We really don’t know how lucky we are

Oct 30th, 2018 | By | Category: Latest News, Local People

Philippa StevensonTamahere Forum’s Philippa Stevenson reports in from the Solomon Islands.  Fred Dagg was right, she says.

We don’t know how lucky we are. Well, I didn’t anyway. Oh, I thought I did. But there is nothing like a month in a developing nation to challenge that notion.

I’ve been in the Solomon Islands since September 11, my very own 9/11 reality check.

I’m volunteering with NZ’s VSA (Volunteer Service Abroad), working in a small media company in Honiara, hoping that journalism skills learnt over a lifetime in NZ will be of use here.

I am loving learning about the Solomons and its chatty, inquiring, charming people.

Life in Honiara has already taught me how spot on Fred Dagg was.

How lucky we are in New Zealand that we can put rubbish bags at out gate. And they are picked up.

No such luck – or good management – in Honiara.

People care. And try. Daily, I see people tidying up, collecting cans for recycling, sweeping rubbish into piles, putting it into a few bins and then … waiting.

The Honiara City Council says it doesn’t have enough money to have an efficient rubbish collection and needs help from the government.

The government says it doesn’t have enough money. The result is the gateway to the beautiful Solomon Islands is, well, rubbish.

How lucky we are in New Zealand that traffic flows along smooth tarmac. Even in Auckland.

Honiara traffic beats Auckland to a standstill. Every time. It’s the potholes. Holes that could swallow a car.

I’m sure some have. I pass a long line of cars down my road every morning. And I’m walking.

How lucky we are that New Zealand kids get a good, free education. Hold your complaint about school fees and PTA fundraisers.

Tamboko High School classroom

The Tamboko High School classroom.


Imagine you had to find $800 a year for a primary education for each of your kids – on top of books, uniforms, shoes, bags etc – and you are earning the minimum wage of $5 per hour.

Or you had no job and no welfare support.

Imagine, too, that the school had not had new educational resources in six years.

Or that when the principal spoke about stemming the absenteeism rate she was talking about the teachers.

Tamboko High School classroom.

The Tamboko principal who works hard to keep his teacher absenteeism down.

How lucky we are in New Zealand that we don’t have to line up on payday in a queue about a hundred people long in hope the ATM still has money left when our turn comes.

How lucky we are that New Zealand generates 80 per cent of its power from renewable resources and does not rely solely on diesel.

How lucky we are that New Zealand is not continuing to clear fell its remaining native forests.

How lucky we are that New Zealand has a feisty news media that is not afraid to hold those in power to account.

Solomon Islanders know what they are missing.

Many of them travel back and forth to New Zealand and Australia, propping up both countries’ workforces and earning money that makes a real difference back in their home.

They know that luck comes from hard work. I’m lucky enough to have been reminded of that.


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2 Comments to “We really don’t know how lucky we are”

  1. Hi Philippa,
    I just listened to your interview on national Radio with great interest & on further research managed to track this article down. My name is Nadia Bleaken, I live in Ellerslie, Auckland & my parents live in Woodcock Rd Tamahere.
    I am the Development Manager for Badminton Oceania & Solomon Islands have just become a member country of the BWF (Badminton World Federation) and therefore us (BOC) too – this takes us to 16/24 countries in Oceania.
    I have some contacts in Solomons in the NOC, but our real progress was made when a player/coach from Auckland who is an engineer for Downer was on a volunteer placement for 3 months last year. She discovered that the SINBF was an organisation in paper only (mostly NOC) and weren’t linked to the mainly Chinese athletes playing regularly at the indoor venue (which looks surprisingly good quality).
    Solomons has indicated an interest in participating in the Pacific Games in Samoa in July, so we have a bit of development assistance to provide very quickly to get them on their feet. We do have a newly appointed Regional Development Officer based in Port Moresby, who is primarily responsible for PNG, but also Solomons. He has visited Solomons in his capacity as Regional Master Educator for Oceania Sport Education Programme in 2017 & 2018 so also has some contacts.
    Philippa, if you are still in New Zealand I’d love to chat.
    Looking forward to hearing from you!
    Kind regards,

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