Australian High Commission
Solomon Islands

Australian Volunteer rolls out Disability Inclusiveness Training

9 May 2016

Australian Volunteer rolls out Disability Inclusiveness Training

There are shrieks of laughter as students skip using a long rope.  Others are engaged in a game of table tennis, while another group are working together to use a spinning top, following instructions given by Susan Larsen, an Australian volunteer.  The students are impressed with their efforts when they make the spinning tops turn continuously for two minutes.  Having a disability is not holding back any of the students from learning new skills and enjoying themselves in the process.

This is Susan’s seventh year of living and working in Solomon Islands as an Australian volunteer.  Susan’s current assignment is funded by the Australian Government’s Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program. 

“Seeing the pleasure students with disabilities gain by participating in activities, like these games, and observing their growth in confidence and skills through training is what keeps bringing me back to Solomon Islands,” Susan said.

The students are attending a 20-week practical skills course covering organic gardening, poultry, carpentry, sewing, arts, nutrition, health education, Christian education and business studies at Bethesda Disability Training and Support Centre in Henderson, Guadalcanal. The Centre was established in 2010 under the SSEC Education Authority, as a residential Rural Training Centre to cater specifically for adults with disabilities. 

Observing the sense of achievement the students gain as they develop new skills is what motivates the teachers at Bethesda Disability Centre.  In her role as a Vocational Teacher Trainer (Disability Inclusiveness) Susan supports the teachers at Bethesda.

“It’s rewarding professionally to work alongside staff and students at a grassroots level, to assist them to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.” Susan said.

In her current assignment, Susan is developing a training manual, and conducting workshops with the teachers, to support them to ensure inclusiveness of students with disabilities. 

 “The training is aimed at equipping teachers to understand different disabilities and develop skills to tailor their teaching to meet the needs of each student,” says Gideon Row, Principal, in the Ministry of Education’s Inclusive Education Task Force.  "Different methods are used to ensure learning is effective and provides practical skills that make an impact, such as raised garden beds and nursery areas for access for students with mobility limitations,” Gideon said.

Susan previously worked as a Community Occupational Therapist in New Zealand and Australia, assisting people with disabilities to be independent within their community and home environment. 

Susan said, “Since I have been in Solomons, it has been a privilege to participate in village life in various provinces, and this has helped me to make my work relevant to the local situation – for both students and teachers.”