It’s hard to imagine Solomon Islands Development Trust (SIDT) moving forward without the presence and guidance of its late founder Dr John Roughan.
But three months on after Roughan’s passing last October, SIDT director Longden Manedika said they are now living out the legacy their founder left behind.“It was a blow and a huge loss to us when Dr Roughan left us,” Manedika conceded.
“We were troubled by his loss and wonder whether the organisation will thrive on.
“But we take comfort in his words and advices, and the great legacy that he left behind.
“It was on that great legacy that we are driving SIDT forward,” he said.
Roughan left his native America in 1958 as a young Marist priest and came to the Solomon Islands.
He remembered arriving here by ship from Sydney and knowing not a single soul.
In his early years, he was moved to various villages across the Solomons where he started to develop an interest in villages and people.
He later got married to a woman from Are’are in Malaita, left the priesthood and went to study in Hawai’i, where he obtained his doctorate.
His thesis focused on rural development.
After completing his studies, he returned and started SIDT, an organisation established primarily to assist villagers improve their standard of living and take care of their resources.
“As an organisation, we will continue to carry on the mandate of SIDT to assist our village people,” Manedika said.
“Our vision is for every Solomon Islands villager to live a healthy life, be happy and self-reliant.
“I am pleased to say that we will not waver in our resolve to fulfilling Rough’s vision and mission through SIDT.”
Manedika recalled the late Roughan sharing his first experience of living in a village setting way back in 1959 at the east coast of Malaita bordering Kwaio and Are’are where the SIDT concept was born.
“Roughan said despite people having very little, he observed they were always happy and content with their way of life.
“So after spending 12 years working in Tarapaina, east Are’are, and Rohinari, west Are’are, the villagers trained him to see life as they see.
“This man has lived his life to the full,” director Manedika said
“SIDT is where his heart is. After establishing the organisation, he left it to Solomon Islanders to run it.
“But he never walked away. He would always come back to offer guidance and advice.
“SIDT is his baby. He nurtured it, grow it, and allow it to walk its feet. He may have gone, but his legacy is in this organisation,” Manedika said.
In 2006, then prime minister Manasseh Sogavare appointed Roughan as his special secretary.
Sogavare was at that time planning to focus his government’s attention to the nation’s rural areas.
And there’s no better person than Roughn to lead the exercise. The concept of Economic Growth Centre the Lilo government has not adopted was Roughan’s idea.
For Manedika, SIDT is a growing organisation.
“Over the 31 years SIDT has grown from strength to strength,” he said.
“Today, it is the biggest and best known NGO in the country.
“This is because of our rural focus and the impact of the work we are doing in rural area.”
Besides, SIDT, Roughan was also instrumental in the establishment of Development Service Exchange (DSE), the umbrella body for all NGOs in the country.
Manedika said an important area SIDT is educating people about is that their perspective on development must not money-oriented.
“SIDT does not see development as all about money.
“We see development as looking after our resources and taking good care of them. We must be accountable and make sure everyone benefits for the resource.
“This is the message we always emphasised to village people and one that we want the government to adopt.
“It was interesting to hear this government and the previous ones talking about rural development.
“That’s good but I want them to see development in its broader form than just money, money, and money.”
Retired Anglican Bishop Canadian Terry Brown, said Roughan was a man who loved Solomons Islands deeply.
“His heart is for the village people. This is why SIDT was born,” Bishop Terry said.
He said Roughan was also a good and close friend and “we often spoke to each other. Once he came and gave the keynote address at an Airahu Training Centre graduation in Malaita.”
For Manedika, Roughan is a figurehead that has already been inscribed in the SIDT story.
“When you talk about Roughan, you are talking about SIDT,” he said.
SIDT currently employs 20 officers and hundreds of volunteers who are based in villages across the country.