Our Volunteers: Damien & Sarah Beale volunteering in Papua New Guinea

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Callan Services for Disabled Persons, Papua New Guinea

Callan Services sign in Kundiawa, PNG
In many parts of the majority world, people with disabilities have little or no access to basic services which would enable them to improve their way of life. Ironically, the number of people with disabilities in countries such as PNG is disproportionately high due to issues of nutrition, malaria, basic hygiene, HIV/AIDS, violence and lack of early intervention. The rugged geography, traditional spiritual beliefs and many languages exacerbate the difficulty of providing necessary services, training and resources.

Callan Services for Persons with a Disability is a Papua New Guinean NGO founded by the Christian Brothers in 1991. Originally based in the town of Wewak, there are now nine Callan centres around the country helping people with disabilities.

Callan Services trains people all around the country in areas such as disabilities, community-based rehabilitation, eye and ear health and special education. They have numerous resource centres and clinics which provide physical, eye and ear care.

Damien & Sarah Beale

Damien & Sarah BealePalms will place Sarah and Damien Beale to work for Callan Services for Disabled Persons for two years.

Sarah is a registered nurse specialising in Critical Care. She has several years experience at St John of God Healthcare, Subiaco and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Nedlands.

She has volunteered locally in a number of capacities, including for 10 years with St Vincent de Paul.

Damien has worked since 2002 for the Cerebral Palsy Association of WA as a Speech Therapist involved in the School Age and Early Intervention Programs.

He has run workshops for teachers, parents and staff and has worked cooperatively with physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

Together they will contribute to reducing poverty in Papua New Guinea, by increasing services available to people with disabilities, reducing stigmas and misunderstandings associated with disabilities and training local staff to continue the work after they return home.

Papua New Guinea Field Trip

October 23, 2008

Des Hansen with student at Sacred Heart College
Ask many Australians what they know about Papua New Guinea and their reply will refer to a particular image such as the Kokoda Track, ‘raskols’ in Port Moresby, tribal warriors or corruption. They might be aware of the Bougainville crisis, know someone who worked at a mine or plantation, or be able to name a Papua New Guinean footballer. But, just as Australia is more than just the Opera House, cricketers, kangaroos and beer, there is so much more to our northern neighbour than these images give credit to.

At Sacred Heart College located next to the isolated airstrip of Tapini, Tony Bozicevic and Des Hansen were experiencing life amongst the Goilala people at a recently refurbished school. In addition to their time in the classroom, Des and Tony are fully immersed in the lives of their students and colleagues. Rather than fearing their hosts, Des and Tony have embraced them, even planning to join their students on the two-day walk to Port Moresby during the holidays.

Damien Beale with sign language student Anna
In the highlands, Sarah and Damien Beale were readjusting after a brief holiday back in Perth. They were helping prepare upcoming training courses for staff and volunteers of Callan Services for Persons with a Disability. They had worked hard to overturn expectations that as expatriates they would provide handouts. This was sometimes made difficult by visiting expats who, moved by what they saw, wanted to provide solutions: sometimes ignoring simple local solutions. Being present for more than a few months allowed Sarah and Damien to concentrate on building individual and organisational capacity.

Graham Andrews, at Good Shepherd in Fatima, continues his good work preparing the next generation of church leaders and is much appreciated for his commitment to PNG. Fiona Cairns, in Goroka, has returned to her placement at Mt Sion following surgery in Australia. Like Graham, the commitment she has shown in returning is highly valued and along with her friendly, positive approach has helped her be more effective in her work. Fiona is now assisting with Mt Sion’s accounts following the successful appointment of a local manager for the optical clinic.

Frank Hanrahan, in his first month, was settling into Madang on the North Coast. Working closely with Ben, a local man, has meant he has plenty of opportunities to pass on his considerable carpentry expertise. His work has taken him out of Madang town to see more of the beautiful coast and countryside and despite the heat, he enjoys wandering into town for a quiet beer on weekends.

Gary Wolhuter demonstrates the butterfly stroke
Also on the North coast, in Wewak, Gary and Helen Wolhuter are having a great effect at Callan Services. I was privileged to join in their weekly swimming classes for people with disabilities. These classes are having a remarkable effect, both for the physical wellbeing of their clients and for the greater understanding and respect developed within the community for people with disabilities. Even without the substantial work of their working week, this program alone would justify Helen and Gary’s placements.

Each volunteer has had the opportunity to witness Papua New Guineans as something more than a crude stereotype. Hopefully on returning to Australia their understanding can enrich us all further.


Damien & Sarah Beale’s CommUNITY News no. 1

March 11, 2008

Sarah explains and conducts and eye screening

Our colleagues: Michael (left) and David (right) Hello to all our friends! February finds us celebrating the 6 month anniversary of moving to Papua New Guinea and emerging ourselves in the culture of the Jiwaka area of the Western Highlands Province. We are happy to report that though many obstacles and challenges have arisen, we […]

Click here to read the full article

Developing communities at home and abroad

September 23, 2007

Recently Sarah and Damien Beale’s community have demonstrated just how much interest and support volunteers can generate for sustainable poverty reduction through skill exchange.

Click here to read the full article

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Damien and Sarah's placement has completed, but you can still help us provide volunteers to many other communities by using the form below.

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Papua New Guinea

PNG Flag

Population: 7,656,959

Area: 462,840 sq. km.

Median Age: 21.5

Literacy: 57.3 %

Languages: Tok Pisin (New Guinea Pidgin), English, Motu, c.820 indigenous languages

The terrain of Papua New Guinea varies from its rugged mountainous spine to its beautiful beaches to its volcanic islands to one of the world’s largest swamps and the large river systems of the Sepik and Fly rivers. These geographical differences have created a unique country with many diverse cultures. The ties within a family […]

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You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. - Kahlil Gibran