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!!

Lopoki Inc. conducts a basic ‘housekeeping’ training on Nyapio Island in Manus Province

A rural and remote community in Manus province has just completed a three-day training on Basic Housekeeping.
Nyapio island, widely known as Johnson island, on the south coast of Manus, Ward 6 of the POBUMA local level government area had ten (10) of its locals trained in three main areas of housekeeping – Storeroom and stock control; Accommodation and guest laundry; and Room Servicing. The rural and remote island of Nyapio has a community guest house called the Nyapio Island Getaway Resort that will get its first guests in December. The Resort reached out to Lopoki Inc., a not-for-profit non-government organization who then organized the training.

Trainer Mr. Albert Pih goes through with the participants the process of bed making in one of the rooms of the guest accommodation at Nyapio Island Getaway Resort.

Founder of Lopoki Inc. Mr. Kingston Namun said that the three day training was to empower the locals on the island to effectively take care of tourists and visitors when they arrived on their island and experience the tour packages they have on offer in December, 2021.
He said: “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.”
“This training provides basic housekeeping skills to the participants and increases their knowledge and capacity to manage guests who will travel by boat to the island. Lopoki Inc.’s focus is helping empower local communities in Manus who are willing to help themselves,” said Mr. Namun.

The ten (10) participants and their trainer Mr. Albert Pih (far right) and Mr. Pius Kuweh (left) and Mr. Kingston Namun (far left) after receiving their laminated certificates

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 Nyapio Island Getaway Resort funded the three-day training and ten participants (9 females and 1 male) received certificates of participation.
Mr. Namun thanked the Nyapio island community for their hospitality and hoped to collaborate with local partners in province to deliver similar trainings to Manus communities who needed such trainings.