Members of the Tawatana community and two Australian volunteers fought back tears as they said goodbye in Tawatana on Makira Island.
Tawatana on the North West coast of Makira Island has been home to two volunteers from the Australian Volunteers for International Development program (AVID) program for the past 7 months.
The volunteers have been mentoring the members of the Tawatana Community Conservation and Development Association (TCCDA) and have been assisting the teachers of the Tawatana Primary School to add local experiences for learning within their current Science, Social Studies and English curriculum.
Chairman of the TCCDA, Zebulon Rodomoi said “John and Louise have been a great help to us and have fitted into community life. They will be missed by everyone in Tawatana”. The two volunteers came to Tawatana as Environmental Mentors in June last year and have been helping the committee of the TCCDA to establish the Association.
In the short time they have been in Tawatana they have helped the Association develop a constitution, become an incorporated Association and write their first strategic plan. The hard work of the Association and the 2 volunteers was rewarded with recent success in getting funding support from the international Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Volunteer John Gavin said “This has been our first visit to the Solomon Islands and living in Tawatana has been something I will remember for the rest of my life.” Living in Tawatana was made much easier for the volunteers by the generous help of many in the local community. “The community has really welcomed us and looked after us, and they are working hard to protect an amazing environment” John said.
John has spent his time working with the Association and also getting involved in as many community projects as possible. He has become known as someone who is always ready to help the community building projects, exploring the local forest and also likes to go fishing when he gets the chance. “I really enjoyed my many walking trips into the forest and learning as much as I could from everyone in Tawatana.” he said.
Volunteer Louise Gavin has assisted the TCCDA and has also worked with the local school teachers two days per week. Teaching English and assisting with Science and Social studies has given Louise the opportunity to meet not only the local children but also those that travel from all over West Makira to attend secondary school. When asked what the highlight of her 7 month stay has been Louise said “Just experiencing the daily life in Tawatana with our many new friends has been a highlight for me” Louise has enjoyed her stay in the village and has been training with the Tawatana netball team and learning how to cook local Solomon Islands specialties. “We have been living without power, phone and gas for 7 months so cooking on the open fire has meant learning some new skills. I had never prepared coconut milk or cooked a motu before coming to Tawatana, but now I think I am going to miss it when I go back to Australia.”
After spending Christmas in Tawatana the two volunteers have travelled to Honiara and a quick trip to the Western Province before leaving for Australia. A fun and lively farewell was held in the village as part of the Christmas and New Year celebrations and although it was a sad occasion there was also much laughter as people recalled some of their experiences from the last 7 months. The attraction of Makira Island has been too strong for the two volunteers, who have committed to coming back in 2015 and providing support by phone and email. John said “It has just been unthinkable that we would never see our friends in Tawatana again and the work of the TCCDA is too important for us to just leave”. Mr Rodomoi said “We are lucky to have had John and Louise come to assist us and we are very pleased that they will be able to continue helping throughout 2015”.