By Emily Kydd, third-year UVic Pacific and Asian Studies student
Kydd (R) and Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation founder and CEO Maire Bopp Allport in Rarotonga, Cook Islands
My two-week experience in the heat of Honiara—the capital of the Solomon Islands, east of Papua New Guinea—was indisputably the highlight of my internship with the Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation (PIAF).
I am an undergraduate student with an academic focus on the Pacific Islands, and this was my first time living and working in the Pacific. I was in the Cook Islands from late August 2007 until the end of January 2008 as a project officer for PIAF in Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
UVic’s Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives (CAPI) organized the placement through its long-term partnership with PIAF, and financial support came from the Canadian International Development Agency’s Students for Development program which offers internship opportunities in the developing world.
During my five-month experience, I travelled to the Solomon Islands in early December 2007 to conduct research for PIAF’s major regional mapping project. The project will result in a comprehensive inventory and database of HIV/AIDS services for each Pacific country and will be available for service providers and HIV-positive people in order to locate services in their area and illustrate where there are gaps in these services.
It was an immense honour to be asked to go to the Solomon Islands as the first PIAF representative ever to travel to the country. I met with ministry representatives and officers from non-governmental organizations including World Vision and UNICEF, and I also met with the Permanent Secretary of Health for the Solomon Islands Dr. George Manimu, as well as the undersecretary of health improvement.
It was during these latter two meetings especially that I felt like I had achieved the goals of my trip in spreading the word of PIAF, increasing governmental knowledge about HIV in the Pacific and advocating the issues for which PIAF stands.
I approached Dr. Manimu before his presentation on World AIDS day in Honiara. This was, in hindsight, a pretty bold move for a foreigner, a woman and a stranger—especially when I asked for his email and an hour of his time later in the week. Finding him surprisingly friendly, I met with him for over an hour talking about PIAF, HIV, the mapping project, the Pacific, international HIV responses and issues that need to be addressed in the Solomon Islands.
My time in the Solomon Islands and at PIAF has forged my commitment and respect for the region in a way that my classroom studies never could, and has cemented my desire to return.
Since 2003, PIAF has hosted eight students through the CAPI internship program, helping them gain first-hand exposure and development work experience in the region.
For more information on the CAPI internships and Kydd’s experience, visit www.capi.uvic.ca/opportunities.