Looking for the camp to change a life in San Isidro, West Guadalcanal

A bus conductor instructs on one of the buses of Honiara

Sometimes the journey is half the adventure, as SIBC reporter Kikiva Tuni found out on her way to San Isidro for a camp for deaf and mute students and children with parents in jail.  

It was set to be my second camp in a long time – and I was looking forward to it.

I’d been on two church missions last year, where I climbed mountains, crossed rivers, explored the seas of Honiara in an outboard motor canoe and slept on coconut leaves on the ground using my basket of clothes as my pillow.

This camp was set to be my next adventure. And it was going to be different.

Just the word “camp” was the first difference I guess, but more than that it was for kids whose parents are in jail and for the deaf and mute students of the San Isidro Care centre at Aruligo, West Honiara.

So came late Friday afternoon and I was in a rush, my head spinning about where I could get a public bus to the San Isidro centre where the camp was held. It was funny. I have lived in Honiara for more than thirty years and yet I had no idea where I can take the bus to Aruligo.

My friend and colleague Nilorier was with me to see me off. That was some comfort.

After some searching from the ITA Hardware opposite the central market to the All Saints Church area at Point Cruz, I was told “to go to Aruligo, you should go to the Whiter River, 02 bus stop”.

It was getting late and my head was spinning again from excitement and apprehension at the same time. I was thinking “am I really doing this? Am I really going on my own to Aruligo on a bus which will probably be filled with the landowners of West Guadalcanal? What if there was an accident? What if the passengers were all drunk?”

I took the bus to White River, wrong stop again. I went to the Savo bus stop instead of the 02 Bus stop where the buses to Aruligo were. The bus driver kindly turned the bus around at the 02 bus stop.

A young boy about the age of 12 yelled “Aruligo , Aruligo, two last spaces!”

I said “I am going to the San Isidro Care centre at Aruligo”. I repeated it two times just to be sure the young man heard me right.

He said “yes, go inside”. There was an empty space right at the back between two large men. I sank down between them trying not to look scared.

The final passengers got in and after a brief stop at the refilling station, we started the trip down the West side. I looked at my watch, it was exactly 6pm. I sat back and smiled to myself, my adventure had began.

I’ve never been to the San Isidro Care centre, and I hadn’t gone down West side since September last year. It was getting dark and I was in a bus with a bunch of people who knew where they were  going, and seemed perfectly comfortable.

It was getting dark on the outskirts of Honiara…

And there I was scrunched between these two big guys, my heart beating, my thoughts running and smiling to myself like crazy.

I was the last one to drop. There was only me, the bus driver, the bus conductor and another young boy. The driver looked back at me and asked “do you know where the San Isidro Care centre is?”

I felt very foolish as I answered “no.”

He said “you should have come during the day. It’s dark now and you will have to walk about five minutes before you reach the centre.” I looked out, yes it was dark. And Brother George Van de Zant, who runs the centre, was robbed and stabbed a couple of years back by burglars. I firmly pushed the thought away.

The young conductor was very understanding and said “let’s go drop off this sister. She doesn’t know where she’s going”. He was putting everything in perspective.

He asked “do you have a torch?” I replied that I will use the torch on my phone.

Two minutes later we stopped. There I could make out a white sign board saying ‘San Isidro Care centre.’

The driver said “Just walk straight down the road. The centre is right at the end.”

I got out, trying to look confident and thanked them. It was quarter to seven.

I looked back just once when I heard the bus’s engine as it took off. Then I was all alone with the night creatures and goodness knows what else. The fireflies were quite big too, swooping in and out between the trees.

I took a deep breathe and began the walk straight down. I will not lie, I have a very big imagination. And I am scared of the dark. My family knows that, my close friends know that.

But I was so determined to get to the camp. No turning back now, I’ve come this far.

I whispered a prayer, my second one, asking God to seal me with the blood of Jesus. It’s not only because that’s what Christians do, but because I am a firm believer in the power of the blood of Jesus. I also whispered Ephesians 6:14-17.

So stand ready, with truth as a belt around your waist. With righteousness as your breastplate. And as your shoes the readiness to announce the good news of peace. 

I focused my thoughts on the road ahead, looking neither left nor right.

And yes, about five minutes later I saw the lights of the centre shining out in the dark. I had arrived, yes! I had arrived!

 

It was a wonderful feeling of relief! The lights were so welcoming they seem to say “come on, we’re over here”. I was smiling again, my heart was light. I had reached the camp.

The next two days were simply amazing. The children had a great time. Everyone did their best to make them happy.

The camp concluded on Sunday with a big lunch of chicken and beef followed by ice-cream.

For me, half the journey was just getting there. And the details of the camp itself, being a spiritual experience, was something I want to keep between me and the people there.

I’m already thinking of the next camp – but this time I’ll make sure I know where the bus stop is.

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