Well, here we are again with another update. It’s hard to believe that 8 months have passed already and we are almost halfway through our term here. On the one hand so much seems to have happened and we have learned so much, but on the other hand, it suddenly seems like there is so little time left to do the things we hope to do.
So how are we going, really? We think we are going ok. We are still enjoying being here. We are still frustrated as hell one day and inspired the next, so we are never bored. We think we have it all worked out one minute then find we know only a bit of the story.
We miss family and friends but love the emails from everyone. We don’t miss TV but are looking forward to seeing the Broncos beat the Storm on a TV we have been able to set up temporarily for tonight. We miss red wine but really enjoy the odd time there is a bottle to share with someone.
We are challenged daily by the complex and massive problems that exist here, whether they stem from poverty, lack of education, that Melanesian laid-back, PNG-time attitude or the growing problem of expecting everything to be given or provided. We are excited and inspired when we see an individual or a group who overcomes these obstacles and really does wonderful work for themselves and/or their community.
So, we are fortunate! We get to see and hear about the good news stories as well as the not-so-good ones. You only get the bad news stories. Unfortunately, good news doesn’t make headlines or sell newspapers. Yes, there are some rapes, murders and robberies, as there are in most parts of the world, but there are other stories which should be told but seldom are.
Good News from Bougainville
On September 6th Bernard Unabali was ordained auxiliary Bishop to Bishop Henk Kronenberg, the Bishop of Bougainville. The costs of the ordination which was attended by thousands of Bougainvilleans and visiting dignitaries was borne by the local communities.
- Visiting Bishops and priests from other parts of PNG were sponsored by either families or groups eg youth, Catholic nurses, etc. This meant that the cost of the Bishops’ accommodation, meals and transport while here in Bougainville was completely covered.
- The outdoor stage was built with donated materials and by voluntary labour. The stage accommodated a big altar and 19 concelebrants and a further 6 altar servers and the new Bishop’s mother.
- A local Government Minister donated fuel for his constituents to travel to the ordination.
YOUNG TEACHER HELPS GRASS ROOTS PEOPLE
A group of grass roots people who did not have the opportunity for schooling earlier in their life, often because the Crisis intervened, are being helped to learn how to read and write. Two days a week, each week, classes are held at the Mabiri Ministri Skul. All the Skul does is provide a venue. The young woman teacher walks from her village each Tuesday morning and gives the classes from morning until about half past one. Then she goes with the village people who have come for the class, stays with them that night. The next day after another full morning of teaching, she walks home. Her fidelity to her students is remarkable. However, there are two other points worthy of note:
- The walk from her village to Mabiri takes a minimum of four hours!! Quite a hike for a young woman alone (and who could she ask to make that walk with her each week?)
- She is a voluntary teacher and receives no payment of any kind for her work! Her commitment to these grass roots people is outstanding and the results that she has in the numeracy and literacy is amazing. One man who has 5 young children has asked for a small board to work on at home so he can practise his letters and numbers. THIS IS GOOD NEWS!
A young woman is improving the daily quality of life of 2 young disabled children in her village. Both have severe Cerebral Palsy and are unable to sit up or walk. She has started working with both children by working with Callan to give them exercises and massage, encouraging and supporting the parents and teaching them the skills she is learning from Callan. In just a few weeks these children have shown improvement in their health and quality of life. The parents now have some hope for their little ones and have started to take them about in the community rather than keep them hidden in their house as happens to many disabled. This young woman receives no pay but travels at her own expense most weeks to consult with me regarding their progress. This is a journey of about 1½ hours each way on the back of a truck and which costs her approximately K8 each way (and she has no regular income).
These are just a few of the good news stories!
Life has settled down to a more normal routine here in the local area. Between July and early September there were 3 ordinations in the diocese – 2 priests and an Auxiliary Bishop. These were wonderful experiences for us and a very interesting mix of fairly conservative catholic ceremony and traditional local culture. The Bishop’s ordination was particularly interesting as it was held right here in Hahela where we live and we were able to be personally involved in some of the preparations and celebrations. We considered it a privilege to be included in the preparations because it is all too easy to just be seen as superior white people who get front row seats and special treatment. That doesn’t help us in the long run, so we were very happy to sew banners, cook food or do anything else we could to help. As Palms has always stressed – relationship is everything.
Well, that’s it for now. Hope all are well.
Regards to everyone,
Barry & Yvonne