Championing the voices of young people in Honiara

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HONIARA City Council Youth Worker Mary Tuhaika has been championing the Honiara urban youths on a mission to empower young people on active participation, leadership, and empowerment programs.

Working in the youth space for 15 years, Mary has been instrumental to many young people’s lives within Honiara city.

She led young people to engage in positive activities such as the Youth Volunteer Scheme, Duke of Edinburgh Awards, Youth Events, Youth Group Grants, Specific Youth Projects, and general engagement in Programs implemented by the Honiara City Council.

At the same time, the establishment of the Social, Emotional, and Wellbeing Project “TOK SPOT” launched recently, is described as a milestone achievement that will impact young people now and in the future.

The TOK SPOT initiative is funded by the New Zealand Government and implemented by Honiara City Council in partnership with ChilFund New Zealand, it will be accommodating the youth populace within Honiara City. It is a first-ever youth counselling space and programs specifically for young people.

“I am thrilled such initiative was launched. It will revolutionize young people within Honiara City particularly to tackle youth issues related to their social relations, managing emotions and feelings and their general wellbeing,” MrsTuhaika said.

The project looks to achieve an estimate of 17,000 youth living in Honiara to access the social and emotional services to build better, safer futures and action positive change to young people.

An additional 1500 children and youth will also indirectly benefit from improved knowledge and skills of frontline workers in the acute and complex area of child protection services.

Preparing and upskilling young people towards this youth counselling space, 16 young people graduated with Certificate IV in Youth Work with the Australia Pacific Training Coalition last year, 3 graduated with Diploma in Counselling from the University of the South Pacific, and 1 graduated with a Level 4 NZ Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (mental health & addiction) in Ara Institute of Canterbury, New Zealand.

Mary confirmed these professional youth workers and counsellors are fully equipped with knowledge and skills in their respective fields. She believes they are perfectly ready to deliver to young people who will be accessing the services.

In the Solomon Islands, young people make up 70 percent of the population. Many young people left school at the secondary level, end up engaging in anti – social issues.

With this gap, it inspires Mary to work with this population to engage as much young people in youth empowerment activities.

Growing up as a youth, Mary said she always wants to work with young people, listen to their stories, and be part of their growth journey.

“I grew up to learn that youth’s voices are always not heard, their contributions are not seen and limited services to deal with their social issues. Observing these gaps it has always inspired me to connect and work with young people,” Mary said.

In 2018, the TOK SPOT concept was born after a wider consultation conducted by ChildFund NZ and Honiara City Council’s Youth, Sports, and Women’s Division. A research carried out by other NGOs, identified that adolescent mental health is one area unrecognized and underfunded. 

With the gaps, Mary said HCC and ChildFund NZ agreed to form a partnership to support and develop opportunities for youth to promote and address social and emotional wellbeing issues.

Through discussions and consultations with more Honiara Youth Groups, HCC and ChildFund NZ received many feedbacks that young people wanted the project to develop a counselling service specifically for the young.

Today, Mary is proud the youth counselling space has finally been launched. It is a result of hard work, passion, and commitment to work with young people in Honiara.

Mary’s biggest future goal is giving back to her own family.

She said, “On a personal level, years I spent working with young people in Honiara, I saw their personal growth and proud of   their professional achievements.

It is time I give back to my children, groom them into knowing their potentials and be good citizens of Honiara.”

 “My dream for young people in Honiara now, is having HCC take a direction to establish satellite youth hubs for every ward within Honiara City, so to have HCC provide youth services ward by ward.

We are grateful that, one of HCC’s long-term goal has now been fulfilled by New Zealand Government’s support to construct a ‘Youth Space’ for the youth population in the city, even more grateful  for their support through ChildFund NZ will continue for 4 more years.

“My ask to partners and donors wishing to work with young people in Honiara, the only option more sustainable is through working with Honiara City Council and its existing youth networks.

“HCC will always be here, when the next Government and administation comes, the mandate will still remain, only people will change over time, but the system, process, and approaches will be there.

“They will make changes and amendments to what is fitting to the present generation’s context,” she said.