HAVING a dedicated space to organise public meetings, awareness and talks has been a challenge for members of the Sirubai Voko Tribal Association in South Vella, Western Province over the past two decades.
In the past meetings were often held under private homes, other meeting houses or even under the trees.
This is because the members do not have a community hall that can cater for public gatherings, events and meetings.
But this problem will soon be resolved and become a thing of the past once a standard size community hall will be completed later this month thanks to Gov4Res Small Grants Initiative (SGI) a project implemented by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with funding support from a number of donor partners namely; the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the United Kingdom (UK) Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
SGI was launched in August 2021 to support non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and Community Based Organisations (CBOs) in the region.
In Solomon Islands, there are eleven (11) projects implemented by six (6) organisations.
The total UNDP fund granted for all projects in Solomon Islands is USD298,400.
Four (4) projects are in the agriculture and food security sector, six (6) in the Community Water Resource Management sector and one in Small-scale Infrastructure.
Under the project, the association received funding support towards the small-scale infrastructure initiative through the community hallin September.
And already work on the hall has commenced is making steady progress.
To see the progress of work, a site visit was undertaken early last month on Wednesday 9th November by a team comprising of UNDP and two donor officials from the Australian Government and United Kingdom.
The team included; Emma Davis Deputy High Commissioner, UK, Timothy Mitchell Second Secretary, Aid Coordination and Humanitarian, DFAT, Teiba Mamu GEF SGP National Coordinator, UNDP, Barbel Ziku RRM Analyst, UNDP and Lynelle Popot Gov4Res SI Resilient Development Advisor, UNDP.
The new hall is built and located at Pusiju village.
Over the past three months, members of the association have been hard at work to complete the task.
So far the structure has been erected, with work on filling up the main concrete flooring which has been raised about a metre above the ground.
The project has pulled together the entire community to help out from the young to the elderly.
Working included digging up the foundations, carrying of building materials and other things as timbers, rocks, gravels, stones and sand.
Most of the materials such as roofing iron, cement, bricks, steel rods were sourced from Honiara by landing craft.
Under the community arrangement, each family were given a plot to fill up with ground, rocks and stones.
And this had seen the community coming out in numbers to work on the project.
Chairman of the project and community chief Leonard Kuboto, 58, was excited with the project and the benefits it would bring once the project is done.
He said, it had been their long time cry to have a separate community hall that can cater for some of the important and bigger meetings, events and also used as a evacuation centre during strong winds.
The target is to get the hall into use by this month.
“I’m happy with this project and the huge benefits it would bring to the community.
“The completion of the new community hall will benefit members of the association because they won’t have to ask and use other venues.
“It means we will have our own dedicated community hall which will allow our tribal members and community to host bigger community meetings and awareness programs in the future,” he said.
He added, some of the awareness related to sports, marine, conservation, forestry, health, water and sanitation, church programs, education, governance, election related awareness and many more can now be hosted at the all.
“The hall will not only benefit our community and the members here but other communities nearby,” chief Kuboto said.
The project is already reaping benefits to the members because it was able to provide them with some of labour towards the construction of the hall.
A local contractor has been engaged for the task along with a number of local support workers.
While the project offers employment it also help to develop their building and construction skills.
During the visit, painting on the rafters were undertaken and as of this month they have all be placed along with the roofing irons to cover the hall.
Association member John Kaniki said, the members are determined to get the work done by the end of this year according to the work timeframe.
He said, the ongoing bad weather had also affected work progress.
It was highlighted COVID-19 and the restriction movement had delayed work.
Israel Paebara, 70, a community resident and association member said, the project has united all the members to work together.
“The project is able to generate the community spirit of working together, knowing the importance this project will bring once its completed,” he said.
He said the community was formed 20 years ago and have benefited from a number of projects.
Already the community has an association research and information centre and a women’s development centre which focused more on women’s development programs.
During the brief visit members of the visiting team were able to have a chat with the community leaders, the women, project committee and construction team to hear about their experience from the start of the construction and the challenges they face throughout the process of completing the task..
Many youths were excited and able to come out in numbers to carry rocks and stones tohelp outfill up the gaps for the concrete flooring.
Ms. Popot Gov4Res SI Resilient Development Advisor following the site visit said, it is very encouraging to see the progress of the Small Grant Initiative projects and how communities have used traditional practices and knowledge to risk inform projects.
Latest photos taken by DAMI Pikisagraphy&Film who visited the community two weeks ago has revealed work is now nearing completion just in time for its opening hopefully late this month.
Already roofing was placed over the hall and final work to be done before its official commissioning.