Don Bosco Students ‘Pay it Forward’ in the Solomon Islands

Publication Date: 
September 08, 2014

More than a decade ago, the film character Trevor McKinney “invented” a bold new idea: the act of paying good deeds forward. Today in the capital city of Honiara, Solomon Islands, students at the Don Bosco Technical Institute are doing just that -- by fabricating and delivering critical items to victims of April’s devastating cyclones and floods.

Before enrolling at the Institute, these students faced little opportunity. Close to 25 percent of the country’s youth have never attended primary school, and fewer than 35 percent of adults can read or write. Employment prospects, let alone well-paid ones, are therefore dim.

“Most of these students are from poor families, and many had dropped out of traditional schools,” says Father Mark Hyde, SDB , director of Salesian Missions. “The ability to attend Don Bosco Technical Institute represents a second chance for a brighter future.”

Back in January, none of these students could have imagined the shape this second chance would take -- or the significant and immediate impact they would make on the lives of their neighbors. Yet, just three months into their coursework in the carpentry, and machinist fitting and maintenance programs, they discovered themselves in the unique position to “practice what’s been taught” -- and sprang into action to build drum ovens, tables, chairs, fire burners and garden tools for families affected by the storms.

“These young men poured their hearts and souls into speeding up their learning process in order to create the items,” says Luke Houpere, deputy principal of Don Bosco Technical Institute. “After such a short time in school, two students could make one oven within three weeks -- displaying not only solid welding, cutting, grinding, polishing and painting skills, but more importantly, the sacrifice and hard work that brought comfort to those who suffered.”

In all, 23 families received donated ovens and furniture -- but the benefits of the exercise extend far beyond. In fact, the students themselves have learned a valuable lesson about “paying it forward.”

“While learning, we made something useful for a needy family,” says Willie Laumanu, one of the program’s students. “This makes me very happy.”

In addition to preparing students with the valuable skills they need to find long-term employment and economic stability, an important part of Don Bosco Technical Institute’s vision is to create good and honest citizens of the Solomon Islands. In this one small example alone, it appears they are succeeding.

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