World Vision hosted the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who learnt about the organization's work in Burns Creek, a troubled community on the outskirts of Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands."Our community has never seen a couple like that before, and they got to shake their hands. It's a big story for Burns Creek today," said 29-year-old Ellison Mataifiri, who got to meet the royal couple. "For the past few years we haven't felt part of Honiara. Today we feel powerful, and we feel recognized."
Burns Creek is a settlement that faces many challenges including high unemployment, limited educational opportunities and high instances of drug, alcohol and physical abuse. Ellison is a youth leader who works with children in the settlement.
"They greeted me like we'd met before. We spoke about what Burns Creek used to be like - it was dangerous and messed up," said Ellison.
World Vision has been working with the community for the past 18 months to change attitudes towards substance abuse and violence, and to create opportunities for youth through education and training.
"I told them about our community savings project. They asked lots of questions," said Ellison. "They wanted to know why we didn't go to the bank, and I explained that people can't read or write. The big banks are a long way away, and they won't lend to us. I was so honored to meet them. Last night I couldn't go to bed early, I just thought about what I was going to say."
A family of local business owners, Louise and Cain Whitney also got the chance to share the story of turning their lives around. Cain left school early and turned to drugs and alcohol and was unable to meet his family's needs. After receiving training from World Vision, he started a small piggery business and now feels more confident because he can support his family.
He proudly showed off his piglets to the royal couple. The Duke suggested "Will and Kate" might be apt names for them.
Louise told the royal couple about her family and business. She attended training as well and now runs her own grocery store. Louise says they now have "peace in the home" and a bright future for their children. Prior to the meeting she said: "I am so excited to meet the Duchess and tell her about my little shop in Burns Creek."
The Duchess attended a morning tea where she met Koisau Sade, World Vision's Gender Coordinator. Koisau spoke with Kate about the issue of domestic violence in the Solomon Islands and how they are training church leaders to help change men's attitudes towards women.
"The Duchess asked whether domestic abuse was a big problem here. I replied that roughly 64 percent of women and girls in this country have experienced physical or sexual abuse (or both) at some stage in their lives," Koisau said. "She was visibly stunned by that figure stating it was 'alarming indeed'."
The South Asia and Pacific region is home to a billion people who live on less than $2 a day. Levels of chronic child hunger and malnutrition are among the highest in the world and urban poverty is an increasing problem in many countries in the region.
World Vision is one of the largest and most experienced non-government agencies in the Solomon Islands. The organization has been working there for more than three decades, with a special focus on children and empowering communities to shape their own development in areas like health, education and economic development.