She never had the opportunity to attend high school, but Nerolyn Silas, a 48 year old single mother of four from Kolobangara in the Western Solomons, has earned herself an internationally recognized certificate in commercial cooking.
Last year Ms Silas attended a six-month commercial cooking course under the Australian Pacific Technical College, APTC, in Vanuatu.
She spent the six months at the Iririki Hotel and Spa.
“I dropped out of school at class six because my parents could not afford to pay my fees. I do not speak English very well, but i was determined to learn when APTC offered me the course. The expatriates i worked with at the resort taught me so many new skills and knowledge.”
For more than ten years, Ms Silas struggled as a single mother.
“It was not easy for me, i worked hard to put my children through school, to buy them food, uniforms, and school fees. Some of my relatives helped me.”
After spending some time at her home village in the Western Province raising her children, she came back to Honiara and joined the Solomon Islands Women in Business Association, SIWIBA.
Ms Silas became involved in several cookery workshops SIWIBA organized and grew her love for cooking.
It was under SIWIBA’s guidance and encouragement, that she applied for training under APTC.
She went to Vanuatu in the first semester of 2017, and graduated at the end of the year.
Gaining new confidence, she created and registered her own catering business ‘Kolei Catering’, assisted by her son David.
David is 27 years old and shared his mother’s love for cooking.
Last year after she completed her course, he chose to attended the same course in Vanuatu.
“After i left school in 2009, I took an IT course”, he told SIBC Online. “But I lost interest in it.”
“Then I went to work at Pizza Pete’s at Kukum for a while, and soon after, I applied for the commercial cooking course at APTC.”
David successfully completed the course in the second semester last year and graduated with a certificate.
“Now I am ready to work anywhere. My dream is to work with an experienced cook, because I want to gain a lot of experience. For now, I will work with my mother.
“I am proud of her. She has made something of herself.”
Last week, the mother and son team facilitated a cookery workshop organised by SIWIBA, for 30 thirty women at the YWCA conference room in Honiara.
The training centered on preparing a simple breakfast menu, with practical exercises on making pizza, potato salad and egg dishes.
One of the participants was Doreen Rex from Tasiboko in North-East Guadalcanal.
“I have a poultry and transport business, and now I learnt about cooking and how I can make it into a business.
“It will contribute to the development of my family and my community.”
Ms Silas encourages women to be strong to face life’s challenges.
“If you are a mother who is weak, you will not survive. I survived because i refused to allow myself to be weak and feel sorry for myself. If we do that, we stress ourselves and we get sick.”
“Being a member of SIWIBA has helped me a lot. I encourage other mothers to learn how to run a business to look after themselves and their family.
“Life continues, you discover new things and you begin new things. Even after forty.”
By: Kikiva Tuni