A learning experience like none other

IT was a service learning adventure like none other for 20 St Michael’s Collegiate School students when they travelled to the Solomon Islands as part of the school’s ASPIRE program.

The unique program saw the year nine students living and working in local communities, teaching in schools, helping at a women’s shelter and aiding in local building projects.

St Michael’s Collegiate School teacher and trip leader Sandy Rogers said Collegiate’s connection to the Solomon Islands was longstanding and stemmed from the school’s founders, the Community of the Sisters of the Church.

The Sisters operate a Christian Care Centre on the Solomon Islands, which incorporates a women’s shelter.

Ms Rogers said year nine students from Collegiate had been visiting the Solomon Islands for the past seven-years.

“Through this experience, the girls develop a strong sense of community service, cultural diversity and compassion,” she said.

“The girls experience traditional ways of life, different cultural values, systems, social etiquette and gender roles.

“They return home with an increased desire to help others and a renewed sense of gratitude for the education and social equality we enjoy here in Australia.”

Year nine student Isobel O’Toole said she had wanted to participate in the program since she was in year three.

“Each year when the girls returned from their trips, I was always intrigued by their stories – I really wanted to go on one of the overseas trips and I chose the Solomon Islands because I wanted to teach the children,” the 14-year-old said.

“There were many highs and lows on the trip, as the humidity was a challenge, but the welcome we received made it amazing.”

Isobel said her favourite part of the trip was playing with the children in Buma Village.

“They were full of energy and so excited to see us,” she said.

“It was an amazing welcome and we were made to feel like a part of the village – whenever we walked outside, we instantly made friends.

“This trip has definitely made me appreciate how lucky we are to live in Australia, especially the access to clean water and resources, such as education.”

All the students fundraised extensively prior to the trip so they could donate teaching resources, clothing, books, bedding and funds to support new building works.

All input into the Solomon Islands occurred at the request of local communities.

“The local community were so grateful for what we contributed,” Isobel said.

“There was genuine thanks and emotion when we left – it was very heartfelt.”

Caption: St Michaels Collegiate students, from left, Jocelyn Lowther, Ellia Kelleher, Poppy Newton and Isobel O’Toole preparing breakfast in Honiara.