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Nolan Salmon Parairua: Embracing challenges

Nolan Salmon Parairua: Embracing challenges

Looking back and pressing onwards

Image above: Nolan at One Young World

Reflecting on his year as a Queen’s Young Leader, Nolan Salmon Parairua tells Leading Change how the award has helped him expand his project across the Solomon Islands, and network with the world.

Nolan Parairua doesn’t expect life to be straightforward. “I am a human being and I understand that everything on earth is not that easy or hard. Everything happens according to the right timing.”

He founded the Solomon Islands Youth Strive Investors for Liberty Association (SIYSIFLA) in 2010 to cut youth crime and give young people a voice in decision-making processes.

Fast forward to November 2017, and the organisation is still working with young people to promote gender equality, literacy, health awareness and rural development across the Solomon Islands. 

It was in recognition of this tenacious commitment and hard work that Nolan received a Queen’s Young Leaders Award in 2016.

Impact 

Being a Queen’s Young Leader connected Nolan to several high-profile people including the Prime Minister, Frank Short, government ministers and other prominent politicians in the Solomon Islands.

Solomon Islands Youth Strive Investors for Liberty Association also became better known and has been able to expand its work to new areas of the country.

What’s more, Nolan says, “Communities within the targeted area are now aware of the work of young people, and youths are now becoming part of the decision-making in the Solomon Islands Government policymaking.”

Leading change 

As part of their award, Queen’s Young Leaders are given access to the Leading Change online course from the Institute of Continuing Education at the University of Cambridge.

Nolan believes this “had a lot of positive impacts on my life and leadership system. I have learnt a lot from other young leaders, facilitators, co-ordinators and mentors”.

He has used this learning – particularly Module 1, All about me: Taking stock – to develop his mission and vision statement. “There were a few more ideas and hope added to it,” he says, “working with youths at all levels, and their communities.”

And Nolan, like many Queen’s Young Leaders before him, is sharing the Leading Change course with his team.

“I have done a leadership workshop, campaign and awareness, the module on leadership and the principles of the Commonwealth.”

This has had a direct and empowering impact. “Most of the young people and their groups now have their own income-generating projects,” says Nolan.

Nolan with some of his team members and youth

Nolan with some of his team from Solomon Islands Youth Strive Investors for Liberty Association

Expansion 

Sharing the learning is also helping to fuel the steady expansion of the organisation. In March 2017, Nolan was already working with about 50 communities in eastern Malaita and the capital, Honiara. In October, just over six months later, Nolan reported that this number had risen substantially.

“I have managed to reach about 68 communities in total and been able to register 25 Rural Youth Associations at the Company House here in Honiara.”

To put it another way, Solomon Islands Youth Strive Investors for Liberty Association has reached 15,000 young people – in two districts of the Solomon Islands. It is helping them through projects covering sports in rural areas, fisheries, awareness workshops, entrepreneurship and supporting women to open bank accounts.

Lack of funding, however, remains a big problem. “Most of the money spent has actually come out from my pockets and my group fundraising,” says Nolan.

Neon lights spelling Columbia

International outlook

Since becoming a Queen’s Young Leader, Nolan has been a delegate at two One Young World conferences – in Ottowa, Canada, in 2016, and at the 2017 conference in Bogota, Colombia.

And he is active in the Pasifika Queen’s Young Leaders group, with Luisa Tuilau and Willy Missack, among others, working to address issues of climate change.

“I am planning to connect more effectively with all the Pacific islands,” says Nolan, who has recently completed courses on Climate Change at the University of the South Pacific and the University of Cologne.

“I have undertaken the courses since the One Young World also want us to work closely on the issues of climate change, and my small country is now affected by rising sea levels.”

Education 

So what’s next?

“I personally have a lot of plans,” says Nolan.

These plans include working closely with the local community in West Are are to build two new schools for 600 children.

Nolan explains that currently children are obliged to commute long distances to get to the nearest school. “There are about 25 kilometres to travel to school by canoe. And it’s more dangerous when climate change impact is all over the place.”

The new schools are due for completion in 2020.

Nolan is passionate about education. He mentors children who have left school early to help them secure employment or return to college and at the time of writing has enabled 19 young people to attend Solomon Islands National University.

Life may not be straightforward, but Nolan embraces its awkwardness.

“In every field of life,” he says, “there must be challenges to help us push forward in our work. Things get right at sometimes and wrong at another time. So press onwards.”