Thursday, February 9, 2012

Out of the Great Silence

When I hear the name Solomon Islands, beautiful imagery of white sandy beaches, blue skies, and coconut palms lining the shores fill my mind.  Paradise untouched 

However for many people living on the island, it is certainly no paradise.  The reality is that the country is very poor, and for the disabled it is very hard to eke out a living.  There is no government support for these people and therefore they are reliant on international aid for education, health and other resources.

Many of these people are profoundly or totally Deaf.  It is possibly genetic, but much more likely to be caused by Malaria.  There is no medical intervention, as it’s a developing country with only limited health resources.  The number of Deaf people is unknown due to country being made up of thousands of islands,  many of them are very isolated.  We do know the ratio of Deaf is very high but there are no statistics to verify it.  There are no known programmes to help prevent further deafness.

The San Isidro Centre located outside Honiara, educates Deaf and disabled young people from the ages of 14 and over, over a duration of three years.  Courses such as English, Maths, Business, Sign Language, Agriculture, Life skills, Carpentry, Woodwork, and Practical Trade and Skills are offered.

The centre also advocates for basic human rights for people with disabilities and empowers the disabled through training of these basic academic and skilled subjects, of which they were deprived because of their disabilities.

Their vision is to change social attitude towards people with disabilities, in allowing them the same dignity and right to a decent living as anyone else.  The courses ensure they can become co-developers in society, rather than being marginalised and neglected.

The centre was started in 2007 by Brother George.  At that time temporary buildings were made from local materials.  Today it has three permanent staff houses, one industrial workshop and a dormitory for girls.

Brent Macpherson from Stretch Productions heard about the centre when he met an interpreter from Wellington who had worked there as a volunteer.  He had always wanted to do a documentary about Deaf Aborigines, but it was too difficult to access these people in Outback Australia and the plan went on the backburner.  When he heard about the Deaf Villagers in the Solomon Islands, he thought it was a great opportunity for a documentary, so went to visit them in June and October 2011.

The two trips were to learn about the Solomon Islands culture and their way of life, but more importantly to gain their trust to produce a documentary.   It was a great opportunity to learn about the village and centre and to find out their needs.

Brent feels that the San Isidro Care Centre will eventually become a Deaf Community, as there are now six ex-students living at the Centre permanently.  Many will choose to stay, simply because of the ease in being able to communicate with each other in comparison to their own villages.  Some of these students arrive at the village with no language at all after years of not being able to hear in their own isolated communities.  They usually arrive at the Care by 'word of mouth', however, in many cases it is simply too late. For Deaf people, it is so important to have access to education when they are young.

Brent plans to produce a documentary to raise the awareness of the Deaf in the Solomon Islands, highlighting the needs of the San Isidro Care Centre.  All proceeds from the documentary will go back to the Centre to fund much needed resources for the Deaf.  Right now, the centre needs more dormitories built, especially for boys, a proper kitchen or dining hall, a chapel, better equipped classrooms and a school bus.  They also need trained teachers of the Deaf, and qualified interpreters.

The documentary shoot is planned for May/June 2012.  $80,000 NZD needs to be raised for  the project to go ahead.  All monies from the sale of the Documentary and DVDs will go straight back to the San Isidro Care Centre.  He has full support from the National Foundation of the Deaf.  (NFD)

If you're interesting in knowing more, a short video has been produced.  You can view it here.

Click on this to view Video.

If you would like to donate to this worthy project, please click on the donate button below.  On the second page of donations, please use the drop down menu to select Solomon Islands to make sure the money goes to the correct project.

Every little bit helps!


Anonymous said...

Are you going to try to implant all these people or give them the visual language of signs or do they already have that?

Robyn said...

When the islanders reach the San Idris centre, they often have no language at all. They are taught sign language and lifeskills when the arrive to the centre. There is no way these people could be eligible for a cochlear implant, so the short answer to your question is: No. Even if they were eligible for cochlear implants, there is simply not the structure set up in the Solomons to make that successful, so it would never be an option.

honeymoon bed breakfast said...

It is really an awesome place. You all must have enjoyed the journey.