Driving into Honiara from the airport, it’s not immediately obvious a special occasion is imminent.
It’s only upon closer inspection and speaking with locals that you start to understand how much the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s visit on Sunday and Monday means to them.
My first hint that Royalty was on its way was a giant billboard of the Queen stating it is her Diamond Jubilee. Neighbouring signs are mostly public service announcements bearing slogans such as ‘Say no to domestic violence’ & ‘Immunise your children’.
The road in from the airport has been re- tarmacked to ensure the Royals have a smooth trip in. However, if you deviate from the main road you get an insight as to what it must have been like a few months ago – parts are unsealed and have crater like potholes.
Businesses are doing their best to capitalise on the arrival of the pair. A dilapidated guesthouse on the outskirts of Honiara has changed its name to ‘Wills & Kates’ Place and the Frangipani Ice-Cream Parlour is offering free ice-cream to anyone who can prove their names are either William or Kate.
The local newspaper has taken out full-page advertisements urging people to pick up any litter and refrain from chewing and spitting betel nut (a nut which leaves your teeth and saliva bright red).
Meanwhile, in the nearby community of Burns Creek where World Vision works, three individuals are perhaps more excited than most.
Ellison is a charismatic chap, passionate about motivating his community to work themselves out of poverty. Once a year he travels to either Australia or New Zealand as a seasonal worker, bringing the money he earns home to his family and using his new-found skills to benefit everyone within Burns Creek. He’s currently building a medical clinic alongside the football club he founded.
Louise is a quietly spoken, savvy small business owner. She married Cain and became a mother at a young age. Unemployment and a lack of opportunities resulted in family violence until World Vision stepped in and offered them both free business training. Cain now works for a local NGO as well as helping Louise operate their canteen and piggery. While not as extroverted as Ellison, their story is sure to touch the Royals.
Ellison, Louise and Cain will offer the couple an authentic insight into life in the Solomon Islands.
“I sincerely hope that by telling William and Katie and other visitors about Burns Creek that they will want to help us make more changes,” says Ellison. “The people here need to help themselves, but they don’t know how to get started.”
Laura Gemmell is a journalist with World Vision, is in Honiara in the Solomon Islands ahead of a visit from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Monday.