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Solomon Islands shines silver [Full Text]

Celebrating Silver Years in Solomon Islands!

October 1995-2020

The Hapi Isles

Nestled at the end of the world are the beautiful islands fondly called by Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña in 1568, the ‘Hapi Isles’.  Similar to its Melanesian neighbors, this tiny little country of about 992 islands, a population of 700,000 people, 70 different tribes and an equal number of languages. The Solomon Islands lie on the ‘Ring of Fire’, vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones and climate-change impacts like sea-level rise, high daily temperatures and heavy rainfall (Hiriasia, 2010).  A rugged country with coral islands and atolls, it is about the poorest in the Pacific Islands. It has a per capita income of less than one US dollar a day. With limitations on the basics of water, sanitation and connectivity it can be categorized as 4th world. Colonized and ‘missioned’ by the British, it gained its independence from Britain in 1978.

Despite its limitations, there is always a smile on the faces of the people. They radiate joy, happiness and contentment at all times. Literacy is a little over 35% of its total population. 50% of its population lie below the age of 18 and despite the lack of connectivity it is fast losing its customs, culture and identity to globalization. There exists that basic struggle of people trying to straddle two worlds: their own and the modern one that has become so dominant, controlling and directive. The land is fertile, and people live on root crops, fruits and fish.  The country has its natural resources.  The people are intelligent, but perhaps they lack a rhythm and a determination to plan, stick to a job and complete the task in the allotted time.

Solomon Islands in hope

Solomon Islands is fast losing its identity, while on the other hand it is actively searching for an identity that leaves intact its roots and comes to terms with its culture, vision and traditions.  Four systems are at work here – the chiefly system, the government, the churches and now the business-money ethos which rules their world unmercifully.  False promises and constant handouts by government officials have weakened the political system.  The chiefs no longer have a hold on their people.  The churches are the ones most in contact with the young and strive to give them a direction and hope for themselves. Sadly, the adults are pulled in different directions by the false grasp and the enticements of money.  

The churches are the hope of the Solomon Islands.  Nearly every Solomon Islander belongs to one church or the other.  It is the church that brings people together for worship, fellowship, interaction, relaxation and networking.  Christianity is just over a century old and its committed and dedicated missionaries brought with its education, health services and development. The country has just a few foreign missionaries who have made the Solomon’s their home. It is up to the islander priests, pastors and people to now minister to their own flock. Women have played a major role in contributing to the peace process after the coup on 5th June 2000.

Salesian Parish of Christ the King, Tetere

In 1995, Archbishop Adrian Smith sm, Archbishop of Honiara, welcomed the presence of the Salesians and assigned them the parish of Christ the King, Tetere. Fr. Pedro Balcazar, (Mexican), Br Tanaka Yukihiro (Japanese) and Fr Nichizawa Pedro Manabu (Bolivian) were the first ones in the Solomon Islands. Fr Ambrose Pereira (Indian) arrived on the 2nd April 1999 and Fr Luciano Capelli (Italian) arrived several months later. Earlier, the parish was looked after by the Dominicans and earlier by the Marists. The regular visits of Fr Pedro to the villages of Sali, Komporo, Talaura, Kola Ridge and Nonou won him the respect and love of his parishioners. He spent time with them, celebrated the sacraments and would even provide daily essentials to the people at cost price. The missionary parish, with over 50% of its parishioners below the age of 25 was an ideal ground for Salesian Youth Ministry. A large multipurpose hall that stands to this day commenced with the help of the young people and the numerous groups of Japanese volunteers. Over the years the hall has been the venue of several liturgical, educational and value-based programs. The Salesian parish that now completes twenty-five years and has played a vital part in building the faith of the people and keeping them together. It has been a hub of activity for young people giving them a variety of opportunities to develop their multifaceted talents.  

- Newsletter -

As we celebrate the Silver Jubilee, the parish has the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, a local DMI congregation of sisters who care for the parish and animate the liturgical celebrations. The silver years have seen the presence of many long-term as well as short-term parish priests.  They are Fr Pedro Balcazar sdb, Fr Ambrose Pereira sdb, Fr Luciano Capelli sdb, Fr Dominic Kachira sdb, Fr Fernando (Sonny) Fajardo sdb, Fr Joseph Than sdb, Fr Albert Lenon sdb, Fr. Joseph Dai and several others.  Fr Albert Lenon has been responsible for completing the village chapels of the parish with the help of the people. The Salesians are happy to cater to the pastoral needs of the people and have also taken upon themselves the task of catering to their minds and their bodies as well. The Rural Training Centre and the Mini Hospital are adjacent to the parish and reach well beyond not merely the boundaries of the parish but even that of the province.

Melanesians

As Melanesians, ancestor worship, witchcraft and age-old kastoms (pidgin for custom) are widely practiced even today.  The majority of the country’s 750,000 people live in rural communities and speak 70 different languages.  English is the official language with Solomons pidgin being widely spoken by those who have attended school.  Known as the ‘Hapi Isles’, in former days, the ‘ethnic tension’ of 1998-2003 fueled its downward spiral into what many have called a ‘failed state’.  In an effort to curtail the violence in the Pacific region the intervention of the Australian-led, Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) has played a controversial role in curtailing the conflict, restarting the economic development and boosted social stability (Greener, 2011).

A notable characteristic is the Solomon Islands high population growth rate (2.5%), and associated youth ‘bubble’ of about 42% of the population, is younger that 15 years.  These factors bring many developmental challenges, relating to that of education, empowerment and employment (Roughan, 2010).  Less than half of the population has completed primary education and literacy rates are just about 30%.  A high percentage of those who are denied education are girls with the female secondary enrolment rate at a mere 27%.

In response to the above challenges, the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Department (MEHRD) introduced a ‘Fee Free’ primary education and a relatively new field, that of technical education.  In collaboration with Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET), the Solomon Islands Rural Training Centres (SIRTC) and other technical institutions progress is being made (Sikua, 2007).  Women are constrained by cultural factors but can benefit immensely from opportunities given to them (Hedditch, 2010).

Don Bosco Technical Institute, Henderson

In 2000, amidst the ethnic tension, the Salesians of Don Bosco commenced a workshop at the Correctional Centre, Rove. Three weeks after the coup on 5th June, the workshop closed due as the prisoners were set free. Informal classes commenced at Henderson and Kola Ridge to cater to young people. Thus, began the work for the young people with prisoners as the first students.

A few months later the first formal classes commenced at Don Bosco Technical Institute, Henderson. The institute follows: ‘Reason, Religion and Rapport’, the three pillars of the Preventive System of Saint John Bosco. It is a value-based educational system developed by St John Bosco during the 19th century. The Motto of the Institute is: ‘Born for Greater Things’, and over the years young men and women have realized their potential and grown to be leaders in society. Thus, they transform themselves and other into: “Good Christians and Honest Citizens.”

Fr Luciano Capelli, now the Bishop of Gizo spearheaded the program. Auto Mechanics and Metal Fabrication were the first courses to be introduced. Carpentry, Electrical Trade, Hospitality and Computer Technology were gradually introduced.  Other courses have been introduced over time. Funded by the European Union and the Salesian Province of Japan, the initial structure of classrooms and workshops were built.  

Don Bosco Rural Training Centre, Tetere

The Don Bosco Rural Training Centre was a response to the cry of the people for educational and health facilities. The Salesians were happy to set up a rural training center on a piece of land adjacent to the parish. The La Pieta sisters run the Good Shepherd Hospital, which stands adjacent to the Rural Training Centre.

The Rural Training Centre caters to students who have no possibility to further their education as they have not met the grade or were unable to find a space in an educational institute. The two-year course has students from across the Solomon Islands. The program focuses on agriculture and animal husbandry. There are immense possibilities for basic technical training in metal work, mechanics and agriculture. The students are from the nine provinces in the country and are happy to be given a chance to learn a technical trade.

Besides the regular course of studies, the students engage in games, music and cultural activities. Moments of prayer form part of the day. Staff and students join the daily Eucharistic Celebration while all the students participate in the rosary at the end of the day. They imbibe discipline, commitment and hard work and several of the students find work in industry and put their training to good use as they return home.

Radio BOSCO FM 89.9

Reaching the 10,000 to 12,000 parishioners living across the plains, on the hills, the mountainside as well as the coastal areas has been no easy task.  Fr Luciano Capelli suggested a local radio station.  Fr Ambrose Pereira set about getting the necessary license from Spectrum, setting up the radio and training the volunteer broadcasters was the task of Fr Ambrose Pereira sdb.  

In 2005, Radio BOSCO FM 89.9 hit the airwaves. With the slogan ‘Empowering people, building community,’ young people and the parishioners were connected through the first community radio station in the Solomon Islands. Volunteer presenters took on the task of the daily programs. Community blo iumi, Custom stori, Luk luk lo health, lotu time, youth quest, etc. were the programs put together by the young presenters, trained efficiently by volunteer Alena Takachova, Slovakian computer specialist. Regular media training seminars gave the young people a platform to express themselves and share their concerns.   

The daily two-hour broadcast was eagerly awaited. It gave the parishioners an identity as they spoke their language and interconnected with their own people. Every broadcast had community and personal messages that cemented the bond as one people of the parish. Young people as well as the adults looked forward to Radio Bosco Day when different groups would rend their voices in song expressing visions, dreams and hopes for the future. Sadly, the life of Radio BOSCO came to an end in 2010.

Encouraging talent, developing skills

Maintaining a busy schedule of study, work experience and home life is always a challenge. Yet participation in extracurricular activities gives students the occasion to develop their numerous talents. Despite the heavy workloads, the students were ready to spend long hours in regular and disciplined practice. With the success of the plays: An afternoon at the Shoemakers in 2009, Youth for Life in 2010 and Prodigal Son in 2011 the institute attempted a Broadway musical in 2012.

JOSEPH and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat

An Excellent performance of the musical JOSEPH and his Amazing Technicolor dream coat by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice was staged at Don Bosco Technical Institute, Henderson on 13th October 2012. Chief guest, Honorable Gordon Darcy Lilo, Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands was present.  The other VIPs included His Grace Archbishop Adrian Smith, Archbishop of Honiara, His Excellency, Matt Anderson, Australian High Commissioner, Bernard Rapasia, TVET CEO and School Board member and longtime collaborator and supporter Dr John Roughan and Br Jess Garcia. It was a night of non-stop energy, toe-tapping dance and a series of musical numbers that went from one excellent moment to another. It was marvelous that a full-scale musical was presented in Honiara.

The cast on stage were students from all the different trades.  The sets were fabricated by the Carpentry students, the electrical students were in charge of the lights and the wonderful costumes were the creative work of the Life skills department, while the automotive students did the hall arrangements. Stephen Maetora whose performance as Joseph was musical, engaging and energetic. Maetora identifies the “challenge of learning everything and the way it fits together” as something that has helped him to develop both his time management skills and his confidence at standing up in front of people in all contexts. Tiffany Huta, Grace Tua and Gloria Falea who are all undertaking the demanding roles of narrators thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to show off their talents and indulge in some “singing and dancing”. 

JOSEPH was directed by Penny Chilton, AVI Volunteer at Don Bosco Technical Institute, Henderson, who worked tirelessly spending sleepless nights planning, organizing and coordinating the entire production.  Her efforts have been able to bring out the amazing talents of youngsters in song and dance.  Leodrina Williams, NZ Mahitahi Volunteer who has come specially to assist Don Bosco in the production was the band coordinator, while Jenny Nadu, Woodford International school gave of her best and played the keyboards. The musical was initiated by Fr Ambrose Pereira, who together with the help of Ms Camari Bainivalu, principal coordinated the different sectors.  

Gratitude to the many who assisted in different ways, especially Bishop Epalle School for the sound system and Woodford International school for the use of their stage lights and musical instruments.  Several have assisted with sponsorship to enable the show to be produced.  Special thanks to Miracles for the sound system and to Quan Chee Motors for the help and support rendered.

Prison Ministry

Seeing young adolescents together with older prisoners made Don Bosco, a regular visitor to prison realize the need to prevent this from happening. He invited the young to the Sunday festive oratories to channel the energies, bring out their creative talents and ensure that they are kept away from the evil one.

Visits to the Correctional Centre at Rove to meet the inmates were a regular practice since the opening and shutdown of the Auto Mechanics workshop in 2000. In prison there were persons from different walks of life, including a few ministers. At the maximum-security wing was Harold Keke, a Solomon Islands warlord and founder of the Guadalcanal Revolutionary Army (GRA), sentenced to life imprisonment. The GRA, under Keke’s leadership, has been accused of a variety of crimes, including arson, kidnapping, assassination, and the murder of more than 50 persons, including that of Fr Augustine Geve and seven missionaries from the Melanesian Brotherhood.

“Visiting Harold Keke was a memorable encounter. Seeing his pain and confusion is an experience that makes you want to reach out to help our juveniles in prison”, says Fr Ambrose Pereira who celebrated the monthly Sunday Eucharist at the Correctional Centre. 

In 2008, Fr Albert Swer ran a short course in welding and fabrication for prisoners. Amidst the security and clearance in and out of the prison for each class, the course was completed thus giving the prisoners added skill to set them back on their feet once they are set free. Value based sessions were also organized and conducted by Fr Ambrose Pereira especially for the juvenile prisoners. Salesians continue to offer skills and the pastoral visits to the inmates. 

The Salesian Community of Tetere care for the Pastoral needs of the inmates at the Correctional Centre in Tetere. 

DBTI and APTC partnership

In 2013, Fr Ambrose Pereira partnered with the Australian Pacific Technical College (APTC) looking to advance the technical trades in the Solomon Islands. Today, it runs parallel classes with DBTI in Certificate II in Carpentry and Automotive. It now offers Certificate III programs in Automotive and Formwork or Falsework for Solomon Islanders at the DBTI campus at Henderson. APTC is very appreciative of the excellent working relationship with DBTI and looks forward to the coming expansion to both courses offered, and the facilities on site. 

The institute is also in partnership with Skills for Economic growth program in Solomon Islands, that runs parallel to the skills program offered by APTC. 

Melissa Parke visited Don Bosco Technical Institute, Henderson on 24th July 2013. She was impressed with the Technical Trade programs and the collaboration with APTC. 

Visit of the Rector Major

Fr. Ángel Fernandez Artime Rector Major, 10th successor of Don Bosco was received by Fr. Joseph Thanh, Rector of Tetere, Fr. Dominic Kachira Rector of Henderson, salesians, sisters, staff and students. He was given a traditional welcome at Don Bosco Rural Training Centre, Tetere on 3rd May 2015. 

On 4th May, the Rector Major was joined by religious leaders of the different churches at the Thanksgiving Eucharistic celebration on Monday 4th May at the DBTI Hall. The Catholic leaders were represented by Archbishop Adrian Smith sm, Bishop John Doaninoel sm Auxiliary Bishop of Honiara and Bishop Luciano Capelli sdb Bishop of Gizo, who was the first Rector. Different churches sent their representatives.

Prime Minister Sogavare thanked the Salesians for the education of the young and recognized that the system of education of Don Bosco focused on the physical and spiritual needs of young people.  

The event celebrated:

  • The 200th birthday of Don Bosco (1815 – 2015) joining the vast movement of people in 132 countries where there are Don Bosco Institutions.
  • The official welcome to Don Bosco’s 10th successor: the first Rector Major to visit Solomon Islands.
  • To thank God for the 20 years presence of the Salesians in Solomon Islands.

Visit of the FMA Mother General

Mother Yvonne Reungoat, Superior General of the Salesian Sisters arrived in Henderson on the 28th February 2016. A thanksgiving Eucharistic celebration was the next day. It was celebrated by Archbishop Adrian Smith, MC his Auxiliary Msgr. John Deaninoel, Bishop Luciano Capelli, SDB and Bishop Chris Cardone, OP.

Traditional dances and songs by the girls of Laura Vicuna Hostel and women of Mary Mazzarello Development Centre, the two FMA works, with the collaboration of the girls from the Don Bosco Rural Training Center in Tetere were part of the program thereafter.

Mary Help of Christians chapel

A beautiful chapel dedicated to Mary Help of Christians has a capacity of 300 persons. Archbishop Christopher Cardone, OP, Archbishop of Honiara, has given permission to the Provincial to allow the Henderson Salesian community to celebrate Sunday masses to serve the surrounding community. The site of the church is well placed, offering a very strong welcoming atmosphere to the school campus, and its landscaping attracts the attention of any passer-by to prayer. Fr Srimal explained that the chapel was in response to the 2008, 10-year plan of the Salesian community. The design of the chapel has been inspired by missionaries’ boats. Seen from above it looks like a leaf floating on the sea. It has nine main pillars to symbolize the nine provinces of the Solomon Islands. The works, finishing touches and landscaping were done by students, teachers, the Ranadi community mothers and the ancillary staff.

Going beyond boundaries

In 2018, Fr Srimal Priyanga Gajasinhage Silva sdb commenced a reach out program to the young people living in the Ranadi Landfill Site. It is a concrete example of the spirit of Don Bosco reaching out to the young who are poor.

Ranadi is a suburb of Honiara, Solomon Islands, and is located West of Panatina, East Honiara. It is known for being a dump site for all the garbage from around Honiara. Unfortunately, many families are living in the vicinity to dig and collect plastic that will help them survive. Children and youths are involved as well. Earlier, the people called on some religious orders to help them specially to celebrate the Eucharist. Fr. Srimal Priyanga Gajasinhage Silva sdb, Rector of Don Bosco Technical Institute, Henderson, was among those who were contacted.

The community has accepted to start up regular meetings with the young and study together with the people how the community could intervene in the aspects of education, sanitation and oratory. The confreres of Don Bosco Henderson community have also invited the community to support these vulnerable families as well as to reach out to all in need in different situations.

Fond memories of my years in Solomon Islands

This article is in gratitude for the 15 wonderful years in the beautiful ‘Pearl of the Pacific’, Solomon Islands. My sincere thanks to the Salesians, staff, students, benefactors, well-wishers and the many people who are interested in the education of the young and of our people in the Hapi Isles. I wish to include the different media outlets that have taken the Good News far and wide. 

My thanks to Br Reto Wanner, Provincial Secretary, Fr Dominic Kachira, Provincial Secretary and Fr Srimal Priyanga who have corrected the article and made additions. 

May the blessings of the Lord, Our Blessed Mother and St John Bosco be upon you and your families. 

Salesians in the Solomon Islands – Elenco 1995-2020

TETERE (Isole Salomone) Elenco1995~2001
HENDERSON HONIARA (Isole Salomone) Elenco 2002, Annuario 2003~2005 

◆1995 (elenco1995: not listed) 

P Balcazar Pedro
L Tanaka Francesco Yukihiro 

◆1996~1998
P Balcazar Pedro
P Nishizawa Pedro Manabu 

L Tanaka Francesco Yukihiro 

◆1999
P Balcazar Pedro
P Pereira Ambrose ※
L Tanaka Francesco Yukihiro 

◆2000
P Balcazar Pedro
P Capelli Luciano In
P Pereira Ambrose ※
L Tanaka Francesco Yukihiro 

◆2001
P Capelli Luciano In
P Iida Vincenzo Tetsu
P Pereira Ambrose ※
L Tanaka Francesco Yukihiro 

◆2002
P Capelli Luciano Dt
P Iida Vincenzo Tetsu
P Pereira Ambrose ※
S Salagala Rajesh
L Tanaka Francesco Yukihiro 

◆2003
P Capelli Luciano Dt
P Iida Vincenzo Tetsu
P Jopia Nelson
P Kuchar Peter
P Pereira Ambrose ※
L Tanaka Francesco Yukihiro 

◆2004
P Augustin Arakiasamy
P Capelli Luciano Dt
P Iida Vincenzo Tetsu
P Jopia Nelson
P Pereira Ambrose (Al servizio dell’arcidiocesi di Honiara)
S Srimal Priyanga
L Suzuki Michael Shinichi
L Tanaka Francesco Yukihiro 

◆2005 (Anuario 2005: not listed) 

P Iida Vincenzo Tetsu
L Suzuki Michael Shinichi
L Tanaka Francesco Yukihiro 

◆2006

Honiara

P Capelli Luciano Dt

P Pereira Ambrose (Al servizio dell’arcidiocesi di Honiara)

L Suzuki Shin-ici Michael

L Tanaka Yukihiro Francis

P Tetzu Iida Vincenzo

◆2007

Honiara

P Capelli Luciano Dt

P Kachira Dominic

P Pereira Ambrose (Al servizio dell’arcidiocesi di Honiara)

L Suzuki Shin-ici Michael

L Tanaka Yukihiro Francis

◆2008

Honiara

P Pereira Ambrose Dt

L Suzuki Shin-ici Michael

P Swer Albert

Tetere

P Kachira Dominic Dt

P Ninguen Minh Lap Michael 

L Tanaka Yukihiro Francis

◆2009

Honiara

P Nguyen Cong Thanh Joseph

P Pereira Ambrose Dt

P Swer Albert

Tetere

P Kachira Dominic Dt

P Ninguen Minh Lap Michael 

L Tanaka Yukihiro Francis

S Ngoyi Sabwe Martin

◆2010

Honiara

P Nguyen Cong Thanh Joseph

P Pereira Ambrose Dt

P Swer Albert

Tetere

P Kachira Dominic Dt

P Ninguen Minh Lap Michael 

L Tanaka Yukihiro Francis

◆2011

Honiara

P Balasamy Philip Louie

P Pereira Ambrose Dt

P Xalxo Pankaj Paras

Tetere

P Nguyen Cong Thanh Joseph 

P Ninguen Minh Lap Michael Dt

S Paluku Moise

◆2012

Honiara

P Gajasinhage Silva Srimal Priyanga 

S Ohoau Jefferson

P Pereira Ambrose Dt

P Xalxo Pankaj Paras

Tetere

P Haruyama Mikaerapuppu Dt

P Nguyen Cong Thanh Joseph 

S Paluku Moise

◆2013

Honiara

P Gajasinhage Silva Srimal Pryianga

P Pereira Ambrose Dt

P Xalxo Pankaj Paras

Tetere

P Haruyama Mikaerapuppu Dt

P Nguyen Cong Thanh Joseph 

L Ohoau Jefferson

◆2014

Honiara

P Gajasinhage Silva Srimal Priyanga

P Kachira Dominic Dt

P Pereira Ambrose

Tetere

P Fajardo Fernando

P Nguyen Cong Thanh Joseph Dt

L Nguyen Tien Dat Francis S.

◆2015

Honiara

P Cabrido John

P Gajasinhage Silva Srimal 

P Kachira Dominic Dt

Tetere

P Fajardo Fernando

P Nguyen Cong Thanh Joseph Dt

L Nguyen Tien Dat Francis S.

◆2016

Honiara

P Gajasinhage Silva Srimal 

P Kachira Dominic Dt

L Ohoau Jefferson

P Yu Stephano (Ji Hun)

Tetere

P Lenon Albert

P Nguyen Cong Thanh Joseph Dt

S Nguyen Hoai Van Peter

L Pham Khac Huy Anthony

◆2017

Honiara

P Gajasinhage Silva Srimal Dt

P Maramun Isidore

P Paluku Moise

Tetere

P Fazzini Angelo

S Kuli Sylvester

P Lenon Albert Dt

◆2018

Honiara

P Gajasinhage Silva Srimal Dt

P Galve Rafael

P Maramun Isidore

P Paluku Moise

Tetere

P Albesa Felino

P Fazzini Angelo

P Lenon Albert Dt

◆2019

Honiara

P Fazzini Angelo

P Gajasinhage Silva Srimal Dt

P Maramun Isidore

Tetere

P Albesa Felino

P Fajardo Fernando

P Xalxo Pankaj Paras Dt

◆2020

Honiara

P Casper Charles Dt

P Fajardo Fernando 

L Hwang Philip Neri

P Maramun Isidore

Tetere

P Albesa Felino 

P Nguyen Quoc Dai Giuseppe 

P Parappilly Robinson Dt

L Trigona José Eusebio

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