No, this is not a self-congratulatory post. At least not completely.
After returning from Australia – where the sun shone daily, the streets were clean, the internet was fast and people turned up to work – I fell into a slump back in Honiara – where the sun shone daily, the dust from the streets stuck to my sweat, the internet barely functioned and work was merely a place people went in their spare time.
Slowly, slowly, things started to get back on track and, by the end of the year, I am pleased to say that Isabel has done it! Of course, Isabel did not do it alone. No, there are some really dedicated people here, and this blog goes out to them.
First major breakthrough was the completion of the baseline surveys for our handwashing campaign. Using some statistical methodology that I learned many years ago at Uni, I calculated that we had to go as far west as Vaturanga and as far East as Ruavatu to do surveys.
I had heard that Ruavatu had a bit of a muddy road, so we got hold of the 4WD and off we went. Little did I realise that the direct road to Ruavatu had actually been destroyed, so now we had to take an ultra-long inland road, climbing incredibly steep and muddy hills and crossing rather large rivers. There were moments there where we definitely not in control of the vehicle, but I was very impressed by our driver’s ability to casually cruise through.
I was even more impressed by the team’s steadfastness when the wheel came entirely off the vehicle while driving east to Vaturanga. They found most of the pieces, put it back together, slowly and safe made their way back to base, before grabbing another vehicle and heading out again.
Even back in Honiara, I was enthralled at the way my counterpart has managed to achieve the household surveys at a time when there are no cars, no fuel, no drivers, and everybody has gone on Christmas holidays. He has artistically integrated the surveys into a response plan for the latest diarrhoea outbreak and it looks like he will actually achieve the deadline of completing surveys by Christmas. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
The second break for me came with my Annual Performance Assessment. I won’t go into the details, but after all the challenges that I have encountered this year, it was heartening to hear that those efforts were recognised and appreciated. Not only did I score incredibly high in my assessment, but I was also told that “having managed advisors for a very long time, it is rare to find a technical specialist who also has the ability to engage and work with the local people as you do”. Awww.
The final win for the year was thanks to Isabel province. You may recall a blog from a few months ago where we did an amazing CLTS triggering of Kolomola village in Isabel province. Two weeks ago, I went to check on the progress. Kolomola has made great progress and, with a few more handwashing facilities, is on track to become “No Open Defecation” (NOD) by Christmas.
More importantly, we also did a very sweaty, and very slippery, two-hour hike way up into the highlands of Isabel Province to look at Tirotonna village. This village was triggered just after Kolomola, by some of the community members who attended our CLTS training.
After visiting every single household, I am extremely excited to announce that Solomon Islands now has its very first, verified “No Open Defecation” community. This is a massive milestone, especially considering the widespread resistance to the non-subsidised approach, and the fact that no other village has achieved this since CLTS was first introduced in 2013. Tirotonna did it in 3 months.
Not only is Tirotonna the first Solomon Islands village to achieve this feat, but they did it with style. Walking around, I can honestly say that the level of thought and pride that has gone into these toilets and handwashing facilities rivals what I’ve seen anywhere else.
Apart from the Hyatt, where else would you find vases of freshly plucked flowers placed alongside handwashing facilities? Tirotonna, that’s where!
Where would you find tropical flowers adorning the walls of the toilet and lining the path to the outhouse? Tirotonna!
Where would you find such carpentry genius as to fix a rubber seal around the edge of a toilet lid to stop any possible chance of flies entering the hole? Yep, Tirotonna.
And where else would you find the amazing craftsmanship of 20-metres of traditional bamboo plumbing just to ensure the handwashing tap is right outside your toilet? You guessed it, Tirotonna!
This place needs to be seen to be believed, and when we celebrate their milestone in February, I really hope it is the non-believers who come to see.
So, from the depths of post-Australia depression, Solomon Islands has come up trumps and handed me some fantastic little Christmas presents. As I head off to the Western Province, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Catch you in 2016.