A grassroots project to address the needs of youth and their communities in North Malaita, Solomon Islands, is moving quickly to identify the training needs of youth leaders, in the region and is seeking financial support for the initiative.

The work is being spearheaded by the Uttermost Rural Development Foundation (URDF) and the Commonwealth Youth Programme South Pacific (CYPSP) is working closely with URDF to build their capacity to meet their community's needs.

The URDF project is aimed at creating sustainable livelihoods for youth in the region - many of whom were involved in the Solomon Island ethnic tensions.

In late July the URDF and CYPSP held a series of consultations with youth stakeholders and young people in Honiara and young people and community leaders and youth in Malu'u, North Malaita and identified specific issues and training needs for the youth.

Among the needs or issues raised were basic infrastructure and health for villages in North Malaita; work skills including agriculture and small business skills; community awareness on health and hygiene; organising village events; safeguarding their environment; communication, including Internet; support for local music industries and conservation awareness.

CYPSP staff Jane Baeanisia, who represented CYPSP at the consultations, says the consultations went well.

"It was a good consultation - there was good representation from young people, including from young women. There were a lot of discussions on the community issues that young people want to focus on and develop."

URDF founder and lead facilitator Redley Ramo says there has been a large amount of interest and support for the project from both young people and prominent Solomon Island leaders.

"It gives a ray of light in the minds of the young people that there might be some help. There has been support from leaders as well: the North Malaita Council of Chiefs was represented at the consultations, and North Malaita Provincial Government's youth minister sees this as a model to start working from."

The next step is to bring 25 youth and five adults to Honiara for an intensive two-week leadership training workshop. The group will become URDF's key community contacts in North Malaita and community educators and youth leaders. Importantly, the youth leaders will be facilitators of change together with their peers in North Malaita. The project team are currently looking for financial support.

"We're appealing to potential partners in the Solomon Islands to give support to the training and UDRF," says Mr Ramo. "This is the first of its kind. It's an indigenous, grassroots initiative that comes from young people themselves. Rural areas have been disconnected, so it's time to invest in these areas if you're looking to the future."

Mr Paul Peteru, CYPSP Programme Manager, echoes Mr Ramo's sentiments.

"We know the difficulties working in North Malaita. We know the issues because it is the people themselves that name them. We also know what is required for the pilot programme to work because we are engaging people that are trusted by community leaders and have the education and industry expertise at the grassroots and national levels to make a positive difference in people's lives. What we essentially need are funders who can share in the vision of the people in the villages and communities of North Malaita," says Mr Peteru.

CYPSP Regional Director Ms Afu Billy says CYPSP is proud to be associated with URDF.

"The URDF is a positive development for young people. CYPSP's role is to facilitate young people to think for themselves and do things for themselves. We provide guidance. As such whatever work we do with them is very much based on their ideas and their needs and the available resources and expertise of CYPSP and staff. We are very pleased to be associated with them and encourage other stakeholders to input their expertise and resources according to the URDF members' ideas and needs," say Ms Billy.