Updated: Jun 7, 2021
Living in Honiara for most of my teens and now young adult life, I treasure my home, and roots to my community and people.
My tropical island paradise is genuinely a joy to live in, and I am both indebted to my parents and grateful for the chance to have been brought up in such a happy, communal society.
The 'Hapi Isles'
We grew up with a direct link to our ocean. To being tied to each other by the common factor of the sea that unites our islands.
Growing up by the sea, sand and sunshine - it isn’t hard to see why we are dubbed the ‘Hapi Isles’ (Happy Islands).
Part of the Hapi Isle charm was the fact that, in such an idyllic setting, I was lulled into the false sense of security of living in an affordable environment.
Now as a young adult living on our own terms, we are fast realising that, as with anything, there are pro’s and con’s to everything.
Does the Good outweigh the Bad?
The Solomon Islands itself, has a very narrow job market, with limited prospects for any new graduate. Limiting yourself to insisting on only taking on a job directly related to what you trained for means a lot of hard decisions, financial sacrifices and forgoing many chances while you wait on that golden opportunity. See here for example.
Let’s take a look at unpaid internships, for example. To be frank and fair, whilst they are amazing opportunities, they’re extremely hard to manage when you are back living in Honiara - possibly in your parent’s home, while you navigate finding your own place.
I have always felt that unpaid internships were just a way for those that could afford the opportunity without being paid, to get ahead of peers who were in no way, shape or size - able to go the months of not being paid, despite how good that would have looked on our CV.
A bit of a reality check here before we keep going.
As much as I adore my country, it genuinely IS a hard one to live in. More so for young couples, starting out with a young family.
The cost of living in Honiara (I speak only for Honiara, but the same may go for our provincial capitals, although at a much more reduced rate) is also extremely high.
For example, electricity rates in Solomon Islands are the highest in the region, and amongst the highest in the world, costing USD 79 cents (SBD $6.29) per kilowatt hour - and on average, 30% higher than other Pacific Islands.
Housing is another example. On par, it is expensive - since the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) days, there was a skewed housing market with housing rental rates going for up to $35,000+ a month - and the market price, despite dropping, is still inordinately high for an average Solomon Islander.
Then there are the cultural overwhelm factors that I discuss in a separate blog.
These all make for an extremely hard environment to be successful in, and move beyond the ‘hand to mouth’ existence we, as Solomon Islanders, are very aware of.
What Can We Do as a Collective?
Despite the sometimes insurmountable obstacles in our paths, I am still of the firm belief that our good outweighs the bad.
I am of the mind-set that both genders should have equitable access to education, and that reading goes hand in hand with education. Thus, I co-founded an association called Dia Buka (translated: Read Books), with fellow Choiseul colleagues from different sectors, aimed at promoting literacy and reading levels in communities back in our province. Five years from now, I hope this becomes more established, with tangible outcomes such as libraries being built (and utilised) in the communities.
We started Dia Buka, because we have seen the economic impact and backlash of the tensions.
We have gone to primary and high school with peers who have had to forgo years of their education because of the tensions.
My family and I felt the stability and security as a result of RAMSI, but we are now experiencing daily the effect post-RAMSI is having on the economy.
Dia Buka is my way of saying, "No. I won't let circumstances shape our futures. Not for my people."
We Are NOT Shaped by Our Circumstances
Regardless of these factors, there is a resilience in my people to succeed despite whatever financial and/or economical obstacles they encounter.
I have worked with:
youth who have fought hard to go from an intern to a full time employee at a company, despite their education limitations.
local business people who continue to strive to ensure their business survives the harsh conditions here such as high tax thresholds, land scarcity, COVID-19, etc.
women who are making their living at the markets, or from home through small ventures such as catering or sewing.
And I currently work with women and men, working in seasonal schemes overseas to ensure their remittances for the work they’ve gone abroad to do, positively impacts their families - and betters their collective futures.
This resilience is what inspires me to be hopeful for the next five years, not just personally, but for my country because looking to the future I’d be comfortable knowing there are interventions in place to help my Solomon Islanders equip themselves to improve this country for us all.
We are not shaped by our circumstances.
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but you already know the answer to bettering your situation. You just haven’t gotten tired enough of your current status quo, to change it.
When that moment finally arrives (and it will - it always does!), make use of every opportunity to better your future, not just for yourself - but for your family, for your community, for those that are looking to you as a role model to emulate.