An Inspiring Feel-good Story: A Library in the Solomons

People often wonder what happens to discarded library items or donated items. Here is a wonderful story of how some of our discarded items, as well as donations of other goods from other local community organisations and schools,  helped to change the lives of hundreds of people in the Shortlands Islands in the Solomons.

None of it would have been possible without the vision and hard work of a remarkable couple, Alan and Lynn Hill, who have worked tirelessly and without fuss or fanfare to make this possible. The Hills have been long-time patrons of the Shire of Mundaring Libraries. Here is their story in their own words:

“Our Solomon Island experience began in 2011/12 when a friend of ours visited his friend the Bishop of the Western Province of the Solomon Islands.

When we picked our friend up from the airport he mentioned he had offered our services to the Bishop to work in the remote Shortland Islands where the Bishop had just had built a high school.

In 2012 Lynn and I went for a month to see what was needed. On arrival we found the primary school and senior high school were teachers short due to a small boat overturning and one teacher and two children drowning, and one teacher recovering in hospital, so Lynn was straight into teaching.

We found the students learning tools were a pencil and an exercise book. The teachers had a curriculum work book and some chalk and a shared duster. There were no other learning resources.

When we came back to Perth we thought we would get some school supplies together, perhaps enough to put in a wool pack and send over there. We were then offered funding from a Marist group to send a 20ft container if we could fill it. We approached lots of local hills primary schools for anything they were going to throw out, like pencils, old paper and old library books. Really anything that could be still used but not current.

We were amazed with the help and support and duly sent the container. The goods took over 6 months to get to the schools, and for the second time we went – this time to spend 3 months. We distributed the donated goods, Lynn taught and I did maintenance. It was very rewarding to see kids use books, coloured pencils and paper for activities they could not have imagined a year ago.

We went again in 2014 for 3 months with Lynn teaching both students at the primary school, the junior high and senior high. After school, kids came to our house to talk, get homework help and play games that we had brought.

On our return to Perth we set out to fill another 20ft container and again did the rounds of the Hills’ schools (from Edney P/S in the west to Bakers Hill in the east), and with their help and support again began to amass boxes of school goods to sort and pack ready to ship.

As regular users of the Mundaring Library, we asked if there was anything useful being discarded and were most grateful for the good quality resource books and fiction books they provided. Lost property left at Bilgoman Pool in the way of swim wear was very useful in the tropical environment. We filled the container with thousands of books, lots of pencils, exercise books, used clothing, school uniforms, school chairs and desks (enough for the 100+ primary school children)

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Boxes read to depart on small boats to their destination.

As a result we have set up a large library at the senior high, a smaller one at the junior high and a large primary school /village reading library,  and provided books to 8 villages dotted around the Shortland Islands that feed into the high schools.

We have just returned from 9 weeks of Lynn teaching students &and teachers, with me building shelves, lining the library and setting up the community library along with some maintenance work.

Many thanks to all those who donated the goods. The people of the Shortlands have little money. Many have never left the area and as a result have never seen shops or roads, but are very eager to learn. School is not compulsory, but the kids come to school each day, some paddling up to an hour.

Just as a post script. We had a “sale” of donated second- hand clothing which raised money to line the new library. One family paddled for 4 hours to see and purchase clothes as it is rare for goods like this to be available.” (by Alan & Lynn Hill.)

The Library which includes books from our libraries.

The Library which includes books from our libraries.

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The “sale” in the library.

 

A class with desks donated from St Anthony's Primary School and uniforms from Wooroloo Primary School!

A class with desks donated from St Anthony’s Primary School and uniforms from Wooroloo Primary School!

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