Swim team handbook
SWIM TEAM PARTICIPANT’S
GENERAL INFORMATION - S.W.I.M.SOLOMON ISLANDS
WHAT IS SWIM?
SWIM (in the Solomon Islands) is an acronym for Short Workshops in Mission. It is the mission
arm of the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia. SWIM was started in the early l980’s with
the aim of giving young people in our churches an opportunity to serve overseas on short term
mission projects, both in ministry, and also in practical projects such as building and mechanics
INFORMATION ABOUT SWIM TEAMS
SWIM teams these days are made up of people of all ages, both young and old. Sometimes they
can be teams from other denominations or students from Christian Schools, and they have worked
in various ways all over the Solomon Islands, from Western and Central Province, to Guadalcanal
Whether a SWIM team does Children’s ministry, teaching and
Bible Study, Building a clinic or school room, medical work,
inter school relationships, or whatever else, the aim of SWIM is
to have a two way experience, between village people and the
SWIM team members. The focus will also be on the Word of
God, and what that means in the life of a Christian.
The people in the villages or schools with whom the SWIM team
stays, will see through the work and behaviour of SWIM team members, a true picture of
what it means to be a follower of Jesus, and how that impacts everyday life. However, for the
SWIM team members themselves there will be a strong focus on giving each participant a faith
changing and faith challenging experience.
There will also be a focus on encouraging the village people to participate in the project, especially
on the building teams, in order that they may learn some of the skills of joinery, carpentry,
plumbing, electrics, mechanics and whatever.
OTHER OPPORTUNITIES FOR SERVICE
SWIM Solomon Islands can also facilitate mission service opportunities in many areas. Perhaps
lecturing for a short time at a Bible College or teaching Bible Workshops in a village. Nursing,
physio or other medical placements are also possible. Even helping out with maintenance on the
SWIM base for a short time will always be
appreciated. Running a short term “dressing
clinic” in a remote village is always a useful exercise. We can usually fill in what ever the Lord
lays on your heart to do. God will lead you and us to find your “niche” of service.
AIM OF SWIM
SWIM in the Solomon Islands aims to provide an opportunity for Christian Reformed Church (and
other Church) people to experience another culture, serve God in other ways to those experienced
in Australian, and share your skills and faith with other Christians from a different part of God’s
Kingdom. The learning and sharing is experienced by both SWIM participants and the local
people of the Solomons. The blessings are for both sides.
INFORMATION ABOUT SOLOMON ISLANDS
The Solomon Islands is a group of almost 1,000 islands. There are six main large islands and
about 350 others which are populated. Most of the islands are covered with thick dense rain
forest, coconut or oil palms, and mountains in the centre. There are many reefs and lagoons,
which make snorkelling an added bonus to any SWIM team member.
The population is around 500,000 and about half of these people live on the two islands of
Guadalcanal and Malaita. Earthquakes occur fairly regularly, but most of them are small and do
Solomon Islands people are mainly Melanesian (95%), ranging from dark brown skin to almost
black, with curly hair. There are some Polynesians (4%) lighter skinned and mostly straight hair,
with the remainder of the population being Micronesian. Solomon Islanders are very friendly,
hospitable and generous people, and staying in a village in a leaf hut, is the best way to get to
When you get outside of the capital Honiara, you will find that the people live a subsistence life
style. This means they grow their own food, gather some more food from the forest, go fishing,
and build their homes from materials gathered from the bush. Some crafts such as woodcarving
and basket weaving helps to bring in small amounts of money for kerosene, soap, tea, sugar and
Not even half the children in the Solomon Islands go to school, and then half again would not
continue school after grade six. School is not free and many families struggle to find the money to
educate their children. As few as 33% of the people know how to read.
Health services too are inadequate in many areas, and the “local” clinic can be as much as 5
hours walk away, and even then, be short on the medicine needed. There is a high rate of infant
mortality, one of the biggest killers is malaria, and also TB.
Outside of Honiara, the people in the village cannot afford to buy kerosene in large quantities, so
bedtime can be very much related to the sun. Being near the equator, sunrise and sunset happen
always around the same time throughout the year. 6am to 6 pm is a rough guide. Cooking is
done on open fires in small leaf huts, bathing
and washing is done in the river or from a water
pipe that comes from a spring nearby. Toilets are generally something similar to an Aussie “bush
toilet”. There will be toilet areas for men and toilet areas for women.
The Solomon Islands has a tropical climate. This means daytime temp. are mostly around 30 – 35 degrees, all year round, and night time temperatures drop to around 22-25 degrees. There are two
seasons, wet, from October to March and dry from April to October. There is a lot of rain is some
areas, especially Malaita and the Weather coast of Guadalcanal. Some places get as much as
3000 mm of rain annually, Honiara is may be half that. Cyclones are also likely during the wet
season, however, most cyclones develop south or east of Solomons and then travel in a southerly
or easterly direction. However, the effects of these cyclones can bring bad weather, and rough
seas. Most of the time it is hot, sweaty and humid.
EDUCATION AND WORK
Schooling is not compulsory nor is it free. The 2000 census found that less than 50% of children
attend school, and one third finish grade six. Fewer still continue into secondary, and only a lucky
minority would study at University level. There are many illiterate people, about 33% can read, but
not always confidently enough to read a whole book, or understand fully what they are reading.
About 85% of the people do not work for an income. They live mainly through subsistence life
style. Gathering and growing food, fishing, crafts, woodcarving and building houses from bush
materials. Those who work would live mainly in Honiara and the Provincial capitals, working for the
Government as teachers, public servants, health workers etc. Each village will have a small store
or two and perhaps someone who owns a canoe or petrol depot, or even bakes bread regularly for
Rice, vegetables and fruit are the main daily diet for most people. Fish, shellfish and the odd
village chicken help to fill out the menu. The village pig is kept for very special occasions, like
wedding feasts or sometimes the farewell party of the SWIM team. There are definitely no
McDonalds or KFC type places, not even in Honiara. In the village you will eat mostly local food,
but in Honiara, most western type foods can be purchased in the supermarket.
At the SWIM base the accommodation is reasonably comfortable. Bunk style beds, internal
showers and toilets, cooking facilities, laundry, washing machine, bed linen and towels are all
provided. You will need to go shopping for your own supplies at the market and in the shops in
Honiara, but this is a good cultural experience. Transit house guests cook for themselves and
wash their own dishes etc. There are surrounding gardens, swings, volley ball court, leaf “rest
house” and outdoor picnic tables. The SWIM base has a no smoking, no alcohol policy for all
guests. The base has clean rainwater tanks, safe for drinking.
Water quality varies from place to place, but generally, care must be taken. In some villages water
from a natural spring may be of high standard, and many rivers are clear and fresh, suitable for
swimming and washing. Most villages have at least one water tank, and if the roof is in good
condition the water should be safe to drink. It is of course always safest to boil all drinking water.
Fresh green coconuts are a healthy and 100% safe alternative, loaded with natural electrolytes.
Water in Honiara, is another story. The town water supply is not safe for drinking, but many
houses have water tanks that are safe for drinking. The SWIM base has all rain water, and it is
kept clean and safe for drinking, without boiling. Tummy troubles due to foul water are most
unpleasant and can spoil an otherwise wonderful experience. It is a good idea to always carry
your own supply of good safe drinking water.
When SWIM teams visit and stay in the villages, team members will soon realise that church plays
a very important role in village life. Morning and evening 7 days a week services are held with
varying levels of attendance. Sunday however, church is attended y almost everyone. As a result,
many Solomon Islanders have grown up with the village church being very much a part of
everyday life, and a true and living personal relationship with Jesus is not always fully understood.
Seating, especially in the villages, is segregated, men on one side, women on the other.
When attending church, ladies must wear a longish skirt or dress, and men should wear a button
up shirt and longer shorts. For women, sleeveless tops are okay, but spaghetti string tops and
Some churches may ask SWIM teams to participate in the service, either by way of preaching,
drama, singing or prayer. So be prepared to get involved. Some services are held in the local
language, but it would be appreciated by the village people if you make an effort to attend some of
their services, especially the Sunday ones. You will be given many opportunities to share your
When in the Solomon Islands, you are of course, a guest in a very different culture. There are
cultural norms that will need to be remembered.
THE BIGGEST ISSUE WILL BE WHAT YOU WEAR.
Solomon Islanders generally have a modest dress code, and especially those in a committed
church community. The village people will have expectations of the SWIM team visiting them.
They will assume you are all Christians and they will expect you to dress accordingly.
This means that girls cover up well. Longer skirts, and especially in the villages “trousers” (the pijin
word for shorts) are frowned upon if worn by girls. Church wear for girls is definitely longer
dresses or skirts. You will need to take along something you can wear while bathing. Eg a sarong
or something to wrap around you while in the river or standing under the village water pipe. A
longish skirt with an elastic waist will do nicely. Bikini’s and even swim suits are not acceptable.
Women go swimming in loose shorts and a “T” shirt. This may sound strange, but overall, it gives
wonderful protection from sunburn, especially if you take doxycycline as your anti-malaria
medication, of which one side effect is a tendency to burn quickly from the sun. We strongly
recommend that SWIM team members cover up well when swimming for the two reasons given
above. Exposed midriffs are an absolute “no-no”.
Young men too, have to be sensitive in what
they wear. Stubby type shorts would not go
over well, the longer type, loose fitting shorts, especially for church would be more acceptable. A
button up shirt for worship is also recommended.
Good, strong sandals to protect your feet, and thongs for wearing in the shower and toilet are also
FRANTERNISING WITH THE OPPOSITE SEX
Even married couples in the Solomon Islands do not show affection in public. If you are married, or
if your boy friend or girl friend is on the same team, please reserve your intimate times for when
you return to Australia. The Solomon Islands culture would look down on two members of the
opposite sex finding a quiet little corner for a cuddle, or even sitting in public, hanging on each
other etc. SWIM strongly urges all team members to refrain from such activity. Remember that we
are guests, and we are also giving a picture of the love Christ. For this reason we need to be
sensitive and wise in our actions, and not offend those with whom we are staying.
Several different types of immunisation are recommended before you come. See your doctor to
discuss this. Tetanus and Hep A vaccines are strongly advised. Malaria prophylaxis (prevention
medication) are a must. We recommend Doxycycline, it is also an antibiotic and covers things like
ear and skin infections. Worms and head lice are a fact of life in the village. Toilet facilities are
understandably below western standards, and this also needs to be taken into account.
PASSPORT AND VISA
You will need a current passport with AT LEAST 6 MONTHS VALIDITY.
An automatic visa will be
granted (Maximum 3 months) at the customs area in Honiara if you have a return ticket. If you are
not an Australian citizen, you will need an entry permit to re-enter Australia after your visit to the
Your travel agent should assist with travel insurance. Things do sometimes get stolen or lost, and
SWIM takes no responsibility for this. Building and musical teams especially are advised to insure
You will not need a lot of spending money. $200 AUD (About $1,200 Sol.) is generally amply
spending money. It also does not look good, if we spend thousands of dollars on souvenirs when
we go for mission. Food and accommodation, and local travel costs are usually taken care of
through team bookings, but for personal spending we suggest you set a limit. In many cases, team
members are given gifts of local craft items to take home as well.
There are now several ATM machines in Honiara, so money is easily available through that
medium. However, Australian Dollars can be easily changed at the bank, and a team telegraphic
transfer (into the SWIM account) can be made from Australia before your departure. Visa and
Mastercard are also accepted in many places, but generally not outside Honiara.
WHAT TO PACK
All team members: .
1. Several outfits, wash and wear types for hot weather.
5. Panadol, and other personal medicine needs
6. Plenty of band-aids and an antibiotic cream
8. Cotton Duna cover to use as a sleeping bag
9. Toothbrush/paste, soap, shampoo, towel etc.
12. Good strong sandals, and a pair of thongs.
13. Flip photo folder with family and church shots.
17. Nibblies if you tend to get hungry between meals
18. small gifts, like balloons, to give to the children
19. A water container to carry your personal water supply.
2. A sarong type outfit to wear for bathing at the village water pipe or river
3. Longish skirt or 2 for wearing to church
4. Board shorts and T shirt for swimming, (No bikinis)
6. Mirror (there won’t be one anywhere)
1. Button-up type shirt for wearing to church
2. Tank tops are okay but not for church
3. Longer shorts for swimming and bathing (speedos are frowned on)
For the team:
A well stocked first aid kit, and someone on the team who can do dressings and care for minor
cuts, bruises and illnesses of team members. A nurse, or someone with a first aid certificate would be ideal. SWIM has the kits on base, but each team will need to “boost” supplies by bringing them
WHAT NOT TO BRING
Alcohol and cigarettes are banned in some churches here. SWIM suggests that all team members
refrain from smoking and drinking while in the Solomon Islands on their SWIM team journey. The
SWIM base too, is alcohol and smoke free. Please abide by this rule.
SOME FINAL POINTS OF USEFUL INFORMATION.
1. Taking anti malaria medicine is of vital importance. No matter what your doctor says, you
need to start taking your medication 2 days before arriving and for at least 2 weeks after
departing. Malaria is a killer disease, so do not take any chances.
2. If you feel ill when returning to Australia, even months after your stay in Solomon Islands,
tell your doctor that you have been in a malaria area. A few team members have been ill
with malaria as long as 8 months after their visit.
3. Young children, under 8 cannot take Doxycycline, but there are other medications which are
suitable for that age group. We have had children (even babies) come here and stay,
4. Pregnant women too, cannot take doxycycline, so see your doctor about alternative action.
5. There are now several ATM machines in Honiara, but not anywhere else in the Solomon
Islands. Visa Card, Master Card and American Express are accepted in many places.
6. When you stay on the base in the transit house, you will be expected to buy your own food
supplies and cook for yourself(ves). Transport to the market and shops is available.
7. The SWIM truck will meet all SWIM team members at the airport on arrival and take you
8. OUR FINAL AND PERHAPS MOST IMPORTANT RECOMMENDATION IS THAT YOU
HAVE A PRAYER BACK UP TEAM BACK IN AUSTRALIA STANING BY TO PRAY
THROUGH ALL THE LITTLE HASSLES AND PROBLEMS THAT CAN OCCUR WHEN
LIVING AND WORKING IN VILLAGE SITUATIONS. MANY TEAMS HAVE GIVEN
TESTIMONY OF THE STRENGTH AND GRACE THEY HAVE RECEIVED IN TIMES OF
TRIAL WHEN THEY SHARED WITH THEIR PRAYER PARTNERS BACK IN AUSTRALIA
THEIR NEEDS AS THEY CAME UP. WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND THAT PRAYER IS
AN INTERGRAL PART OF YOUR PLANNING AND OUT WORKING OF YOUR MISSION
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