Sugar Gliders are native to the Solomon Islands and their population there is thriving, according to Sr. Therese Chaloux, a Marist Missionary nun who has served in the Solomon Islands for the past 55 years.
The Solomon Islands are a chain of over 1000 islands in the South Pacific, near New Guinea. The closest continent to the Solomon Islands is Australia, which is about 3000 miles away. Over 100 islands are inhabited, some of which are quite small. There are over 80 language dialects used in the Solomon Islands. Pictured above is the island of Guadalcanal. It is an island that is made up of volcanic mountains and rain forest jungles that are so thick most of the natives live along the coastline of the island. Travel from one village to another is done mainly by canoes in the Pacific Ocean or by walking through the jungle along very narrow paths. The forest grows so quickly, that the paths have to be cleared with a machete each time they are traveled.
Sr. Therese hiking through the jungle on Guadalcanal
in July, 2003
Beautiful flowers grow in abundance in the Solomon Islands.
Is it any wonder that Sugar Gliders are thriving there?
A Mission of Love
For the past 55 years, Sr. Therese Chaloux, a Marist Missionary nun, has dedicated her life to serving the native people of the Solomon Islands. She has served in many capacities, from being a teacher of elementary school students, to being the only provider of greatly needed medical services in remote villages. Currently, she is teaching "the king's English" to pre-seminary students in the capital of Honiara. However, the natives still come to her for medical treatment.
Sr. Therese (and her brother Pierre) teaching pre-seminary students in July, 2003
In 1954, when Sr. Therese was first told that she would be going to serve in the Solomon Islands, she was told that she would never be able to return to the United States. She left her parents and 8 siblings in New Hampshire to make the long voyage across the Pacific Ocean believing that she would never see them again.
During Vatican II, it was decided that the policy of never going home again was not fair to the missionaries' families. Therefore, in 1972, Sr. Therese went to Italy for awhile to visit her brother Pierre and his family (including myself), who were living in Rome at the time. After living with us for several months, Sr. Therese went to France for her second novitiate. While she was in France, our family was moved back to Washington D.C., so in January of 1973, she came to Washington D.C. and again lived with us for several months while she attended the Catholic University of America and studied catechetics. Upon her return to the Solomon Islands, she resumed her mission with the natives, and was named Regional Superior.
Throughout her years there, she has been called upon many times to take care of the natives' health needs. She has given innoculations against diseases. She has treated various illnesses. She has given stitches to natives who have gotten cut. She has set broken bones. She has even done surgery when necessary. Once she sewed a man's arm back on after it was cut off in a major accident. After he healed, he was able to resume full use of his arm and hand. When asked how she was able to do this with no medical training, she said that she simply looked at the two pieces and matched up the tissues, veins, arteries, etc. and stitched it back together the best that she could. She said that between her limited abilities and God's grace, the man was able to be healed.
In 2004, Sr. Therese celebrated her 50th Jubilee as a nun. After serving the natives of the Solomon Islands for 55 years, Sr. Therese retired and returned to the States on July 14, 2009.
Helping Sr. Therese with her mission
One of Sr. Therese's limitations in the Solomon Islands is the limited availability of medical supplies. When she came to the United States on sabatical in 2002, she gave us a list of the supplies that are sorely needed, but very difficult to get. On that list are many items that we take for granted here in the U.S., including band-aids, antibiotic ointment, toilet paper, Tylenol, vitamins and rubbing alcohol. When asked how she has managed without these staples over the years, she says that they simply make do with whatever they have, but that it would certainly be easier if they had the right supplies.
Consequently, during the summer of 2002, through the efforts of Zoe Enyedy (my mother-in-law) and myself, donations were collected, medical supplies were purchased with the donations and then were shipped to Sr. Therese in the Solomon Islands for use in her clinic there. Needless to say, she has since used these supplies up and was in need of more supplies to replenish her stock. Therefore, during the summer of 2004, donations were once again collected by myself & more supplies were purchased and sent to Sr. Therese. Although the supplies were mailed out in August, 2004, Sr. Therese did not receive them until March, 2005. Here is most of the contents of her letters to me about the receipt of these supplies: [*Please note that bracketed, italicized comments are editorial notes by me.]
**Note that Sr. Therese has retired and returned to the States on July 14, 2009. Therefore, we are no longer continuing the effort to collect supplies to send to her in the Solomons.
March 3, 2005
Never give up hope! The other day I had gone to town with the seminarians to do some shopping for the community and for the seminary. Then I said to Father Ivicha, "Could we just go to the Regional House at Rove to see if there is any mail for us?" "Certainly! Two or three letters won't take too long to pick up."
Our Regional House is on the western side of Honiara and we are on the East. When I arrived at Rove (the Regional House) Sister Colleen said, "Come and see what I picked up at the Post Office for you this morning." The two boxes [please note that I actually mailed out three boxes but she didn't receive the third box until later in the month] you had posted in August were there plus another box and the letters. Our truck was already loaded with seminarians sitting on top of the cargo, but only in the Solomons would you get people to say, "Bring them along. We still have plenty of room here." On the way home, we still had ten boxes of photo-copying paper to pick up. We arrived back at the seminary with everyone carrying at least one box on their lap plus the boys in the back end of the truck were sitting and balancing the cargo in the back. When we got to the house, Fr. Ivicha said to the boys, "I think you'd better help sister to get her two or three letters up those stairs to her house."
That evening, Sr. Luise and I had a grand time unpacking the boxes. The shirts and the underpants [these were gently-used items that were donated by a family whose uncle had recently passed away] have already made a few people happy and some of the shirts I will send to the senior sisters in Visale as they are always in need of shirts to wear under their habits. They are especially good to wear under the habit when you are working outside as they absorb a lot of perspiration. The pads for the beds and the underpads will also be sent to the senior sisters as they have three bedridden sisters. The first sister professed in the local congregation is still alive. She is 96 years old and though bedridden, has quite a clear mind if it interests her.
Of course, the seminarians saw the boxes and immediately began to ask for vitamins. Last year and the year before I gave them vitamins as they always seemed to be coming down with colds, boils, etc. and the vitamins seemed to help them to keep healthy as after they started drinking them, they realized that they not only no longer were getting the flu and boils but they had a lot more energy. They asked if they could have some more vitamins if I had received any in the boxes. All in all the boxes have been here less than a week and have made many people happy, including our community. People would think we were crazy to be so happy about toilet paper, but that was the first thing Sr. Luise said, "Look! Proper toilet paper and TOWELS!" I knew that you had said you had put some in so though I was not surprised, I was happy to see it. The towels will certainly make it more pleasant when we have visitors especially. It is nice to be able to set out a towel that does its work instead of an imitation that spreads the water around but doesn't absorb a drop of it. I do not know the cost of baby powder in America but those four containers would be unobtainable in the Solomons. The smallest container [sample size] would cost you $10.00 [Solomon Island Dollars] if you're lucky.
Of course, there are other things which will take care of many people for a long time to come but I will share some of these with the local sisters as they, too, are happy to have them. The medicine will be used both for the seminarians and our students at Nazareth Apostolic Centre and the families living there who work for the mission. We have one family living here at the seminary as caretakers - the husband looks after all the landscaping and practical work and often helps us when the plumbing, electricity, etc. goes kaput, so I asked him to bring his family over and to take some things for themselves. They were very happy and want to thank you for sending the two big boxes.
I thank you for the time and the energy also that was put into the packing and collecting all these articles for posting. That certainly must have taken plenty of time and energy. I do not know all of those who contributed to this but I am grateful to all of you for the generous help you have given. Was this the results of the party you held in my honor in August? If it is, I didn't get to eat any of the tropical fruit and goodies but I certainly shared abundantly in the benefits. God grant you all the blessings you need for the days ahead.
Our road to town is now impassable with a car. Trucks can still go but I wonder how long that will be possible. There is a section of the road which is known as the roller coaster. It has bumps and dips in it so that when you try to get over it you must twist and turn and pray that you will miss any of the high spots. Up until three weeks, it was possible to maneuver with the car but the dips and bumps are just a bit more than our little mini-car will handle at this point so we try to get in with the seminary trucks for shopping. It means you have to wait for an opportunity to go to town and you had better buy what you need for a couple of weeks. Of course, when I was in Tangarare [the mission on the other side of Guadalcanal that is only accessible via motorboat on the ocean], we had to buy for the month ahead and we didn't find that a problem so I'm sure we will manage with this as soon as we get a system so that the mail goes in and someone picks up the mail regularly.
Love & prayers, [Sr.] Therese
Along the road to Honiara in July, 2003
2nd letter dated March 13, 2005:
So far I have been lucky in getting my mail though, of course, you have to develop patience as there is not time in the Solomons. There are only five SMSM sisters left in the Solomons now and only three of us working for stipends. The last box of goodies which you sent had just arrived so I shared all my wealth with them. All in all it was a very pleasant time for all. Having received the two large parcels, I thought that was it. I was pleasantly [surprised] when this one also arrived with all the soap, briefs, etc. Both Sisters Maureen and Colleen were suffering from chapped lips and so grabbed the tubes of ointment. Having opened this box at Rove with all the community present, I am not sure of all the contents because everyone wanted different things from the parcel and I was able to be in a position to satisfy some of their needs. I'm sure just seeing the pleasure you gave all these sisters would have been enough to make you happy for having sent the parcel.
I did not give all of it away. They were quite generous in allowing me to keep what I really wanted. I was thinking also of Sr. Sanele who lives in Visale and I thought she will want some of the things also though I did make a box for her from the first two parcels when they arrived. Christmas is any time we receive our gifts. I seem to be having a lot of Christmas celebrations. Thanks a million for everything you put in the parcel, as well as the packing and mailing. Customs did not open the parcel so I did not have to pay any duty on any of the parcels. Most of the time they are quite generous as they see that many of the things in the parcel are for their own people and having been very short of medical supplies at the clinics, they don't want to discourage people from receiving this extra help.
The harmonicas [inexpensive plastic harmonicas from the dollar store here in Ohio] were in plastics and even I did not see them until I got home. I tried one and it sounds good. I am now going to try to get my seminarians and boys to learn to play. Most of them are quite musical and I'm sure will not take long to learn to do it. I was also in need of a comb and this kind of comb suits me to perfection. This comb is also strong enough for the local hair and so were claimed. Toothbrushes always are popular, but there, too, I kept some for our own house and the others I told them they could divide. All in all, the three parcels were extremely practical. You not only made the sisters happy but many others who shared in the contents and it will continue to help many medically.
I had better close for now and remain with you in Him as we go about our daily distractions.
Love and prayers, [Sr.] Therese
When Sr. Therese Chaloux, S.M.S.M. arrived in the Solomon Islands 55 years ago, one of her many duties was to innoculate the natives against various diseases. Sr. Therese is the nun wearing all white in this picture.
Sr. Therese Chaloux, in 2003, in the canteen in the village of Tangarare, Guadalcanal. Many of her years as a missionary were served in Tangarare. The canteen was started by Sr. Therese and sells basic food staples to the natives at low prices, then the profits are used to support the mission there.
View of the Tangarare Mission and the Pacific Ocean
Native housing in the village of Tulagu, Guadalcanal during the summer of 2003. My father, Pierre Chaloux and my sister Pat Taylor were able to visit Sr. Therese in the Solomon Islands. She was pleased to have some of her family come to visit her in her home of the Solomon Islands. She took them to many villages on Guadalcanal.
The Solomon Islands were once governed by the United Kingdom. Many British words were adopted by the natives and are still used today in their "common" language of Pidgin English. Young children are called "Pickaninnies" by the natives. Here, one such "pickaninny" enjoyed a lollipop during a festival at one of the villages on Guadalcanal. The lollipop was a treat given to him by my sister Pat Taylor.
This page is dedicated to the continuing work of Sr. Therese Chaloux in the Solomon Islands - her mission of love for the past 55 years!
Happy Retirement, Aunt Therese!
A special Thank You! to my sister Pat Taylor for her permission to use some of her photographs from her 2003 trip to Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands and for some of the information used on this page.