazing time talking and laughing with them about so many things. They then stayed with us until about 9:00pm before they had to go. We then headed to bed because we were exhausted after the amazing and unforgettable day we had. It will be very hard to leave our Fanualama family and our new found friends, hopefully they are connections that will last a lifetime.

Blog post 10
Sunday 7 October
Written by Emilia Capello

Today we woke up to our last sunny morning in Auki, with a well-needed sleep in as Mass was at 9:00am. As with our usual routine we jumped in the back of the truck and went to a buzzing mass full of people who gathered from all over the island. To complement the beautiful mass, the choir sang a number of hymns which lit up the church. As mass concluded we headed back to Fanualama and began to pack our bags as our flight had been moved to an hour earlier. We gathered all our donations and sorted them into different sections for each school we visited.

Following lunch we all gathered for a circle of gratitude, where we all shared what we were most grateful for from experiences of the Solomon Islands immersion and how what we were thankful for has reflected on our lives at home. Some of the things we were grateful for included having a full belly each day, our families, our Santa education, our teachers and the support we get from them and mostly, that we have a bright future with lots of opportunities in front of us. After sharing in the gratitude circle we headed to the airport with a few of the girls we had befriended on the trip and waited for our flight in a secluded airport. As we caught sight of our plane landing on a large field we were shocked to see it fly back in the air. After hesitantly wondering what had happened to our plane we realised the plane did not land as there was a pig in the middle of runway!

Following that hiccup and a few giggles, we boarded the small plane and waved goodbye to Sister Loretta and the school girls from Aligegeo as we flew over to Honiara. Landing in Honiara we were hit with the heat again, and welcomed by Sister Theresa who took us back to Formation House. We were warmly welcomed with pancakes which was a pleasant change from our usual diet. After showering and eating dinner we headed to bed so that we could be rested and ready for our final full day on Immersion.

Blog post 11
Monday 8 October
Written by Miss Julia Chmiel

Today we awoke to the quiet song of the Dominican Sisters’ prayers floating through the open breezeway. As we wiped the sleep from our eyes it was clear that this morning offered a greatly appreciated drop in temperature. After a light breakfast, we began the two-hour trek to Visale. Our return to Honiara was well and truly marked by the pothole-filled streets that define this city. Nevertheless, we were in the safe hands of our drivers Sister Teresa and Brother Francis, who brought us safely to the training centre of the sisters, in the South end of the island. The trees parted and we watched in awe as the vast blue sea opened up in front of us. We quickly jumped out of the truck and dug our feet deep into the sand. Swimming would need to wait until after lunch as each of us was parched and feeling the first pangs of hunger. Lunch was laid out in picnic style with the unfamiliar addition of gingerbread for dessert. It was scrumptious.

After the 20-minute requisite wait to swim, the group eagerly followed Sister Teresa into the calm and cool water. With only the distant outline of a spear fisherman for company, we swam freely in the unspoilt reef. It was heaven, but we soon felt the tips of our noses crisping up in the hot sun and decided to dry off on the sand. Slowly we began to ready ourselves for the long drive back.

On our way back to the Sisters’ home we stopped by the America War Memorial, which commemorates the Allied win during World War II. In a symbol of peace, it was interesting to note the Japanese Memorial can be seen from just across the valley. Fanualama is truly present here.

Upon return to their home, the Sisters offered us beautiful sarongs and danced while they sang “We alight you with the light of the Lord.” We had mass and Father stayed with us as we shared a beautiful meal with the Dominican community. What a wonderful way to end our time in this beautiful country.