Solomons youth leader shows Award’s impact

Published: 10 Sep 2013

Harry James Olikwailafa with Prince William

"During the time I was in high school, I was taking drugs and also involved in [other issues]. I feel that we're the ones who are influencing other young people who are growing up: we give them drugs we involve them in crime."

Twenty-six-year old Harry James Olikwailafa knows all about the challenges young people in the Solomon Islands face. Growing up just outside Honiara, the Solomons’ capital city, Harry was exposed to the same tough realities as many of his peers.

While young people make up a third of the population on the Solomons’, they have few opportunities for development. Secondary school places are limited and only 20% of young people are employed. It is perhaps not surprising therefore that some young people find themselves drawn to substance abuse, prostitution and crime.

A different path

Thankfully, Harry discovered a different path when he got involved in the Award. Undertaking his Gold Award through the Lau Valley Community Youth Group, he focused on youth and community activities: undertaking a youth leadership course for his Skills section, and doing community facilitator training as part of his Residential Project.

The experience has made Harry realize not only his own leadership potential, but that of his peers as well. Speaking to the Fiji Times in August, he said, "If there is empathetic listening to us, if there are more open arms for us then we can recognise our potential and build on our potential so that we can become agents of change in our society."

Community leader

Harry is now a leader in his community, and supports other young people to make the same journey that he has. He is an Award leader who mentors others through their Award programme, is on the Solomon Islands National Youth Council, and is also an executive board member of the Pacific Youth Council. He has recently been nominated to receive the Commonwealth Youth Award for Excellence in Development.

In his role as youth and community leader, Harry is constantly exposed to the vast challenges that growing up on the Solomon Islands presents. He is however, clear on what young people need in order to realise their potential. "[The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award] is one programme that I see is tackling these challenges..." Harry said. "Even though there are not enough resources but there is enough capacity to find resources and means to support them and do programmes to help other young people around them."

Low-cost solution

As a low-cost solution which can be implemented by anyone working with young people, the Award really can make a difference.

Young people in the Solomon Islands currently do their Award as part of a wider national youth programme. This initiative has two strands: one is a micro-financing project called Y-FIN, which supports the development of financial and business skills, and involves participants setting up a running a business enterprise.

The other element of the initiative is The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, which supports the wider personal and skills development of participants. The programme is run in conjunction with the Commonwealth Youth Programme and supported by the Ministry of Commerce.

Approximately 200 young people have completed the Y-Fin Project as part of their Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. In achieving an Award these young people have an internationally recognised and standardised record of their achievement.

Further information

Read the original article in The Fiji Times

Find out more about skills development in the Solomon Islands in a recent World Bank report

See Harry’s Commonwealth award nomination