Project Compassion 2021: Margaret’s Story: Be more in education

25 Feb 2021

By Contributor

Margaret's Profile Picture.
Margaret, 39, is a teacher at a vocational school for deaf students in the Solomon Islands. Photo: Caritas Australia

Inspired by the words of St Oscar Romero, Caritas Australia helps individuals empower their community despite the challenges they are facing.

Margaret, 39, is a teacher at a vocational school for deaf students in the Solomon Islands. Having been born deaf herself, she knows the challenges that this poses to education and employment.

She enjoys teaching students practical life skills that will help them earn a living. However, the school faced water shortages for about half the year.

Staff and students would walk for up to half an hour to collect water for drinking, cooking, washing and growing vegetables.

When Tropical Cyclone Harold struck in April 2020, the school buildings and its vegetable garden were damaged, while the threat of COVID-19 loomed. 

With Caritas Australia’s support, Margret’s school installed water tanks, repaired school property, and help prevent the spread of Coronavirus.

As a result, the school can maintain its water supply for drinking, cooking and washing.

It’s also boosting food security by increasing its agricultural production to build resilience in the face of future disasters.

Although the Solomon Islands is a nation surrounded by water, it still experiences drought and water shortages. Around 40 per cent of people in rural areas in the Solomon Islands don’t have access to even basic drinking water supplies, leading to the spread of infectious diseases like cholera and typhoid.

“Water is always available now for drinking, washing, bathing, gardening,” Margret said.

“Unlike before, when we had to go 25 minutes away to collect water during the dry season. “Water is so important for our life, our music and culture.”

Caritas Australia helped with repairs after Cyclone Harold damaged the school and vegetable gardens and during the Coronovirus crisis it also helped the school to raise awareness about COVID-19 prevention measures, including how to install makeshift ‘tippy taps’ outside classrooms to ensure students washed their hands. Photo: Neil Nuia/Caritas Australia.

Margret says her early childhood was difficult until she learnt sign language at the age of seven.

“I faced discrimination. My needs felt neglected, and I felt excluded from the community,” Margret said.

“[But after I learnt sign language], I could communicate with my other deaf friends. It reduced my frustrations and made me feel more confident and happy.”

As she grew older, she was keen to share her knowledge with others. She studied life skills and home economics before attending a teacher’s college.

In 2009, Margret started working at the San Isidro Care Centre, a vocational school for deaf and non-verbal students. The live-in school in Guadalcanal province is the only educational facility of its kind in the Solomon Islands and aims to equip students with the skills to make a living.

Margret at the San Isidro Care Centre in Guadalcanal province, Solomon Islands, October 2020. Margret (39) is married with one daughter called Mary (2) and she teaches sign language and life skills, like sewing, cooking, nutrition, hygiene and hospitality to teen and adult students at the San Isidro Care Centre vocational school for deaf and mute students. Photo: Neil Nuia/Caritas Australia.

Margret is now married with a two-year-old daughter and teaches sign language and life skills like sewing, cooking, nutrition, hygiene and hospitality to teens and adults. Some of her students have never been to school before.

“I am proud that our school community works together with Caritas Australia as our partner in ensuring that we live in a healthier environment,” Margret said.

“Thank you very much, Caritas Australia. Thank you very much, Project Compassion.”

Please help support schools like Margret’s and help bring greater opportunities to people living with disabilities.

To donate to Project Compassion, visit Caritas Australia’s website: or call 1800 024 413.