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Florence Pauku - In her element

Success Stories 28 Apr 2020

From the Malaita province in Solomon Islands to the laboratories at AUT University, Florence Pauku has come a long way.

Born during the ethnic crisis, Florence's parents fled to Malaita as tensions increased but moved back to Honiara where Florence spent the rest of her adolescent and school years. As the eldest of four, Florence says she's learnt a lot from her parents and is grateful for their sacrifices during their country's 'darkest days.'

"My parents are the most hardworking people I know," she says

"My mum in particular will always be my inspiration in life. Growing up I did not understand why she was always strict with my siblings and I. I used to think that she wasn't proud of some of my achievements but I have grown to learn that it's just her approach, she is proud of me but she knows I am capable of achieving more."

"I applaud my parents for raising us in the way they knew best and looking back, I wouldn't have made it this far if it weren't for them."

When asked about her educational journey, Florence noted that she had always been drawn to the world of science.

"I've always been fascinated by science, and how it explains the existence of the things," she says

"I have always been curious and would always look forward to what experiment would be done and the new concept I would learn from it."

"The experiments and concepts is what led me to chemistry. I think it's fascinating that everything around us, including our bodies is made up of chemicals."

Florence also explained that her educational journey has led her to be independent, as she's lived away from her parents not once but twice - attending boarding school in Honiara and studying abroad in Auckland as a New Zealand Aid Scholar. Despite adjusting to a different culture, Florence is proud of all that she's been able to achieve while being here.

"Coming from a developing nation, I did not realise that there was more to learn outside," Florence says

"I have never heard of some of the instruments and equipment that are used in labs before undertaking studies at AUT. However, I am proud that I have not only acquired knowledge related to my studies, but I was also able to get real life working experience thanks to Pacific Cooperation Foundation."

Through the PCF Summer Internship programme, Florence interned at Watercare Services Limited - a council-controlled organisation that provides reliable water and wastewater services for the entire Auckland region.

"While at Watercare, I had the opportunity to work both in the office and off-site."

"During the site visits, I was able to go to the Huia and Ardmore water treatment plants and to a waste management area in East Tamaki. The water treatment plant is where the water gets treated which then undergoes a number of processes before being supplied to be used."

"The waster tour on the hand gave me a chance to see how the waste water in Auckland that comes from businesses and houses are environmentally safe before being disposed."

"It's been an amazing opportunity to see concepts that I have learnt being put to practice."

As Florence gears up to complete her third and final year, she looks forward to returning home where she'd like to tackle issues such as climate change, youth unemployment and crime.

"Solomon Islands is faced with a lot of challenges but the most important one which I feel is a threat not only on a national-scale but on a regional level is climate change."

"Climate change is taking away people's homes, it is limiting people’s access to clean water, causing scarcity of food, but most importantly taking away their culture and their identity. Climate change is one of the areas which lacks research in the Solomon Islands, as there are no scientific papers or data available that can be used to show that these effects are actually caused by climate change."

"Therefore I want to be able to contribute positively in this area, to engage in research to better understand and be able to propose measures and solutions to address these effects."

In addition to this, Florence revealed that she hopes her contributions to her home country's development as a qualified scientist will spark a 'chain reaction' for the next generation to consider a future in the science field and make a difference within the Solomon Islands.

Image: Florence Pauku (sitting front row, second from left) with other Watercare interns