“This rest house was built with money earned from bechdemer and seaweed”, Nacia Sito says.
Nacia Sito is the owner of a rest house in Wagina. Walking through her village of Kukutin, one will not miss the glaring bright blue color amidst some of the thatched leaf and copper houses in the village.
Speaking fondly from her kitchen while deep frying fish, Nacia says most of the hard work was done by her late husband.
Nacia has been through her share of grief and pain. She lost her husband to diabetes in January 2019 and a son in 2018.
“He just went to bed and never woke up”, Nacia shared.
“His grave is just outside there”, she pointed to a well-kept grave just beside the house. Nacia’s husband was buried in Guadalcanal in the Henderson area. They used to have eight children. Most of her children are now married and live in their own homes.
Nacia’s late husband was a teacher by profession. During the open season, he and his sons used to dive for bechdemer. Since bechdemer is a lucrative product, they earned good money from it.
With monies earned from bechdemer, as well as seaweed, they opened a small canteen. Together from all their earnings, they were able to buy refrigerators, generators, as well as water tanks.
Today, Nacia looks after the small business alone with support from a couple of her children who live a fair distance from her on the island.
“When my husband was alive, he did most of the work for us. I was just like a house-girl. Since we have a lot of children, mostly my job was with the children”, Nacia says.
Nacia’s rest house has six bedrooms, a shared kitchen, bathroom and toilet facility. Coming from the village, Nacia often shy away from the limelight.
“I feel ashamed because my rest house is not fully complete. I feel that my guests will not be satisfied with the services that I provide”, she says.
Nacia’s rest house is just next to another which is more popular for visitors coming from Honiara or other parts of Choiseul, especially Taro.
“I cannot compete with the standard provided by the other rest house”, she says.
But for Nacia she has an advantage. At night she usually runs her generator to provide electricity for her guests.
“Guests can re-charge their phones or even work from the kitchen while there is power”, she says.
In Wagina, there are only a few generators. Most families rely on solar energy to provide light when it gets dark. In addition, not every house has proper bathroom and sanitation facilities.
“I still have plans for the house. I am also trying my best to complete work on the house as well as upgrade it to a standard fitting for guests”.
Nacia charges guests $150 per night for her rooms. Despite assurance from her guests, Nacia still feels that she needs to do more.
“Since my husband passed away last year, I sort of let myself go. For most of 2019, I was not myself. I have to close the small shop as well”, Nacia says.
Now she is bouncing back and optimistic to continue with what she calls ‘unfinished business’.
“For the first time I registered as a business and paid tax to the Choiseul provincial government”, Nacia gushes.
She says a team from the provincial government recently visited Wagina.
Asked if she considered applying for funds from the economic stimulus package, Nacia was shocked.
“How can I? I did not complete my education and I know nothing of writing a letter”, she says.
She says she’s heard of the stimulus package when a team of government representatives also visited Wagina recently.
However she is not keen to apply. She cited lack of confidence from her limited education background as the sole reason for her reluctancy.
She says she needs support in financial literacy so that she can be able to keep a good record of her business transactions.
“Now when I have money, I just spend. I know it is not good but I don't really know how to control my finances”, she says.
Meanwhile the Central Bank’s National Financial Inclusion Strategy II (2016 - 2020) was hoped to reach 300,000 adults (of which 150,000 must be women) to be active users of formal or semi-formal financial accounts by 2020.
The strategy also hoped to make sure 90 percent of the population have a financial service access point one hour of ordinary travel from their home by 2020.
For the community on Wagina, this is yet to be seen.