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Published on 24th July 2012
Tiny Etemwarore School is now the only primary school in the Solomon Islands province of Makira-Ulawa with its own library, thanks to the combined efforts of VSA volunteers Laurie Williams and Steve Carter, and a grant from the Norman Kirk Memorial Trust.
On 7 June the school became the proud owner of more than 500 children’s books paid for by a $6,000 grant organised by Laurie, and sorted into a properly functioning library by Steve and staff and volunteers from Etemwarore School.
The whole school turned up to welcome the books when they finally finished their six-month journey from New Zealand to Etemwarore, about 60km from the provincial capital of Kirakira.
The books include titles by some of New Zealand’s best-known children’s writers, such as Lynley Dodd, Joy Cowley and Margaret Mahy.
Laurie applied for the grant through the Norman Kirk Memorial Trust after working with Etemwarore School principal, Edrine Waokahi, during a two-month assignment as a school leader mentor in Makira Ulawa province last year.
Laurie, who is now working as school leader mentor based in Honiara, worked with Edrine and two other head teachers in Makira, helping them develop their role as school leaders. He was impressed by her motivation and enthusiasm, despite the school’s lack of resources.
“As a principal Edrine is really up for new ideas about good practice. She and her staff are keen for their students to learn and go places.”
Steve Carter, who has just finished a two-year assignment as an education adviser based in Kirakira, took responsibility for the books once they arrived by sea from Honiara on 19 March. He spent many weeks working with staff and volunteers from the school to organise, process and cover the books with Duraseal – a more challenging task than they had expected.
“The Duraseal instructions say it is hard to use in humid conditions and we certainly found that to be the case,” he says.
Once the books arrived at the school, Steve spent two days training staff on how to use and run a library.
“It’s been a really big project, especially as none of the staff have any experience of school libraries – Etemwarore is the only one of about 70 primary schools in the province that has a library. But it’s been really satisfying.”
The Norman Kirk Memorial Trust was set up in 1976 to commemorate the former Labour prime minister, Norman Kirk. It distributes education scholarships and grants to people and groups in New Zealand and the South Pacific.
Each year $6,000 from the trust is allocated to a VSA-related project. Previous projects
include a new playground at Matauala School in Tokelau, and a new student learning centre at St Patrick’s College in Vanuatu.
Follow the journey of Etemwarore School's new library from Honiara to the shelves in this photo essay.
Read more about how VSA volunteers are working to strengthen education in the wider Pacific and Asia.