Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Six o'clock in the morning, waiting with Br. Athanasius for Solomon Express to be ready for passengers for my trip to Malaita Island, February 5.

Ash Wednesday 2008: Standing with Br. Noel Nikki at the entrance to the Malu'u Nurse aide Training School on Malaita Island, Solomon Islands. He will finish his program at the end of May and then work in a clinic. Mostly, he says, he deals with malaria, STD's and knife cuts. Franciscans have been involved in nursing for over 800 years. Nurses are urgently needed in the Solomon Islands: they are 129 on the UN Humann Development Index.

The Foua'ala School for Girls, founded by Br. Colin. With a small grant, Br. Colin and the people of the village of Foua'ala have been building the school for several years. Each piece of metal roofing, every bag of cement and box of nails must be carried up a steep mountainside. The timbers are cut by chainsaw on site in the bush where the trees are felled.

A student of the St. Francis Kindergarten School at Vuru, Guadalcanal. It is located next door to the Michael Davis Friary east of Honiara, where I celebrated Mass the First Sunday in Lent. One of many "kindy's" founded by Br. Samson Amoni, the brothers of the Solomon Islands have worked to provide early childhood education. They are in need of every imaginable resource except loving and enthusiastic teachers. Several of Br. Samson's schools have become well established. This school is only one year old.

The Brothers at Patteson House, in Honiara, the capital city of the Solomon Islands provide a refuge for many people visiting town. This boy, Samson, lives in the friary with his father. His father sells betel nut in the Central Market. Hundreds of people visit Patteson House every day asking for cool water to drink, a toilet to use, a place to sit and rest in the shade. At night up to 12 roll out mats to sleep on the floor, some on a semi-permanent basis, others only for a night or two as they await transport (usually a ship) to their home villages.

All hands on deck to help make the coconut/cassava pudding which is a celebratory mainstay in the Solomon Islands. We grated dozens of coconuts and a hundred pounds of cassava root to make a large pudding for the welcome dinner for the 2008 Regional Chapter. My gloves caused great hilarity among the brothers but prevented me from getting blisters.

While some brothers prepared the pudding, others prepared the kitchen ovens where the pudding was cooked under hot stones.

After a week of Chapter meetings, we held a closing feast, and Br. Laurence Hauje, the Regional Minister for Papua New Guinea and I were presented with beautiful necklaces.

No comments: