CA students talk to community schools in Madang

Today is the 3rd of May. We often put this day down on our calendar as ‘Media Freedom Day’ – a day dedicated to remember and celebrate the work of journalists and media workers. This year’s theme:  A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of the Environmental Crisis, encouraged all of us to reconsider how we, as news reporters, journalists and communications people report and inform the public on rising environmental issues and climate change. 

The students of the Communication Arts (CA) Department at Divine Word University in Madang took to the schools in the surrounding community to inform them of the remembrance and magnitude of the Media Freedom in light of rising climate and environmental issues. 

At first assembly on a Friday morning, the first group of CA students arrived at Kusbau Primary School. The school currently has 1,700 students and 53 teachers and the CA students quickly adapted to the use of loud hailer and began their engagement with the student body during school assembly.

 Then at around 11am the next group of CA students visited Lutheran Day Primary School and talked to five classes of grade 7 students. The students of Lutheran Day Primary School were inquisitive, asked questions and prizes of DWU diaries and DWU calendars were given to students as well.  

Another group did visit Tusbab Secondary School but I did not tag along with them. Instead, I again went with another group who visited Holy Spirit Primary School. This is a large school that filled the hall. Even though I did not get official numbers, the students that attended the awareness were from grades 6, 7 and 8. 

Yes today was an eventful day and we hoped we did justice to the day to remember the work of journalists all around the world. To remember those who have fallen and suffered because of their role in seeking the truth and to celebrate the fundamental principles of journalism.  Today, the CA students held their own in front of so many of these primary school students. It was nerve wrecking for some while for others, it was continuation of their professional growth as public speakers. I admired how they carried themselves and spoke on climate change, environmental issues and simple ways we, as Papua New Guineans, can help inform ourselves of these issues and address them in our communities. 

Some day, these students will become professionals and look back and reflect upon their lives as students and I know this will definitely be a highlight for many of them.  HAPPY MEDIA FREEDOM DAY!

Aiyahuuuuuu!

Every year when March comes along, the DWU Community prepares to host one of its major events – the DWU Graduation Ceremony! This year was the first time the annual event was held during the weekday – on Friday and it didn’t disappoint. All the graduands were in their full regalia and every did their best to dress and look well.

I guess I have attended a few of these DWU graduations and seem to know the general layout and proceedings of the day. Everyone would be seated and listen to speeches, wait their turn and then receive their certificates – whatever level that may be. A few graduated with Diplomas, Masters and even one person received a Doctoral degree but I believe the majority were Bachelor level graduands. I guess graduations are also times when emotions are high as well. Many feel elated, triumphant and even relieved after completing a number of years of schooling and more importantly, overcoming financial difficulties associated with getting a university qualification.

On attending a few of the graduation events at DWU, I am beginning to observe a particular phenomenon that is happening and becoming more prevalent each year – it is the way people express their jubilation or triumph or satisfaction when their family, or relative’s name is called by the Master or Mistress of Ceremony. There is this shout by an individual in among the crowd of onlookers, most often by a female, that is heard although out the entire arena.

Academic staff getting ready to enter the graduation arena
Academics being led into the arena by a dancing group
The graduands are seated with their full academic regalia
Parents, relatives, supporters, family and friends gather to witness the occassion
I did a a YouTube Short with some videos and photos I took during the ceremony.
Academic staff and invited guests speak to the students
After the graduation, two students meet with their former academic staff – Mr. Samson Papapu who taught in the Health Management and Systems Development Department
Some of the many students who graduated today

This shout: ‘Aiyahuuuuuuu’ which I believed is predominantly from the Chimbu province of PNG (someone can correct me on this) and from a female is often seen as something symbolic rather than an expression. In my mind, I often feel this shout is often felt deep within a person but due to a lack of verbal elicitation of that feeling, it just rolls out of the mouth like a cross between a ‘sigh’ and a ‘rainbow’. Does that make sense? Well, that’s how I feel about that shout.

When this is shouted by someone in the crowd, there is no discrimination or taunts or shushing. People keep quiet and listen to this shout as it echoes throughout the floor of the ceremony . It is expected and I believe, appreciated. Why do I say appreciated? Because when you listen to that shout ‘Aiyahuuuuuu’ it feels like someone is saying: ‘After all these years…after all the hard work…after all the financial difficulties, my child or son or daughter has finally made it. They have graduated from University.” During that shout, the voice quivers and people in the crowd feel the weight of the emotion of the person who has shouted. I’m beginning to think that this is a unique situation that happens only in PNG school graduations these days.

Other onlookers or supporters of graduating students may not shout ‘Aiyahuuuuuuu’ but they still make some noise to let others know about how they feel about their family member or relative who is walking up to receive his or her certificate on stage. I have heard: ‘Em sister blong mi ya!’ and ‘Yes em tasol yah’ and even ‘Pawa-fuuulll yah!’ which shares the same sort of emotion as the ‘Aiyahuuuuu’ but not as poignant. While these shouts of expression are welcomed, I often feel they fall along the lines of making, those whose names are being called to be seen as ‘individuals’ whereas the ‘Ayahuuuu’ is more like an announcement to others of someone ‘overcoming’ challenges and the weight being lifted off their shoulders.

So the next time you hear a lady among the graduation crowd shouting ‘Aiyahuuuuu’ just be quiet, appreciate the moment and enjoy the graduation ceremony!

Investing in a quality water tank is a good choice

While PNG, as a whole, is often seen as a place abundant in clean water, access to it can be difficult at times. Difficulty in accessing good water sources place many people at risk of water, sanitation and hygiene related issues. The PNG Government’s WASH Policy 2015 – 2030 indicates that 89 per cent of people in urban areas and 33 percent in rural areas have access to safe water while 57 percent of urban dwellers and only 13 percent of the rural population have access to basic sanitation.

So we too, in rural areas have access issues. Take for example, my parents in Manus. My parents used to live in a place in the village where they had to walk a distance to collect fresh water. Liap village is on the north coast of Manus island. It is a coastal village with most houses lining up alongside the beach. Sometimes, getting access to fresh water can be a bit difficult on the coastline especially during dry season. There are rivers and creeks but one has to go up some way to the head of the water source to get clean and fresh water.

Taking ownership and investing in a process of acquiring and maintaining good water access often falls onto individuals or families rather than the government, especially in rural areas of PNG. For example, to assist my parents with their fresh water needs, a water storage item close to the house would suit them. In my first year of formal employment, I had set aside enough money to buy a tank. I can’t really recall the amount but it was my first significant investment back to my parents. It was, and is still, a 1000 litre Tuffa tank that I bought from Lae’s manufacturing company, KK Kingston.

I worked in Lae and bought the tank in Lae. After buying the tank, I needed to figure out how to transport it from Lae, Morobe Province, to Lorengau in Manus, a journey of around 500 kilometers over the Bismarck Sea. I finally placed the tank on a Lutheran Shipping vessel and shipped it to Lorengau, Manus. Once it arrived there, it was then loaded onto an outboard motor for an hour on the northern coast line to Andru Point, Liap village. Once it arrived there, my parents built a small cement base and then put the tank on top, connected a gutter on the roof and downpipes to the tank.

Water tanks are a part of the solution to acquiring and maintaining good water access. The tank made my parents’ lives easier. Today, over 15 years later, this tank is still with me. My parents moved to our new area in the village so we transported the tank to our new place. We ended up rebuilding our house and starting out again. As I fix the family house and reset the tank stand next to our house in the village, I think about why we make personal investments. I have made investments of time, money, energy and emotions into people, equipment, machinery and places over the years.

Some investments, like this tank, I actually see it as a quality investment because over time it has provided water to not only my parents but those who are our neighbors as well. Its durability too makes this a worthy investment for me. It was difficult and costly to buy the tank in Lae and bring it all the way to my village in Manus, but it has been worth it as the benefits have outweighed the costs over time.

Me and my tank!
The Tuffa tank under the house. I’m still deciding which corner of the house I should stand this tank.

So invest in a water tank for your family today and help reduce water, sanitation and hygiene issues in our communities.

Message in a bottle: From the Bismarck Sea to the Solomon Sea!

Around December in 2004, I had boarded a Lutheran Shipping vessel from Lae and travelled to Manus. I am not sure which ship it was but it definitely was either MV Manemba or MV Umboi which I am sure many people who travel by ship know. From Lae, Morobe Province, it takes one full day and two nights on the open sea before we land in Loregnau town, Manus Province. As is the custom when travelling on long trips over the sea, we take lots of fresh fruits, home cooked meals and lots of water to keep our stay on these cargo ships as homely as possible.

Anyway, we left the Lae port, Voco Point, at around 5pm and began the journey. By 10pm people like myself were already sound asleep. I woke up at around 5am to the sound of the sailors pulling in yellow fin tuna and mackerel. During the day I had nothing to do but play cards and tell stories with whoever I met on the ship. Besides, the majority of people on the ship were Manusians so it wasn’t hard finding people who liked to talk…lol

At around midday, we were heading full steam ahead. The sea was calm, the wind was slight and as far as the eye could see, there was no sign of land in all directions. After I had eaten salty biscuits and drunk a 500ml coca cola, I decided to try sending a letter in a bottle. I think I was inspired by a story that in the 1700s, a Japanese crew of 44, were shipwrecked and marooned on a small Island in the South Pacific. The captain scratched details of their story and fate onto chips of wood and put them into a bottle. The bottle was found 150 years later on the shoreline of Japan, reportedly, close to where the sailors had grew up.

Well I wrote my name and postal address on the white label of the Coca Cola bottle and said that whoever found it should write to me. In the middle of the Bismarck Sea, I threw the plastic bottle with the small note inside. I went home for the holidays in Manus then came back to Lae. It was the year 2005 and I was working away when early in March that year, I received a letter. And here is the exact letter that was written….

The letter that I received in Lae Post Office in 2005.
The actual letter from Andrew in Poroporo village
This pink line and then the white line respresent how I believe the plastic bottle travelled in the middle of the Bismarck Sea to the Solomon Sea to reach Poroporo village.


The coke plastic bottle with my note inside had reached Poroporo village at the tip of the Choiseul Province in the Solomon Islands. It had gone international! WOW!!!!

It was picked up by a Mr. Andrew Silukana of Poroporo village just across the Papua New Guinea border! It had taken almost two months from when I first threw the bottle in the middle of the Bismarck to when Andrew picked it up in his village. I don’t know how it travelled there but my assumption is that it must have travelled past the gap between Manus and New Ireland or between East New Britain and New Ireland and then the strong tides of the Pacific Ocean travelling south must have pushed it down past the Autonomous Region of Bougainville right through to the tip of Choiseul province where Poroporo village is.
On that same day I quickly wrote a letter back to him on the address he had provided. But sadly, to this day I haven’t received a reply.

Em tasol!

A hospital from a distant memory

Goroka holds so much childhood memories for me.

One particular place that means so much to me is the Goroka Base Hospital. This is where I got my first malaria treatment, broke my arm while playing in the hospital premises, watched television for the first time which was a video of a preacher named ‘Jimmy Swaggart’ and many other memories too. My mother worked as a nurse at this hospital so some days I would spend hours just wondering through the whole hospital and its surrounding areas while she worked there. It was a quaint little hospital serving the township population. The hospital was built in 1969.

This used to the central car park area of the hospital and the entrance to the hospital.
I remember walking up these cement pathway as a child from the ground floor to the hospital wings one level up.
The older parts of the hospital still maintain the same shape as I had last seen them.

Now I come back after all these years and the hospital buildings have changed in part but at the same time, much still remained the same as well. In the 1980s, Goroka town was the prettiest town in the Pacific and its hospital was, in my opinion, the best in the country. The hospital served much of its around 280,000 people back then in the 80’s but now maybe close to an estimated 600,000 population. Much of the brick walls and cement floor in the older parts of the building still remain but now there are many inclusions and the buildings have a modern touch to it. I’m really impressed with the new buildings. The former Minister of Health, in 2019, Mr. Elias Kavapore put the cost of new buildings at K200 million.

Some newer parts of the hospital looking from the carpark to the outpatient area.
The outpatient area is upstairs
One of the new wings of the hospital. It looks impressive!
The carpark area

I didn’t have the opportunity to go inside and see the inside of the new buildings but I know they would be awesome. As the former health minister said in 2019, “As the new diagnostic centre, Goroka has seven fully-equipped operating theatres that are at international standard and second to none in the country”!!

So yes, that’s just a little visit back down memory lane. See you all soon!

Visiting the idyllic University of Goroka

I first came to know of this place when I was introduced to it in the early 1980s. Back then it was known as the Goroka Teachers College and a certain Manusian from Bundrahei village, by the name of Francis Kari and his wife took me from my home in West Goroka to visit their family home at the college. He taught at the college which mainly concentrated on pre-service undergraduate diploma programs for secondary teachers, although it also trained teachers in Agriculture, Health, Secretarial Studies, and Technical Education.

Just after the entrance to the university, this is the first street.
Some classrooms.
The Postgraduate office on the left. Just look at those impressive pine trees!

Goroka Teachers, which began training teachers in 1961, has today become the premier teacher training institution in the country. Just after PNG’s independence in 1975, the college become part of the University of Papua New Guinea. However, in 1992, as a result of the National Education Reform and PNG’s Higher Education Plan, the UPNG Council decided to unify teacher education programs in Goroka. In 1995, the Goroka Campus of UPNG enrolled its first Bachelor of Education (BEd) intake. Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE), BEd Honours and Master of Education (MEd) degree students were admitted in subsequent years. The Government of Papua New Guinea declared the University of Goroka to be a fully-fledged University in 1997 by an Act of Parliament (UOG Act, 1997).

So today, since my first visit back in the 1980s, I decided to take a tour of the campus and see the physical space. While some of the infrastructure such as classrooms and teachers houses still maintained their shape, from my memory, many new additional buildings have added a touch of class to its physical setting. Coupled with Eastern Highlands’ cool temperate air and its location overlooking the township of Goroka, the university environment is idyllic. The lawns are freshly cut and green, the buildings free from graffiti and clean. I wished I had come to visit the university when it was full into its academic year. At this time, many students had not yet arrived as registration would begin the following week.

I’m standing in front of the Dr. Mark Solon auditorium
Overlooking the UOG campus eastwards towards Daulo Pass. Just look at how green the environment is!
I’m told this is the sewerage treatment plant for the university. This is impressive!
The university library
I’m standing in front of the doorway into the library
Classrooms, a hauswin and walkways
A bench at the edge of the look-out
People enjoying the look-out over Goroka town

While UOG has had its share of bad rap over the years for student boycotts and university management issues, for me, the student accommodation located in the heart of the University, outshines them all. It was still closed when I visited but surely this has to be the best student accommodation in all of PNG’s tertiary institutions. I have personally seen student accommodation in four PNG universities including Goroka in the past decade and I can truly say that the one at ‘kol peles’ Goroka is quite modern and impressive. Built at a cost of K108 million, the buildings tower over the university and I am told, has amazing views of Goroka. Together with a new library complex completed at a cost of K12 million, a new auditorium cost K8.5 million in 2002 and educational equipment bought for K11.5 million in 2005, UOG is building nicely.

Student accommodation from the outside
Student accommodation on the right, a street and then on the left is staff housing

If you ever choose to become a student at the University of Goroka, you will experience a rich environment in a unique part of PNG. I fell in love with Goroka a long time ago and I hope you can too. You can always visit the University website to know more about courses and how to enroll.

Cheers!

Diminishing formal sector or rising informal sector? The job market in PNG

There seems to be only a few jobs available for so many young people over 18 years of age in Papua New Guinea who are vying for jobs in the formal sector.

The newspapers today quoted respected economists and Executive Director of the Institute of National Affairs Mr. Paul Baker who said that there are about 3-4 million people over age of 18 who are trying to look for jobs in the formal sector that has only 400,000 to 500,000 jobs available. This is a dire situation for those in the formal sector

The National newspaper front page news story – 27th January 2022

But on the other hand, there is very little data available concerning the role of the informal sector and its contribution to the PNG economy. Informal sector supports the livelihoods of 80% of the PNG population. Two areas that are thriving in the country are: a) urban informal sector and b) rural semi subsistence sector.

In the context of Papua New Guinea (PNG), Kavan (2013) the urban informal sector is described as livelihood activities which include microenterprises or tiny livelihood activities selling, distributing, producing or manufacturing goods and providing services, either regularly or occasionally or on a needs-basis and being carried out in prescribed or un-prescribed markets or areas, such as streets, roadsides, in front of supermarkets or offices, at bus stops, and in yards of houses

In the urban informal sector jobs like cooking food and doing door delivery, buai sales, web design, clothing design, after school tutoring students, managing online social media pages, etc are growing. In the rural semi subsistence sector people who are fruit farmers, rubber farmers, local jewelry workmanship, transport operators, selling flowers/seeds, basket weavers, etc are increasing.

Image obtained from https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/bitstream/1885/157956/1/251_Conroy_informalecon.pdf

The informal sector is growing and pumping money into people’s pockets too. Create your own job, work hard, try your hand, give it a shot!

Tranquil island, resilient people: The Nyapio islanders of Manus

Manus Province is around 2, 100 square kilometers in land area and amongst its vast open 220,00 square kilometer seas, lie many islands, some inhabited and others, not. While some of these islands are large and can sustain multiple villagers like Lou, Rambutso, Pak and Baluan; others like Nyapio island are so small no one would think Manusians lived on them. Nyapio island, more popularly known as Johnston Island, today, has fourteen (14) households. It also has a population of just under 50 or so people who call this remote island their home.

A young men fishing on his small canoe in front of Nyapio island
The beach in front of the community guest house
A young boys walks in the ‘main street’ of the village which is only roughly 100 meters long.
A typical Nyapio island house

The island, on the south coast of Manus is part of Ward 6 of the POBUMA local level government area.  Nyapio is around a kilometer long, around 400 meters wide and has sparse vegetation. These Titan language speaking people do not have a trade store, a school or an aidpost on the island. Their livelihood and major source of income is fishing. They fish from the sea and then sell their catch to villages along mainland Manus or to Lorengau for cash. Other times they exchange fish with the Lou islanders for fresh vegetables. On the island, they have coconuts, banana, pawpaw, taro and very few sago trees but apart from that there are not too many food crops. The island is just three to four metes above sea level and even water is scarce on this island. When the seasonal trade winds become harsh, food from the sea becomes even harder to find making hunger a real issue at times.

The Nyapio sail on outrigger canoes to mainland Manus or the surrounding islands of M’buke, Lou or Baluan. They even sail to the nearest health service provider at Patu Health Centre on the mainland of Manus, some two to four hours away. One person I talked to explained that once, he had to take two children who were very sick most probably with Malaria, with their mothers, and sail on his outrigger canoe all the way to Lorengau town. They begun the journey in the middle of the night using the stars as their guide. All along the journey, the mothers kept keeping a cold press on the children’s bodies just to keep their fever at bay for that three hour journey on the high open seas. They arrived in Lorengau, just as daylight broke out.      

While their story seems sad and difficult, it is what makes them resilient in the face of constant hardship and continued difficulties. I usually write on my blog lopoki.com about community initiatives in Manus. So I was pleasantly surprised when I was invited by the community in September to come see a small project they had started early this year. It was there that I saw a resilient community at work. You see, being resilient means that when everything seems to be going wrong or difficult, strong people emerge and stand up to provide solutions to the problems faced by their communities.

The Nyapio people are a resilient people. Firstly, they sat down and thought long and hard about how they could solve some of their community problems. They knew that the island would, in its simplest and mundane form, still provide the solution. Then, the leaders decided to build a community based resort of sorts that would provide a means of an income to support their livelihood on the island. Together, they had this understanding that through such an enterprise, much more would come and eventually a school or an aidpost would become viable on their little island. In that way, they wouldn’t have to send their kids away to the mainlaind of Manus for months on end to gain basic education or sail the high open seas just to have access to life saving medication.

The young elite of the village, who live in Port Moresby, supported this move and began by chipping in cash and kind. Around ten young men on the island eventually built two bungalows – one completed using traditional materials like wood, sago leaves, bamboo thatched walls, etc while the other, still to complete, had a roofing iron. They are also building a septic toilet and shower room too. They sourced the raw materials from mainland Manus and shipped the rest of the materials from Lorengau. The community resort is 10 minutes away from the main village.

One of the two beach side bungalows being constructed.
The two beachside bungalows nestled quietly among the trees, sand and sea.

In November, through my small not-for-profit non government organization called Lopoki Inc, I organized a three day Basic House Keeping training for ten (10) of the locals. The Nyapio Island Getaway Resort fully funded the three day training on their island. Lopoki Inc. worked in partnership with the Manus Provincial Government’s Commerce Division and the Manus Training Centre to carry out the training. The Division of Commerce through their Business Development Officer Mr. Pius Kuweh and Manus Training Centre’s Tourism and Hospitality Instructor Mr. Albert Pih were both at the island to conduct the sessions. The trainer Mr. Albert Pih focused his training on three main areas of housekeeping –  Storeroom and stock control; Accommodation and guest laundry; and Room Servicing. The training provided basic housekeeping skills to the participants and increased their knowledge and capacity to manage guests.

Mr. Pius Kuweh, in representing the Manus Provincial Government through its Commerce Division, officially opened the training program.
Trainer Mr. Albert Pih teaches the participants the art of preparing a clean and comfotable bed
The 10 participants listen as Mr. Pih goes through the concepts of basic housekeeping.
The participants practice folding linen correctly.
Mr. Pih goes through the methods of hanging and removing, folding and using the clothes line as a tool to help in managing linen and clothes.
The participants practice full room servicing and the results are amazing!
The ten participants receive their certificates of participation. Mr. Albert Pih (far right), Mr. Pius Kuweh (left) and Mr. Kingston Namun (far left) look on.

I can already see that the community has already taken the initiative to build two semi-permanent buildings housing four rooms for around eight (8) guests when they visit the community based resort. The Nyapio islanders have proven that they want to bring change to their community and so they worked with Lopoki Inc. to ensure this training occurred. The very fact that they do not have an aidpost or even an elementary school speaks volumes about the hardship that they have had to go through all these years. It is inspiring to see the islanders stand on their own two feet and build something that will sustain them as a community.

If you want to visit Nyapio Island Getaway Resort, please visit the website: https://nyapioislandgetawayresort.com/ for more information. You won’t regret your decision to visit. If you do visit, please commit yourself to give something back to the island with a program or session while you are there through your passion, education and work so that greater cultural learning is mutual.

Getting from the provincial township of Lorengau to Nyapio island (Johnston islands)

Ends//

Lopoki Inc. training receives essential coverage on national television

Lopoki Inc. recently completed the Basic Housekeeping training a Nyapio Island in Manus Province so we were pleased to see that the mass media give us some coverage.

Although the television coverage was less than four minutes, we take courage in the fact that the training on Nyapio was put on national TV. This, itself, provided us the footprint to follow in future dealings with the media and improve our messaging as well. Our news on the training appeared on two national TV stations at their respective nightly news bulletin.

The first one was on EMTV News on the 28th November, 2021 while the second time for the same story appeared was on the NBC News on 7th December, 2021. Here are the respective news stories:

We’d like to thank Mr. Bradley Valenaki of EMTV and Ms. Sinivar Kasimani and Mr. Cashmir Waken of NBC for taking their time to put the story together and air it on their respective television stations.

It is the very first television news for Lopoki Inc. and its a small step for us as we begin to initiate and create contacts in the media industry here in Papua New Guinea. We hope to work with the mass media more to promote the work of Lopoki Inc. and eventually reach those who are willing to support our work across local communities.

Whuroh!!