We just posted a media release to announce a partnership with Village Green Global, who will sponsor a series of initiatives in the Russel Island, Solomon Islands. I had the opportunity to visit the Russell Islands alongside GPM Asia-Pacific Deputy Director Alan Tupicof at the end of last year and it was a humbling and life altering experience.
I am sure it raises some eyebrows as GPM doesn’t normally get involved in projects. This one, and the Croatia project that we will share in a latter post is are unique. I believe that organizations, such as ours, that have the ability to create positive change have a moral obligation to do so.
When I saw the conditions that the children are living in and the lack of, well, everything, I thought of my own kids (I have a 5 and 6 year old boy and girl). It brought tears to my eyes to see that they lacked even the most basic of resources. I know that this is just the tip of the iceberg as most South Pacific Island Nations endure the same challenges. It is our hope that by planting a seed with this project that will eventually expand to help the entire region. We are ready to and able to take this on.
Challenges in the Solomons
- The Solomon Islands is one of the world’s most foreign aid dependent nations with widespread poverty and serious economic challenges. The impacts of climate change are not making it any easier as once inhabited land has been swallowed by the sea due to rising ocean levels caused by warming.
- Literacy rates are a persistent concern, especially on the Solomon Islands, where only 65 percent of the adult population (330,000 people) can read. In the Russells, a province of the Solomons, school ends at 4th grade as there are no facilities or funding to build them.
- Over 480,000 people in the Solomon Islands, 80% of the population live in rural areas. Most people living in rural communities lack access to clean water and proper sanitation and do not practice proper hygiene behavior.
- Open defecation is common and handwashing with soap, after defecation or before eating or handling food, is not widely practiced. Inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene contributes to the prevalence of diarrheal and other diseases and to high levels of malnutrition in the country. In total, more than 70% of the population, mostly in rural areas, do not have proper sanitation.
- Many of the children have no clothes and what they do have are hand me downs that are either too small or badly worn out.
- The majority of the huts in the Russell islands are built from remnants left by the U.S. Military’s occupation during WWII. See the history.
Part of me changed on this trip and having witnessed this first hand, I determined to personally play a part in the solution.
Sustainably Managing the Project
Due to the fact that school ends at such a young age, children have to leave the islands to find work and many never return. It is important to address quality education, economic growth, and industry.
This project will establish new school with working utilities and housing, ports for the islands to ensure safe travel, an air-strip, and the establishment of coconut plantations where the tribes will have equity and be able to help themselves.
Creating an industry that does not upend their culture in the process is critical. It would be catastrophic to an indigenous culture to try and pull them into the 21st century from a western context.
I titled this post, Managing Sustainable Development Projects Sustainably due to the fact that is critical to look at the management practices in the project to ensure that sustainable procurement, indigenous considerations, sustainable risk management are utilized. This project will work with the tribes to ensure that their needs are put first and that project success is determined by the lasting and positive impact that is made. PRiSM will be utilized to ensure that society and the environment are given the utmost attention for each initiative.
It is rare to be able to support a project that directly contributes to all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and we are proud have the opportunity to partner with Village Green Global to do so.
These three photos show the learning conditions that students have.
Here is a video that was taken of the trip to show the beauty that exists there and the opportunity to support such wonderful people.