Pipers making a difference in the Solomons
ANDREW Piper and Alice McDonald with son Elliott, are back home at Fingal where Andrew was born and grew up, now holidaying and staying with the family.
They have been living and working in Honiara in the Solomon Islands this last year.
They met in 2005 in Vietnam when working under the Australian Government volunteer program Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development (AYAD).
In the classic romance in the tropics scenario, they met, connected and later both went separately to Europe to finish their respective degrees.
But cupid's arrow had found its mark and when Andrew's forestry studies for his degree involved returning to the Solomon's for a further four months, Alice smitten by handsome Andrew went too and on their return to Australia they married, and much later became the proud parents of blonde, blue eyed Elliot.
Andrew is a senior forestry consultant and Alice is a marine biologist, whose specialty is conservation and management.
Since completing her degree 10 years ago Alice has been working for the Fisheries Agencies Pacific Islands.
"Increasingly our generation is concerned with the long-term effects of overpopulation on natural resources, and for me, specifically, marine resource management is where successful outcomes will make the greatest impact on the marine environment especially in the Pacific regions where maintaining fishing stock is vital for the societies who are dependant on them for food and their livelihoods," Alice said.
"Our organisation helps manage much of the Pacific's fishing and particularly the commercial tuna fishing in the Pacific which is the largest in the world, and while some key species are still healthy, the Pacific Island nations want to maintain this and our organisation assists with this."
Andrew's expertise is in Forestry management and illegal logging is a significant problem for the government.
He works with the Islands Forestry Ministry in developing systems to ensure that exported and locally supplied timbers are legally sourced.
"It's a developing country. The people are traditionally connected to the land and live simple subsistence lives, and already they see the impacts of uncontrolled logging and fishing, and they're really concerned for their children's future regarding these precious resources," Andrew said.
So what is it like packing up and bringing up a young child in a different culture in a developing country?
"It's great," she said.
"We love it, we moved here when Elliott was one year old, our work is really meaningful for both of us. We have plenty of help, a nice house and it's very safe as we have two security men, which is standard practice for ex pats.
"The Islanders love children and they just love and spoil Elliott."