Since launching in 2006, more than 350 young leaders from Pacific communities have trained at Certificate or Diploma level in the Ola Fou programme. Ola Fou sent me to Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to document the stories of recent graduates and current students.  

I collected stories, quotes and images from 12 students and their communities across the two countries. It was a real privilege to join the Ola Fou country teams and head out to the different villages to meet the students. Each one had organised a community wide consultation to identify a problem the community was facing and then mobilised the youth in their community to address the issue. The projects ranged from peanut farms and water pumps to meeting houses and rubbish collection. In the Solomon Islands I visited two islands: the main island, with the capital Honiara, and Malaita, a few hours away by boat. 

The final product was a booklet covering the 5 countries Ola Fou works in. The booklet is used to inspire other students and to update donors. Pages from the booklet can be viewed here

Stories - Solomon Islands

Richard - Malaita, Solomon Islands 

Richard is a student on the Ola Fou programme. Together with Ayexz and David, fellow youth leaders in the community, he is working to support young men with small scale businesses. They are also campaigning for clean water in their village. Currently the bore hole is located next to the generators providing electricity and there is strong evidence of contamination. 

Richard

Richard

Ayexz

Ayexz

Ayexz (L), Richard (C) and David (R) pause on the way to down to the bore hole. They say waste from the houses on the hill in the background is going into the water source. 

Ayexz (L), Richard (C) and David (R) pause on the way to down to the bore hole. They say waste from the houses on the hill in the background is going into the water source. 

We are like the hinges between them and their family. Before, they were left out. Now we show they have a home.
— Richard
Beetle nut for sale in Grelington's stall. 

Beetle nut for sale in Grelington's stall. 

Grelington in front of the beetle nut stall that Richard helped him set up

Grelington in front of the beetle nut stall that Richard helped him set up

Derrick - Malaita, Solomon Islands 

Derrick started the Ola Fou programme in 2012 and is now doing a two year internship with Ola Fou. He has spent four years working with the Namoabu community. As part of the Ola Fou programme, he asked the youth in the community what challenges they had in. One of the problems identified was the shortage of water in dry season. So Derrick worked with the youth to address the problem. They installed a pump and a water tank. Now in dry season, the village does not have water problems.

The youth of Namoabu inspect the peanut crops. 

The youth of Namoabu inspect the peanut crops. 

Derick and other young people in the village in front of their peanut farm 

Derick and other young people in the village in front of their peanut farm 

Derick and his children carry water back from the new pump. Namoabu village no longer has water shortages in dry season. 

Derick and his children carry water back from the new pump. Namoabu village no longer has water shortages in dry season. 

Raewyn and Kelly - Honiara, Solomon Islands 

Raewyn and Kelly are both in the Ola Fou programme. They worked together to mobilise the young women and men in their community. The village had a big problem with rubbish in the past, with things being left all over the side of the road. They got together and came up with a plan to put out drums and encourage the community to keep the place tidy. They have also set up a little shop to help the youth in the community generate an income. They are motivated to keep going with different projects, even after they graduate from the Ola Fou programme. They said the next project will be street lights to keep people safe when they walk at night and they told me "Next time you come, you can come at night!" 

Raewyn (left) chats with Jemah, one of the young women in the community who dropped out of school early and was previously left out of community activities. 

Raewyn (left) chats with Jemah, one of the young women in the community who dropped out of school early and was previously left out of community activities. 

Before I just stayed in the house and I didn’t know other girls. Now I’m involved in lots of groups. Now when I speak with them, I don’t need Raywin to be there. I feel like I belong with the other girls also.
— Jemah (coached by Raywin)
Kelly (left) and Raewyn (centre left) with the youth they coach: Pely (centre right) and Jemah (right). 

Kelly (left) and Raewyn (centre left) with the youth they coach: Pely (centre right) and Jemah (right). 

Pely shows me the produce in the shop set up by the community youth. 

Pely shows me the produce in the shop set up by the community youth. 

Allan - Malaita, Solomon Islands

Allan capitalised on the carpentry skills of the youth in his community to organise the building of a meeting house next to the village church. He said the project has helped the elders see the potential of the youth in the village. He plans to keep doing community projects, the next one addressing sanitation issues in the neighbourhood. 

Allan

Allan

Details of the meeting house roof

Details of the meeting house roof

Allan resting in the shade of the meeting house 

Allan resting in the shade of the meeting house 

The meeting house with the church in the background and other houses of Gwale village on the opposite side of the road 

The meeting house with the church in the background and other houses of Gwale village on the opposite side of the road