27 August 2009
Albert Hauhere, a newly trained teacher from West Are'are in the middle 1970s, decided to make a lasting contribution to his village. He didn't have any money to speak of but he did have a workable plan. With the help of dozens and dozens of young village people he could construct a solid football pitch right in the middle of the village. Houses and homes lined the pitch but in the middle was a professional football field which over the years hosted many a football tournament, acted as a recreation focus for school kids and held other events.
At the beginning, the fly in the ointment was no matter how willing the kids were to help they needed work tools--pics, shovels, knives, etc--to bring their dream to reality. This is when Albert tested the power of paper. He sent a letter to the Auki administration asking it to help the village of Nariekeara create its own sports field. After all, Auki had already grandly announced that it had received a $10,000 grant to help in provincial sports fields. But his letter received a negative reply . . . yes, there had been money available for sports fields but it had already been completely used up for expenses to the Auki sport's field.
Needless to say, Albert wasn't happy at all. However, I asked him to do two things: first, file away a copy of his original letter and the Auki reply and secondly, mention these facts when applying for help from overseas. A letter to New Zealand, fortunately, brought a much happier reply. A New Zealand organization was quite interested in his project and replied with a cheque to cover the cost of buying field making tools.
But that wasn't the end of the story! Late in the 1970s, just before independence, Nariekeara was visited by a government school inspector, John Seagraves, who saw for the first time the football pitch right at the heart of the village. He was duly impressed. The grass was more like a golf course, drainage ditches worked perfectly and the football field's lines were clear and accurate. John asked a few questions as to who was the person behind the project, how was it accomplished, who had funded the necessary tools, etc. etc.
However, the education officer became upset when he found out that the funds for the project had come from overseas. Why weren't local funds used? It was a poor way of starting off a country, he said, by seeking overseas funds when the same funds could be given locally. Albert asked the education inspector to wait a few seconds while he went into his own home to retrieve the file he had been saving for this very moment.
Albert's thin file of a half a dozen letters told the whole story: a copy of his own original letter, Auki's rejection response, copies of his letters to New Zealand and finally, the last letter which had carried the cheque to buy the tools necessary to build the field. Once Mr. Seagraves had read the correspondence, he quietly put the folder down and no more was said. Clearly Albert Hauhere had done the right thing but the message was clear and simple: Paper had Power.
How often people have come to me telling me of their projects, their plans, their dreams. Many would relate to me that they had shared these very dreams and plans with their honorable but nothing had come of them. When I pressed them for more detail, more often than not only words and tok tok were shared with their MP. Did they present the Honorable with a paper detailing how they intended to bring their dream to reality. No, the usual answer came back. They had spoken about their plans, their dreams but no paper of any kind was presented.
Many Solomon Islanders hate paper! Talk, speaking and conversation is their thing. All this paper work is white man's way and we in the Solomons do things differently. Unfortunately, it is paper that makes the world turn . . . not money. If we don't master paper, then it will come back to master us.
As much as we don't like paper and see it as more an enemy than the more we will lose out. There are plenty of young Solomon Islanders coming on stream who handle paper very well, thank you. Those of us who find the paper route too difficult to follow, then get those of the family who are good at putting things down on paper to help us out in our dreams. If Albert could do this almost 40 years ago, certainly we should be thinking of it today.