BY TAVAKE SIMON HANA’AROA
AFTER realizing being incompetent to go further in high school education, Jimmy Freeman found himself roaming the streets of Honiara to seek his comfort through drugs and alcohol.
But his street life, unfortunately, reached a dead-end when the Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) offered him a training scholarship.
APTC’s quick response to Jimmy’s applications gave him a second chance in life. He was again being welcomed into the community and once again become a useful person in society.
On Wednesday 26th of February, Jimmy in his 20s from Akwe village in Northwest Mbaelela, Malaita province was among the 106 graduates in the country and 15,000 graduates around the region who had graduated from APTC.
Freeman, the former street boy successfully attained his certificate III in ‘Painting and Decorating.’ The qualification obtained from APTC’s ‘Painting and Decorating’ course, will equip him with the knowledge and skills to undertake architectural painting – a form of genre painting where the predominant focus lies in architecture, both outdoors views and interiors of buildings.
His areas of painting specialization also involve the commercial and industrial sectors of the construction industry, which are based on the preservation of industrial structure against corrosive elements and environments attacking steel structures such as bridges, warehouses, and wharves.
For young Freeman, his recognition and achievements is an honor, especially to receive his certificate as it would help him to seek formal employment and contributing to the country’s economy.
Before all this happened, this is how it all started.
It was during his regular busy schedules (in one particular afternoon) when he came across APTC’s headquarter at the Town Ground area in Honiara.
Out of curiosity, Jimmy said he went inside and inquire about the organization. It was that one approach that changed his life forever.
“I was roaming around Honiara when I came across the APTC at Town Ground.
“So I went inside and inquire about it and later took home the relevant information about the study programs and application forms offered by an APTC staff.
“That is how I ended up at APTC,” the former street boy said.
Before being on the street, Freeman attained his high school education at the Naha Community High School in Honiara.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t manage to finish his form 5 (grade 11), so he went on to do his upgrading courses at the University of the South Pacific Honiara Campus (USPSI).
From peer pressure and other anti-social activities, poor Jimmy failed miserably.
“I did not manage to complete my form five at Naha Community High, so I went to USP to do upgrading but I only pass English.
“For Maths, I got ‘F’ grade as a result of not studying due to the heavy influences from my friends,” he said.
Jimmy’s life on the streets was a memory that he could not easily erased from his mind.
“On the street, I involved in consuming drugs and alcohol.
“I joined other boys my age doing illegal activities, causing a public nuisance and other anti-social behaviors.
“We would then imagined ourselves as gangsters from Los Angeles (United States of America),” Jimmy recalled with a smile.
From high school to USP, and he later joined the Youth@Work internship program, but that did not change him.
“After I failed at the USP, I manage to join the Youth@Work program.
“I ended up doing my internship at ZFM radio station.
“After my internship period was done, I found myself on the street again. It was this time that I did manage to locate APTC’s office,” he emotionally recalled.
Being with APTC, he went over to Fiji to undertake his study program for six months in 2019 (last year).
“I want to give every glory and honor back to God for my success because it was through HIS grace and mercy that I was able to find this amazing program that will change my life forever.
“With this success, I prayed that God will provide a job for me so that I can give back to my community and also contribute to the economy of this country,” he said.
Jimmy’s mother, Jenny Rita also witnessed his son’s milestone achievement during the APTC graduation event held at the Heritage Park Hotel.
Rita was very supportive during his son’s darkest moments and she never gave up hope for his son to have a better future.
According to Rita, Jimmy is a strong boy.
“Jimmy has a strong character of not to give up easily on things he sees best for him. He is a willing kid, he struggles through life to search for what he thinks is best for him,” Jimmy’s mother said.
Rita thanked APTC for giving his son another chance in life through the training scholarship that would help him to have a better future.
“I am very happy for him when he entered APTC training in Fiji.
“APTC is a program that helps my son to have a better future so he can help me when I reach my old age. His graduation is a joyous moment for me as I witnessed my son receiving his certificate of achievement.
“As a mother, I’m very happy for my son’s achievement and I would like to thank APTC from the bottom of my heart for helping my son reach this far.
“This is a big achievement for him and I am now a proud mother,” Jimmy’s mother said.
APTC over the years has shaped the lives of the many young people around the Pacific region like Jimmy Freeman. The institution has the reputation to equipped Solomon Islanders with the ability to serve as leaders and role models in their families and communities in the country.