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Melanesian Messenger Online distributed by the
Church of the Province of Melanesia
The Pickerings short stint at Pamua a success
March 28, 2008

[Melanesian Messenger - Melanesia] St. Stephens High School Pamua on Makira is a typical Solomon Islands school with a number of problems from poor water and sanitation facilities, dilapidated staff housing and classrooms to poor social and behavioural practices.

But for the last three months the Pickerings family from Australia has taken up the challenge to address some of these issues. They were starting to see and experience some real improvements and hoping to offer more when sadly their time has come to leave the school.

Speaking at a farewell function hosted by the Church of Melanesia for his family on Tuesday this week the Rev. Mathew Pickering said even though they wanted to do more they have a very short three months only to work on everything they can possibly do.

"The biggest work we do at Pamua is teaching," he said.

"This involves teaching academic subjects, ethical and behavioural teachings, reinforcing school rules, ensuring good personal hygiene, clean environment and healthy surroundings as well as setting good standards for them to live by."

He said the students find it quite difficult at first when these schools customary and standard procedures and rules were strongly enforced but they eventually accepted it.

One of the important reasons that brought Fr. Pickering and his family to Pamua was to address poor water and sanitation facilities that resulted in widespread waterborne infections like diarrhoea and dysentery in the school community. And in less than three months he managed to restore the water system with clean and fresh water running and available to the school.

Setting up of the toilet composed is the only challenge he has not been able to fix due to high watertable in the area. This problem he said requires more time and resources.

"It's easy to fix Pamua in terms of finance and other and facilities given enough time to do it but the heart, courage, friendship, partnership and love is our part that is much more important to help mould and shape students to become better people," he said.

As former chaplain of Shore School in Sydney Australia he said he was very impressed and moved by the way the students at Pamua responded in love for Jesus. He said they must be encouraged to live by that love.

"When I left Shore school to come to Pamua, my heart was not broken, but when I left Pamua my heart sank into my chest," he said.

The Rev. Mathew Pickering with his wife Ann and their two children Lauren and Nathan left Solomon Islands on Tuesday this week for Australia. Their other daughter Rachel is still at Pamua teaching English up until June this year when she rejoins the family at Melbourne where Fr. Pickering is taking up his new pastoral ministry at St. Marks Camberwell Anglican parish as rector.

Fr. Pickering hopes to make regular visits to Makira in the future in order to strengthen and keep the relationship between Pamua and Shore school alive and going. He was instrumental in setting up the partnership between the two schools since 2005 when he chose Pamua out of the other Church schools.

The Church of Melanesia thanked the Pickering family for their huge contribution in transforming, reshaping and reinventing the life at Pamua school in very a short time.

In an emotional acknowledgement General Secretary Mr. George Kiriau said the sacrifice the family offered to be at Pamua is immeasurable. They have left their fine and well paid jobs, the comfort of their metropolitan home, better life, good families and friends in Australia to experience the realities of a rural Solomon Islands school.

He said this is a manifestation of a true and Godly love we must see and appreciate.

The Church wished the family well in their future work back in Australia.