My name is Ben Esibaea, I am 18 years old. I’m deaf.
Photographer: Greg Low, Solomon Islands
When I was a little boy, I didn’t know sign language. I learnt sign language when I was five years old. I remember the first time was hard, but the teachers helped me. Some volunteers from Australia came and taught A, B, C, then I started to learn about numbers, the basic sign language; Good Morning, Good Evening, Good Night. The first time it was hard for me to communicate; I had to learn and know to communicate.
My Mummy knows sign language, my Daddy knows little bit. My family knows sign language just a little bit. On Sunday we go to church but there is no interpreter.
In the big school, there was no one to translate into sign language so it was very hard to understand what people said. We just followed the other students: work and play and do things in school.
Mummy and Daddy would always wonder what I shall do for my future. I stayed lonely because I had nothing to do because I’m deaf, just walking with nothing to do. I’ve been here for four years, training and doing agriculture work, woodwork and learning about building. Agriculture is my favourite. When I came here I learnt a lot and I got an idea to do things for my future. I am very happy to come here.
And at the end of this year, November 14th, with another three boys we will graduate, I will have completed my four years training and I will go home, and look for a job to help me or working in the garden or do agriculture or do poultry raising. What I trained here, I will go back and help my family and myself.
Because I’m deaf, sometimes people treat me bad, sometimes there are activities in the villages like games but I am not included, they say it is only for normal people so I just stay back and watch. So it is difficult. Sometimes people treat me as though I don’t know anything or neglecting me. Sometimes communities and villages will say come join in good activities – but only for other people but not for young people with disability – young people with disabilities just stay lonely, like they don’t know anything.
It is a big problem in the Solomon Islands for us people with disabilities, we are unseen, forgotten and people don’t treat us right. We are often not involved in things. It is better for them to accept us and love us and welcome us and be kind to us.