Inspirational stories of Solomon Islanders
I like the way the Solomon Times on Line is given to writing stories about the lives of ordinary people in the community and a refreshing break from reading of politics
Two real life stories were published in the Solomon Times Online today, Monday, and I would like to share them with you,
Alice is an APTC alumna and one of four women from the Solomon Islands who commenced work in Australia’s aged care sector under the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Alice and her colleagues remain in Australia, working on a 3-year visa.
Alice, 25, from Small Malaita, Solomon Islands, undertook a Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing, Home and Community) (CHC33015) course at APTC in Fiji in 2019 and graduated in February 2020.
Prior to this, Alice completed a Diploma in Community Based Rehabilitation at the Solomon Islands National University (SINU) in 2018.
The Pacific Labour Facility (PLF), in partnership with the Solomon Islands Government, facilitated Alice’s employment in Australia. She is currently one of the first four aged care workers from the Solomon Islands working in Australia.
The PLS provides an opportunity for Pacific Island citizens to earn an income, save money and send income home, allowing them to financially support their community and plan for the future.
Alice is encouraging young women and youth in the Solomon Islands to pursue further education as a way of strengthening skills gained from looking after members of their families and the wider community.
“This field is very important, and I am urging other women and youth to build their passion in the Individual Support course,” Alice said.
“The pace of population ageing around the world is increasing dramatically, and our local communities are no different. This means we need to have sufficient skilled people. This is a real need in the Solomon Islands. I know that our family members and young people have been busy with social activities and jobs, so our old people are alone in our homes.”
Alice described her APTC learning experience as fruitful and interesting, which complemented her learning at SINU. The knowledge and skills gained grew her passion and interest to work with elderly people both in the Solomon Islands and abroad.
“I count myself fortunate to have studied Individual Support in Fiji under the APTC program. It has helped build up my existing knowledge and skills in this field.”
Alice said a particular topic that caught her attention during the course was dementia. Dementia is a syndrome involving deterioration in memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday activities. Although dementia mainly affects older people, it is not a normal part of ageing.
Recalling her experience as a caregiver for her 105-year-old grandfather who had dementia, Alice said this ignited her passion for the APTC course.
She explained that her grandfather experienced issues such as the decline in memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking skills, and it affected his ability to perform everyday activities. It was in her studies with APTC that she came to recognise these as signs of dementia.
She said the important thing is, “We will experience that as old people get older, there will be a few changes with their appearance and attitude, prompting a need for closer attention”.
“For example, my grandfather did not recognise his doctors, daughters and sons, and even asked repeated questions. For us Solomon Islanders, we tend to see these behaviours or signs as mental illness, but they are not”.
“Hence, the Individual Support course is significant to provide care for parents, manage issues of loneliness and isolation. Having a dedicated caregiver like me will support the wellbeing of the elderly in our various communities,” she added.
Alice recognises that the opportunity to work in Australia under the PLS is crucial to widening her skills and experiences in order to support her family and community.
“As an ambassador of the Solomon Islands in my area of work, I am looking forward to performing to the best of my ability. The idea is to pave a positive pathway for others aspiring to join the scheme in the future. This is a win-win situation for my family and my country,” Alice said.
As Australia’s flagship TVET program, APTC has trained over 15,000 Pacific women and men, including more than 1,100 men and 860 women in the Solomon Islands, since its commencement in 2007.
The second enterprising story relates to a youth from Aruligo.
Charles Koria is from Aruligo in North West Guadalcanal. He was just 17 years old when he decided he had enough of school, with little option, and with much reluctance, he decided to help his father breed tilapia.
Fish farming or pisciculture is not that common in the Solomon Islands. Raising tilapia commercially takes time, patience, and hard work.
The Saranga aquaculture tilapia farm is the only such farm in North West Guadalcanal, established few years ago it is now feeding communities nearby.
The farm currently holds close to 20,000 tilapia fish but has the potential to hold a lot more.
“I hated the job when I first started; I had to feed the fish three times a day. I also had to look after the cage, make sure there is no damage,” Charles said.
He says the fish are stocked in cages so that they do not escape. They are artificially fed and harvested when they reach desirable size.
“Now it is a hobby, I really enjoy waking up and working, I no longer feel I am missing out when I do not see my friends.”
Now 19, Charles says he plans to expand the tilapia farm further. He says he knows there are challenges, but he is now experienced enough to handle them.
“Last time during TC Harold we lost most of our fish stock, but that did not stop my willingness to work, we just kept going.”
He says the work is sometimes tough, but it is always satisfying watching the fish grow.
“The hatchery pool is always the most challenging, especially when selecting and transferring to the bigger pool,” Charles said, pointing out some of the bigger fish.
He says the fish farming keeps him busy, and he is not involved in most of the social activities in the community – “but that is ok, I do not feel like I miss out on anything.”
He says what they are doing is sustainable and encourages more people to do the same. He invites people to visit the farm and try some of the fresh tilapia fish at the farm.
The Saranga aquaculture tilapia farm is in Aruligo, North West Guadalcanal.