Last week a delegation from the Australian High Commission visited Malaita Province to handover and evaluate a combined total of eight community projects collectively worth SBD 1.3 million. The projects were funded under Australia’s Direct Aid Program which aims to support community-led solutions to improve standards of living.
During the visit, the delegation handed over four completed projects across East Kwaio, East Are’ Are and North Malaita. This included a solar power bank for Atofi hospital, a water tank project on Aio Island, a community classroom in Fo’ondo, and an ablution block at Arnon Atomea School.
At the handover of the solar power bank in Atofi, Counsellor Human Development Mika Kontiainen commended Project Coordinator William Baufua’s commitment to improving the hospital’s electricity supply.
‘Atofi hospital needs reliable electricity to ensure blood banks can be safely stored and preserved, vaccines are kept at a required temperature and lighting to support the patients, doctors and nurses. Since 2016, more than 60 per cent of the hospital’s monthly budget had been spent on fuel and freighting cost. Now with the solar power system installed at the hospital, diesel generators are only used as a backup,’ said Mr Kontiainen.
At Arnon Atomea school ablution block handover, Lensley Kwaimani highlighted how safe water and sanitation infrastructure can help drive positive outcomes in education.
Mr Kwaimani said ‘the children studying today are the community leaders of tomorrow. If a community is to improve its economic and social wellbeing, it needs people with the right education. I have no doubt that better facilities, such as this new ablution block, encourages better school attendance, and ultimately a better education for our students.’
During the visit, the delegation also conducted vital monitoring and evaluation of current projects to track their progress towards completion. It was an opportunity to hear from project coordinators and communities about their experiences, challenges and triumphs as their projects developed.
The delegation heard from Peter Futai in remote Busufo’osae Community School, Central Kwara’ ae, who said ‘carrying the building materials by hand for the 1.5 hour walk to the village, which includes 11 river crossings, is challenging but it’s worth it for our community’.
Visiting the Buma Community School Extension Project in West Kwara’ ae, the delegation heard how community members felled and cut the timber for the roof framing and cast their own concrete blocks for the walls.
The Direct Aid Program is a small, flexible grants scheme directly administered by the Australian High Commission. In the last three years alone, DAP has funded thirty-five projects to support communities across all nine provinces of Solomon Islands.