Special Center Soon to Complete in Radefasu
The Malaita Special Center, a center aimed to provide services for people with disabilities will soon be completed in Radefasu, Malaita Province.
With a hope that people with disabilities can receive equal services just as everyone else, founder 65-year-old Mrs. Catherine Saloa Anilafa told SIBC News that the center has been a longtime dream for her since working with the Special Development Centre.
A familiar face within Special Education in the country, Mrs. Anilafa is one of the pioneers of the Solomon Islands Red Cross Society (SIRCS) Special Development Learning Centre in Solomon Islands.
Having retired from SIRCS in 2014, Mrs. Anilafa said her dream to provide a place for people with disabilities in the provinces did not stop and this led her to establish the center.
“It was a longtime dream of mine. During the time I spent with the Special Development Learning Centre I usually go out and do awareness in provinces, especially in Malaita and I have seen a lot of children with disabilities which motivated me to do something about it.
This was way back in 2005 and it was until after being retired in 2019 that I was fortunate to have people who had the heart to support me, and that is when I started building the center for Malaita.”
Mrs. Anilafa said she aims to encourage other provinces to recognize the need of building such centers as a means of extending services for disabled people to the provinces.
“The services we currently have for disabled children and people with disabilities are based only in Honiara which are the Special Center, Bethesda, and San Isidro and how I see it, these services are not going out of Honiara.
So, I am building this center for Malaita Province to be an example for other provinces to have their own centers, so that services can be provided equally and properly to other provinces as well. By doing this, we are also putting into action the words ‘Leave No one Behind’ as we leave no one behind in terms of services being provided. It is not an easy task but I am sharing this so we can think strongly about establishing such centers in all our provinces.”
With four years now into construction, the center is almost complete with a few finishing touches needed. Mrs. Anilafa said she now faces the challenge of completing it with not enough funds.
“My friend from Bundaberg, Lloyd, has been supporting me since 2019 for the center. He heard about my dream to build the center and he was so willing to help that he even got his friends to support in building the center. It is now nearing completion but due to lack of funds work has been slow.”
“It is quite difficult to appeal for people, especially in Malaita to help and I think it’s important to know that this center is not my own. I built it because I have the heart and desire to see that all disabled people are not left out. So, I am asking people out there who would be willing to help that any form of help or support towards the center would be appreciated.”
With a wealth of experience in Special Education in the country, Mrs. Anilafa further emphasized on the importance of understanding the needs of people with disabilities.
“It is important for people to understand that disability is not only something that you are born with but something you can encounter along the way. For example, as you grow older you could lose your eyesight, or you may need a walking stick or a wheelchair. It is not something that we ask but it will come at any time. So, disability as we know does not only happen to children but also to old people, so this center will cater for both the young and the old.”
“When I left the beautiful service that I have had all these years with special education, I saw that there is not enough support for people with disabilities. And that is why I believe services need to be equally shared with people with disabilities. Sometimes we forget that they are also part of the society and sometimes we find it hard in life, but just imagine how it would be for them. They deserve to access services just like us.”
Being the first Solomon Islander to attend Monash University, Australia in the 80’s and gaining qualifications in Special Education and Audiology, Mrs. Anilafa is also an Audiologist by profession.
Although retired, she still receives a lot of requests from people to examine them.
“People usually come up to me and say, I have problems with my ear. Can you examine it? I’ll smile and tell them that I’d be glad to, but I don’t have the equipment with me.”
“So, I am hoping that upon completion, the center could also have an ENT Clinic where I can provide such services to the people.”
The Malaita Special Centre once completed will be the first provincial center for people with disabilities in Malaita Province.
By Eliza Kukutu