The Southern Cross : July 2010
Page 18 July 2010 The Southern Cross www.adelaide.catholic.org.au feature The Caritas Australia Be More Weekend is a grassroots, community-based event for positive change. Join with thousands of Australians and take on the Be More Weekend water conservation actions. Find out how we can preserve this precious resource in our communities and globally share the gift of clean water. Adelaide journalist and Sacred Hear t College old scholar Jessica Whiting is working as a volunteer with Catholic Communications Solomons in Honiara for six months as par t of an AusAID Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development program. Here is Jessica's first-hand account of living and working in the Solomon Islands. Power shor tages, rampant computer viruses and an unreliable internet ser vice are among the challenges I'm facing as a volunteer with Catholic Communications Solomons (CCS) in the Solomon Islands. The Honiara-based organisation links the Catholic community, through the countr y's three dif ferent dioceses (Honiara, Auki and Gizo) by way of radio, newspaper ar ticles, newsletters and the internet. With a population of more than 500,000 people -- about 20 per cent of whom are Catholic -- spread over close to 1000 islands, it's a big job. In my role as a communications officer, I'm helping write news ar ticles and press releases, preparing media education seminars for church staff and Catholic students, updating church's website, and working to produce newsletters for both CCS and local schools. A major emphasis of the Youth Ambassadors program is building the skills of local people, so I'm also conducting weekly workshops with staf f, teaching them to use new software, and helping to improve their news writing and grammar. A highlight was helping organise and run a seminar with students from five local high schools, teaching them about news reading and video cameras. It was so rewarding to see the look on the students' faces when they watched their carefully-rehearsed news segments played back later, with most viewing themselves on screen for the first time. Some of the challenges facing volunteers in the Solomon Islands include lack of resources, unreliable internet access, and, of course, the language barrier. The Solomon Islands has embraced the internet -- the Catholic Church having launched their website two years ago -- but a lack of anti-virus software and unreliable ser vers mean the satellite internet connection drops in and out and many computers are slow or don't work. For most people in remote provinces internet access is yet to reach them so radio is the most reliable form of communication. The welcoming and friendly nature of the Solomon Islanders makes living and working here a pleasure. I've found learning Pidgin, the local spoken language, and respecting local customs a good way to meet local people and make new friends. On weekends there is plenty to see and do, such as going hiking, swimming and snorkelling, doing overnight trips to nearby islands, or just hanging with other volunteers. On Sundays, the predominantly Christian population cram into their local church. The Melanesian people have beautiful voices and to hear the sound of hymns fill the Holy Cross Church in central Honiara is an experience not to be missed. Churches play an impor tant role throughout the Solomon Islands, especially in rural areas, and ever ybody tolerates the dif ferent religious groups. A common question to be asked when meeting new people is 'which church do you belong to' because of the impor tance of religion in ever yday life. I'm not yet halfway through my six month placement and I'm looking for ward to what the next few months will bring. While I'm here to help others the beauty of volunteering is also learning new things about yourself and other cultures, including, in my case, not becoming frustrated at rogue computers and frequent blackouts! ̌ Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development website: www.ayad.com.au Catholic Church of the Solomon Islands website: www.catholichurchsolomonislands.com Building communication skills PLAY BACK: Jessica Whiting with local school students who attended her media education seminar and had a chance to view themselves on screen for the first time.