Please consider this letter.
Concern and the need for help to those in society who are handicapped and requiring justice and their human rights
Writing in the Solomon Times on Line today, Friday, Ms Georgina Kekea, tells the rather upsetting story of Susie who, when seven years old, was attacked by a shark and lost a limb as a result.
Georgina’s account of Susie’s life to adulthood handicapped with her disability should make us all think about the infirmity woes that affect so many disabled people in the Solomon Islands today, men, women, young and old.
A workshop on ‘Access to Justice’ was conducted in Honiara very recently and the reaction that followed the details of the workshop in the Solomon Star prompted a quick response from the Association of Persons with Disability in the Solomon Islands saying what had been raised and discussed at the workshop was of serious concern to all the members of the Association and citing accessing public infrastructure and justice systems and the stigma towards disability many still suffer.
For many years already it has been my passion to aid those with disabilities and some success was achieved with acquiring walking aids, wheel chairs and over 6,000 pairs of spectacles which were acquired through my partner charity ‘Take My Hands’ and Lions Clubs in New Zealand.
Most recently 300 crutches have been purchased with a generous donation from the Solomon Islands Forest Association (SFA) and the container with the crutches is expected to arrive in Honiara on 23 April, having been held-up by quarantine regulations being enforced at the port from where the container will leave.
The crutches, on arrival, will be delivered to the National Referral Hospital (NRH) for patients and ex-patients that have had surgery for the amputation of a lower limb. There are known to be over 400 awaiting the crutches.
The workshop that was previously used at the NRH for the manufacture of prosthetic (artificial) limbs has been demolished and currently no work is being done to make prosthetics despite the fact that three Solomon Islanders were sent overseas for training in making artificial limbs and I understand are awaiting re-employment at the NRH, subject to a new workshop being built or donated.
I have written on several occasions to the Medical Superintendent at the NRH and told Dr Hue of the work I have been doing to try and get a shipping container fitted out as a workshop at the NRH. I have also been in touch with manufacturers able to convert shipping containers to the specifications Dr Hue has expressed interest in acquiring.
On my website www.solomoinislandsinfocus.com I have detailed the workshop conversation needed and am hopeful because of the international reach of the website there might still be some charitable organization or engineering company willing to gift such a container/workshop to the NRH.
Building access for those with walking impediments remains a real and everyday issue in Honiara affecting those that go to work or those needing to buy groceries or visit a bank and I am not aware, despite writing of the concerns, anything has yet been done to give access to premises for the physically handicapped.
The ‘Access to Justice’ workshop should serve as the agent for change for the disabled community and it is my hope that changes for the better will follow and soon.
I would like to end by mentioning I have been communicating with a former expatriate teacher of sign language for the deaf. This person previously worked in Samoa and in the Solomon Islands aiding the deaf communities in both countries. He is keen to return to the Solomon Islands to once more give help and instruction to the local deaf community. He tells me he would only require a place to stay and a basic allowance to enable him to pay for his keep and to buy essentials.
Perhaps someone wishing to see the return of the volunteer could get in touch with me via the link on my website and I could then pass on the details or offer to the volunteer resident in Australia.