Simon Lukas: Battling the odds by rebuilding Toyota Landcruisers

Simon Lukas is a Lae businessman who is owed about K60,000 by the Lae City Council.

Mr. Lukas owns Mala Autoparts, a small automotive parts shop in Lae City.

While talking to him about his difficulties, we also found that he has been rebuilding old Toyota Landcruisers for a living.

This is slowing becoming an income stream for him with no shortage of customers willing to pay up to K80,000 for a rebuilt vehicle.

Simon Lukas stumbled upon this revenue earner some years ago after starting up his spare parts business in 2009.

Battling the impacts of a difficult economy and unpaid paid invoices by the Lae City Council, Mr. Lukas has focused on rebuilding that rugged, much loved workhorse.

“I started this business in 2009. I started with K8000. I asked my dad and my older sister to help out with the initial capital.”

“There is a huge market for landcruisers. We have no difficulty selling vehicles which we have rebuilt.”

In recent years, Simon Lukas has had to contend with new challenges. Predominantly Chinese owned spare parts operators who order in bulk and sell cheaper versions of landcruiser parts. This has made have made selling Australian sourced parts difficult.

“It’s something the government needs to look at to protect local businesses. Because if we try to sell at the prices that they are offering, we will be making a loss.”

The inability to sell left him with an oversupply of landcruiser parts. So he came up with the idea of using the parts to rebuild cruisers that nobody wanted any more.

“We thought, why not take our parts and rebuild vehicles? We go to vehicle owners and buy their wrecks. Sometimes, if the engine is still good, we pay up to K10,000.”

In his shed, stands a blue Landcruiser utility. The parts of this blue single cab came from two different vehicles that were involved in separate accidents.

His team, bought in a new engine and gearbox from Australia and rebuilt it. This is now going to be sold to a buyer for K70,000.

Lukas says, there is an ever present demand for landcruisers. Each rebuilt cruiser has been presold before completion.

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Edith Babul: A plantation that started from 10 Indian guava seeds

Twenty years ago, Edith Babul’s, young son, collected the seeds of a rather exotic Indian Guava fruit he found smashed on a road.

It was, at the time, a seemingly tiny deed done by a child for his mum. But over two decades, those seeds became a plantation of Indian guava trees whose fruits are now sold in Lae City.

“He found the seeds and said, ‘mum likes this fruit’ and he brought back about 100 seeds,” said Edith Babul. “From those seeds, 10 survived and those are among the trees we have now.”

While Edith loved Indian guava, she didn’t know the cultivation methods that would work efficiently.

“At first it was all trial and error. I didn’t know and I planted the seeds. It took a while.”

In 2000, Edith harvested the first fruits from the initial 10 trees she had planted. She sold over 100 fruits and made K300.

“Because I was still working, I told my husband and children that the demand for this fruit was good and that we had to carefully manage the trees.”

It wasn’t all easy. Some of the trees died and fruits were left to rot or succumbed to pest and disease.

edithAs we walked through the guava plantation, Edith spots a large fruit. She pulls down the branch and picks a fruit which is bigger than her hand. It’s fruits like this that have made her quite popular within agriculture circles.

“Try it,” she says, as we cut open the huge fruit. The guava is soft, delicious and far less acidic than smaller local varieties. Guava cultivation has become an art for Edith Babul.

She gives a lecture on insect management as we walk through the grove.

“Never cut all the grass. When insect populations pick up in in June and July, you have to give them something to eat. Let them start with the grass first. If you remove all the grass, they will eat your fruits and leaves.”

Wow! I didn’t know that. I thought to myself… I would have used a lawn mower to cut down all the grass without a second thought and later suffer the consequences.

In 2011, Edith received an offer to study agriculture methods in Queensland through the National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI) and the Australian Government.

In Australia, she learned various methods that broadened her knowledge on guava cultivation. She came back with renewed zeal and plunged into serious guava cultivation.

“I learned about insect behaviour, marcotting and budding.” Those methods helped speed up the time it took for trees to reach maturity.

To date, Edith Babul has planted over 900 trees. She has built a small business from her beloved Indian guava trees. She sells the fruits to local super markets in Lae and at agricultural shows.

It all started from the seeds collected by her son 20 years ago.

Old hands in the business: The #PNG honey experts who are replacing imports

honeyFor more than 30 years, Tella Loie, worked in the public service as a honeybee specialist.

His entire career was dedicated to building the capacity of bee keepers in the Easter Highlands. While he was presented with opportunities to go into business, he turned them down and continued to help bee keepers in the Eastern Highlands.

In 2016, Tella Loie, quit the public service and, in an old government warehouse, he started a small business.

“The opportunities have always been there,” he said. “But I couldn’t take advantage of it because I was a government worker.

“What dreams I had, slowly began to come out.… everything that was in me in being put into creating more opportunities for bee farmers.”

With costs rising, it has been difficult for bee farmers who import beehives from New Zealand.

Taking his 38 years of bee keeping and management experience, Mr. Loie is now helping farmers reduce their equipment costs.

In Goroka, he is singlehandedly, reducing the need for imports by making beehives and repairing honey trays used by bees to create honeycombs.

This month alone, his small team of workers made over 100 beehives from local timber.

“Being Papua New Guineans, we all have our challenges. The question we should be asking is what can I do to help my country in terms of development… in terms of employment for our people?”

“I am happy because at least in a little way, I’s contributing positively to my people and my country despite receiving no support from the government.

Tella Loie is one of a handful of self-taught bee keeping experts in Papua New Guinea. He says the risk of losing this knowledge is increasing as others like him grow older.

“There are other very resourceful people in the public service who have received training and are keen to do work in the communities. But without funding and resources, all their dreams and aspirations remain in them.

“Then, one day they will go.”

“Honey is yellow gold. It’s just waiting for someone to collect it.”

Outside of Goroka, another bee keeper, Samuel Kuku, shows how honey is harvested.   Mr. Kuku has honed his bee keeping skills over the last 10 years and is now an authority on honey production.

Recently, one of his hives produced record volumes.

“It is a joy for me when I harvest the honey,” he laughs. “I think the bees are very happy with me.

“I was featured in the National Newspaper for my honey trays that weighed seven kilograms each. What they didn’t feature was another one that weighed eight kilograms. That is quite rare.”

For those in the know, the average weight of a of a honey tray when harvested is anything between three and four kilograms.

Samuel Kuku’s income from honey alone has risen in the last three years, in 2017, he made K18,000. For a farmer with kids in university including a son studying for a science degree in agriculture, it is important income.

In the Eastern Highlands, bee keepers are a close knit community of friends.

Samuel was introduced to bee keeping by the Chairman of the Bee Keepers Association of the Eastern Highlands, Jonah Buka.

Like Tella Loie, Mr. Buka, is keen to see honey production grow in the Eastern Highlands. For him, bee keeping is not just a job, it is a passion, an art and a lesson in coexistence.

“Make sure you “smoke” them first so they move out of the way,” he explains as he pumps smoke onto the bees.

The smoker is a tool used to pacify the bees before harvesting.

“Never kill the bees. Honey is their food. We are, in fact, taking their food. So we have to be kind. When we harvest, there has to be one tray left so they feed on it when there is rain and no nectar in the flowers.

“We don’t own them. They live here.”

Comparatively, honey is worth more per kilogram than coffee. Currently, the average price is K13 per kilogram – close to three times the price of coffee.

Honey producers like, Tella Loie and Jonah Buka say that if the same support given to coffee was given to honey production, PNG’s export revenue could reach unprecedented levels.

How Mapai owner, Jacob Luke, created 10 new trucking companies, each owned by his drivers

LukeFor four years, I’ve been trying to trying to get a proper interview with the owner of Mapai Transport Jacob Luke.

It’s not that he is difficult or that my requests have been snubbed. He always distracts me with a story and then tells me… “We have to do it later when I’m ready…” or   “…when I have my thoughts together, I’ll call you.”

In recent years he has said… “You have to come and work with me for some time then you can write the story…”

So he has not granted that request yet. 😀

Four years ago, an unfortunate circumstances brought me to his office in West Taraka. A pair of his shoes got lost while we were renting his apartment in Lae during the PNG Games. I felt terrible and I called him up. He was gracious enough to talk to me. I offered to replace the shoes.

He refused. I insisted. He refused.
I realised then, that he was indeed a remarkable character.

In between his conversations, he drops sparking gems of wisdom and as a younger person, you have to be alert enough to pick them up. They’re gifts that he generously gives.  It’s like he carries a bag of it around with him and drops one or two… sometimes many… when he talks to people.

During that initial phone call he dropped some of those gems.

“Look, son, they’re just shoes. Money is not important and it really doesn’t matter. In life, things happen and we can’t hold on to things like this. They’re too small.”

I insistedon meeting with him the next day and we went.

So the shoes discussion continued. We apologized. He accepted our apology.

“I’ve had people who steal from me. But what can I do? It’s always best to put it behind you and move on. Otherwise it poisons you. And I keep telling these young people. Forget it. Move on. But they never learn,” he laughed.

What I know is Mr. Luke has worked hard all his life. He built a company from scratch with just one truck in the mid 1980s. And this is the part of the story I don’t really know. His roots, his hard work and Mapai’s growth. I still need to talk to him about it.

But the snippets he tells you gives you just a hint of the kind of person he is.

One line I’ve always heard is “Money is not important” and that “the enrichment of life comes from hard work and the journey you make.”

It is almost as if he recounts his past life as a truck driver… Going through some of the best scenery in the country, meeting people along the way. Seeing their generosity, gaining that enriching experience… and probably making some money at the ended of it all. But the experience and the enrichment is what stays with you. It cannot be taken away from you.

In recent years, Mr. Luke has taken a more laid back role in his company. The executive management runs things for him.

When Mapai bought 10 new Kenworth trucks, I was standing at the back of the crowd, talking to his daughter Stephanie.

“He doesn’t like formalities. If you ask him for a formal interview he won’t give it to you.” She laughed about the unfortunate tale of me trying to secure ‘formal’ interviews with her dad.

In front, Mr. Luke announced the arrival of the trucks and why the investment of eight million kina was made.

Then some more advice and words of wisdom…

“Traditionally, we have a saying in Enga… if you give bilas to a person who doesn’t own any, he will not look after it. He will break the headdresses and the bilas.

“Some of you act like cowboys in my trucks. So now I am giving you bilas which you will own and you will look after it will be yours.”

With the expansion of the company, Jacob Luke, announced he was giving away 10 of the older trucks to 10 long serving drivers. Jacob Luke’s Mapai Transport registered 10 companies under each of their names.

Again, some more advice to the staff. Then, Just before they came out to get the keys, he paused and made another important statement.

“When you come out to get the keys, I want you to bring your wives with you. I know that when you drive the trucks, many of you misbehave. Your wives are going to get the keys because the trucks belong to them.”

Each truck is worth about K600,000. In one decision,   he created 10 new Papua New Guinean owned transport companies and passed on the ownership of more than six million kina worth of Mapai assets to his drivers and their families.

“I used to be a driver before and I know. The most important people in a transport company are the drivers. They make the wheels turn. The rest of us are just support staff.”

Of course, the vehicle assets will have to be paid off over time. But each company has a guaranteed revenue stream as sub-contractors of Mapai Transport until it is paid.

So after short story, I am hoping that he   will be generous enough to grant me an interview so I can do a better piece about him.

 

The late Jerry Ginua, an inspiration to many who followed the path |By Eva Kuson

ginuaIt was my first day on the job with Kundu2 TV in 2011. My late dad escorted me to my new job.

He was so proud, announcing to every Tom, Dick and Harry on the way to the studio that I finally got employed.

It was a tradition; from my internships to my real paying job, he made sure he came with me.

We entered the studios and there we met the greatest newsman in Papua New Guinea, Jerry Ginua. I clenched with nervousness.

“So… this is Miss Kuson?”

“Hallow, nem blo mi Jerry.” He extended his hand.

“Eva,” I mumbled.”

It was not the first day on the job nervous, it was Jerry Ginua who shook my world.

“Ok bye, good luck,” Dad screamed along the corridor as he took his leave.

I stood there twiddling, looking at Jerry.

My years growing up along the corridors of National Broadcasting Corporation headquarters had prepared me for a journalism career. But none so profoundly motivating and inspiring like watching Jerry on the 6pm EMTV news.

His ease with words, the embodiment of the report, the tempo of each piece, the pace of words, the lucidity in the report.

He was a sleek clean news reporter, he made journalism a perfect career option for me.

My first official assignment for day was parliament sitting.

“Ok daughter, mitupla bai go long parliament.” Off we went.

At the entry to the media gallery, he told me that he needed to go somewhere to see someone.

“Yu karim note book blo yu kam ah?

“Yes boss, stap long bag.”

“OK go sindaun antap long media gallery na kisim story blo mitupla.”

“Noken wari, just raitim tasol ol main toktok, bow long speaker na go insait”

I stood there dumbfounded.

It was on a Thursday, grievance debates were on.

The grievances debate is an opportune time for our good members of parliament to speak and debate on any matters under the sun.

The speaker is asleep most of the time, the media gallery is usually empty. A handful of people were in the public gallery bowing in silent sleep and occasionally jolting up to the bellowing and rumble of members’ in the chamber.

I found myself a seat, the headphones were not working, my phone voice recorder ate away my battery, finally it blacked out.

I was drowned in half a notebook full with scribbles of almost every exchanges in the chamber.

It was so hard. I found myself on the verge of crying.

I could not fathom the information on the parliament standing orders. I did not understand the exchanges and the agendas discussed.

The order of business was read signalling the end of the sitting, I even noted it thinking it was news worthy!

I felt useless. I didn’t even note the adjournment.

I walked out of the parliament house all stressed and my top collar snugged my neck, drenched in sweat.

I waited outside, wrecked with fear, when Jerry arrived.

“Yu kisim sampla nius tu? Wanem taim bai ol sindaun ken?” He smiled and sped past me.

He always had the tendency of walking ahead and talking to people. I hated it.

At the studio, I started to write out my report. Thirty minutes past I was still stuck. Five O’clock came and I was still on the first paragraph.

Jerry walked in, handed me a note.

“Em ya readim displa, bai mi readim narapla tupla repot.”

I recorded his his voice over, he recorded mine.

We had a good lineup of news. We always do when the big dog is in the house.

I found out some parliament sessions later that all offices in the house have wired speakers. That’s where he picked the stories from. Such a sly bugger.

I learned, creativity.

On a Saturday morning he called me up.

“Daughter, wanpla wok na mi laikim yu long kam long ofis hariap.”

I walked to the front entrance and he stood outside with the camera and tripod.

“Hariap, karim camera na go, one day trip. Ol big lain waitim yu long airport.”

No ticket, K7 in my pocket, I exchanged my bilum for the equipment, and headed to the airport.

We drove past Air Niugini, the cargo area and then to MAF hanger.

I asked the driver where I was going, he shrugged.

I rushed into the hanger heaving under the weight of the camera and tripod and fear creeped in.

I met the late Goilala MP late Daniel Mona.

“Oh good, you are here, we have to go now, the cloud’s cleared.”

“We couldn’t take Jerry, balus liklik na em traipla man tumas so he sent you.”

I sighed a F as I walked into the aircraft. In my head I was flying every foul words I could think of.

The aircraft hit off the run way and we came face to face with the obtrusive Papuan Ridges. I begged again to God for forgiveness for my former sins and asked for his travelling mercy.

Third level craft, small, low compression, precarious and unpleasant to the pits of my breathing gut.

We flew over Tapini and my Lord, I have never seen a dreadful runway in my entire living being. It was a steep inclination on top the mountain and the landing was a dirt road.

Any wrong turn by the pilot, to the left or right of the runaway and we all be well dead. I thought of my daughter, my mother and all my siblings.

The pilot did a grand landing, I almost hugged the poor red faced New Zealand pilot.

I walked out of the aircraft. I set foot in Tapini, Goilala district, Central Province.

The nuisance and stereotype of the Goilala people had nothing on me. I met the most gorgeous spirited people.

Stocky, loud, mystery-eyed and their language was strange different, beautiful.

They took me down to their huts after the event, we had kaukau, pork, padanus nuts, sweet dwarf bananas and kavivi.

The kids laced a beautiful floral arrangement of shrubs and placed it neatly on my bun. They high fived themselves and rubbed cheeks with me and gave me more Kavivi and spoke sweet nothings to me.

I arrived at the studio at around 6.30pm.

“Trip orait ah?” Jerry asked as I was downloading my videos.

“Boss, it was the best”

“Lukim mi tokim ya, bai yu orait, noken wari.”

“Sarap, yu no tokim mi wanpla samting tu, yu salim mi go nating.”

“Camera tu nogat battery. Mi recordim ol samting long phone!”

He laughed his head off and then asked to buy his buai.

“Kaikai displa,” I gave him a full plastic of kavivi.

I learned adventure.

Jerry called me into the studio some time after the Tapini trip.

He began the opening speech
“Daughter,” He said, skinning his teeth.

“Igat wanpla tri…

“Igo wer?” I interrupted.

“Tari”, he said looking past me.

“Why yu sa hamamas long salim mi go long kain ples osem?”

“Nogat daughter, sore long ol lain blo yumi,” he began

“Ol last Papua blo yumi stret na em niupla provins tu na em gutpla stori.”

“Ok, ok. Em orait bai mi go.”

“Wanem taim?” I asked as he thanked me.

He looked me straight into my eye and said “Tumoro,” and walked out.

I flew the biggest F ever, the mic was on in the presentation studio booth and everyone seated in the prompter room heard me.

Next day I was on the Heliniugini helicopter, bound for the new Hela Province.

I arrived in Hela, plastered from POM-Mt Hagen- Hela trip, I fell on the cold floor and slept.

The next morning I came out of the room and I was greeted with the friendliest warmest smiles from the ladies in the kitchen.

I came out for a smoke and I met Shirley Pate, the lodge owner.

We chatted about Hela, the LNG project, the challenges of running business.

Typical highlander conversation, she nodded with nose squinted to band of lodge workers and revealed that all her employees are widows, divorced and single mums.

Shirley was a pioneer Hela businesswomen and the only woman running her business up there. She told me how her cruiser paved a small passage into Mendi.

She travelled with her all female gang back and forth since then to bring supplies into Hela.

“Em ino isi wok, but ol mama ya, ol sampla kain tru ya, ol no sa givim sans.” She praised with her heavy accent.

In town everyone wore the new bright yellow huli wigman flag, drinking coke, playing bomb, shooting darts.

The driver picked me up and we headed to the Tagali Bridge opening. The bridge links Tari and Koroba-Kopiago districts.

There I met Hon James Marape. He took us to the stage and I met his dad.

A devoted Adventist elder who never missed Saturday church services. The bridge opening ceremony was postponed to Sunday so he could attend to officiate the blessings.

I returned to Port Moresby three days later with a doco piece, feature and various news reports.

Jerry called that night,

“Daughter, Tari orait ah?

“Ples blo mitupla em orait, na orait olgeta.”

I learned hard work.

After two weeks, the hype of 2012 general elections hit the country.

I walked into the office, he met me at the door. He always has a funny way of delivering urgent news, and it’s usually at the entrance of the building.

In his usual air of things, scratching his head with the biro, slight smile.

“Daughter, come see me in my office”

“You don’t have a bloody office, its a studio for Lord’s sake!”

“Daughter,” he pulled in.

“Wanpla story ken, but noken wari em wan day trip.”

“Wusait ol, na go wer?

“PM’s department. Ol gat wanpla seat tasol, so mi makim yu long go because yu save long operatim camera.”

“Campaign trail blo O’Neill,” he continued.

He paused, “Nau yet yu mas go long airport. Bai yupla go long Mt Hagen na kam bek.”

I shook my head at him.

“Tsk, tsk, tsk, yu wanpla kain boss stret”

I seated in the jet forker across Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his mass of escorts and advisors.

We had a good chat about work and life of politics, he spoke highly of Jerry.

That day, we went to five provinces.

Mt Hagen to Tari then back to Hagen, then to Goroko and then to Simbu and back to Hagen and onto Mendi and arrived in POM at 9pm.

The highlands is truly the food bowl of the country. There were so much food given to us.

We were in Karamui-Nomane, Simbu province, a community leader insisted we take his live muruk as a token of his appreciation for the visit.

The PM’s body guard negotiated with him but he already bounded the muruk in the talking process, shaking his head while dragging the poor flight less bird to the landing site.

The advisor was told to shut up and load the muruk into the helicopter. I stood there almost in tears because he was begging for us to take his ‘gift’ with us.

Finally, the Prime Minister of the country came out and they both had a nice 15 minutes or so chat. The chap finally accepted it and we took off.

In Obura-Wonenara, Eastern Highlands, we were welcomed with massive sugar canes and the path leading to the stage were decorated with cabbages, brocolli and cauliflower and colorful laces of the everlasting flowers.

We were walking back to the helicopter when a lady ran over to me and hugged me. I had the camera on me and we landed on the ground.

Thank heavens the equipment was not damaged. She held me tight and caressed my face and pulled me up.

The escorting police pulled her away.

“Isi long em, lusim em go,” I pleaded.

She shooed the escort, not uttering a single word.

Everyone was already seated and the advisor was calling out for the escort and I to get on.

The lady came running back to us, with a huge bilum with a variety of fresh vegetables.

She pointed to the bilum and then to me, pointed to the escort and waved no.

“Em tok, em blo yu, na em no blo me.” Escort said dryly.

A voice shouted from the crowd, “em maus pas ya, noken busy long em.”

I took out K10 and handed it to her, she pushed my hand aside and pointed to helicopter, gesturing us to hurry to catch our ride.

I nearly threw the money on the ground so she can just take it, but it would seem wrong protocol wise as a PM contingent.

The highlands is rugged heaven on earth. The people were warm, their dirt faces, semi-dressed, babies hanging on their mother’s breast, swatting flies, laughing when the big people laughed, danced, graced us with more food.

When they shook hands, it was almost as if you can feel their soul and heart. They meant business with their embrace too.

We returned to POM at 8.00pm.

The next day I met Jerry on the way to the studio.

“Daughter, trip orait ah?

“Yu kon na tok Hagen tasol na kam bek, mi pinisim highlands na kam!

“Next taim, noken giaman, harim ah!” He laughed so hard.

I handed him a huge bag of vegetables and walked up the stairs to the studio.

He struggled with bag weight but I pretended I didn’t hear him.

I learned gratitude.

When I left NBC after three years, he made a huge fuss about it.

“Painim moni raun lusim, stap na yumi wokim wok blo gavman.” He teased.

I left anyway.

I made sure that everytime I go into Kundu 2 studios, I must have money to give him, because he always issue the usual melanesian ‘hait toktok’

Daughter, mi thirsty ya or daughter bel touchim bun baksait.

It would have been six months and some weeks into my new job.

My dad called me up at 8am on a chilly Saturday morning.

In a shaken voice he broke the news,

“Daughter, Jerry Ginua lusim yumi pinis.”

It sounded almost like Jerry delivered the bad news himself.

I broke down, pillow soaked and head drumming from ear to ear.

I was in the car heading to his Gordons house and it hit me.

Jerry never called me by my name, his addresses were always daughter.

I learned valuable friendship.

I received life lessons in some insanely unexpected places because of Jerry.

He didn’t mentor or advise me of news works he threw me into the deep end and I came back knowing more and learning more.

That is his style of mentoring.

I miss him especially today as I struggle to draft a news piece and I remembered him as a wonderful father figure and an outstanding brilliant newsman.

Never gone father. Thank you for your life Kukurai🌷

Michael Pais sold drinks to make money for a calculator, scored distinctions in year 10

MP

In 2016, Michael Pais found us.

He was in grade 9 when he approached cameraman, Raguel Kepas, during a job and asked if he could have a look at the camera.

They told me that he showed great interest in TV and journalism.

About a week later, Michael showed up at the EMTV office, asking if he could see me. I met with him and he asked if he could do some work experience during his holidays. No papers. No formal request. He just came and asked.

Approvals were given and he joined the team for six weeks working as a trainee cameraman.

What’s different about Michael is his initiative and his willingness to fail. He will tackle a problem with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of a child and make decisions on the fly when he encounters problems. I noticed earlier on that he really didn’t care what others said.

He was willing to take on every challenge, fail big and learn from it.

I was rigid and hard during the six weeks. A lot of times he got ‘fried’ during our prospect meetings when he had mucked up the day before. We would correct the mistakes and go do it again.

I let him know early that I was NOT his school teacher, that he would have to work hard to learn and that he should not expect to be spoon fed.

Michael’s dad is Bougainvillean. His mum is Simbu. Michael Pais senior passed away a few years back leaving him with his mum and older siblings. Michael has always had an interest in photography from an early age. He had made a deal with his late dad that he would work hard in school and his dad would buy him a camera if he did well.

Michael Pais senior passed away before he bought the camera.

Michael speaks in a matter-of-fact manner. No exaggeration. No shyness. Just straightforward talk.

In December, Michael dropped by and told me that he was selling drinks to make some money to buy a scientific calculator.

One staff member told me, he had, on numerous occasions, seen Michael at 6am in the morning walking from West Taraka to Bumayong where he goes to school.

Today, Michael came to the office again for help.

He wanted to open an account and needed me to sign a statutory declaration form. He has just got his grade 10 certificate after paying outstanding fees.
I asked to see it.

He had scored three DISTINICTIONS and four CREDITS on his certificate.

Michael wants to study journalism at Divine Word University. He has been talking about it for three years. I don’t know where he will get the the K7000 university fees in two years. But all that matters is that he has a dream and he believes.

A tribute to Kumul brother, Kato Ottio | by Steven Dawanincura

katoottio-cropped_1e3k8s9pd7shk11in8t7vqppvrThere’s not much left to say, the facts have been stated and so much love shared that I felt overwhelmed until now.

From a distance, behind a mic on thebsidelines was as close as I ever got to the aura of Kato Otio.

He was fleet footed and his runs seemed to unfurl in slow motion, almost in midair all the time – like even gravity couldn’t hold him down.

Having not followed his journey prior to his joining the Mounties I often wondered how little was known and said about such a prolific PNG born and bred try scorer plying his skills overseas so well for himself.

This week his family and friends revealed why – it was his humility, simplicity, and genuine kindness.

So refreshing to hear of a young man with it all to have before him, yet no inflated ego, no attitude, and a huge heart he gladly shared.

His is the epitome of a young man comfortable in his element and living by his own standards and expectations. He seemed to only want to prove himself to himself. An enormous challenge in any language, in any sporting code.

I believe that the amount of tributes, tears, and photos of him, always willing to make a dream come true for people of all walks of life and ages, speaks volumes. He was loved and he radiated an inner love back with open arms and without reservation.

There is so much warmth and positive energy that he shared with young children. What a blessing. If his ways inspire our youths to be more like him on and off the field that is trully awesome in itself

Perhaps a reluctant hero, idol, and peer he seemed, but how beautifully he embraced it all in his stride.

Not with words, press conferences, and public statements, but in his way, quietly and genuinely out spotlight, some people can do this, it is rare, and he was one of them.

Our kids and those senior ahead of us can learn a lot from even just a single page out of his life.

I already have and I’m still learning.

What a truly great example he was of what it means to be human. Really human.

As I watched him perform at the world cup I knew I hadn’t seen his best, but I also imagined with great excitement and anticipation, what he had in store for Papua New Guinea and the world, once he really turned the after burners on and hit his peak speed and skill.

The potential massing within him was enormous, rest assured we will yet see this, through his essence in every young boy and girl that laces up their boots and puts on a Jersey to be just like him.

The day will come in our not too distant future when one of our next up and coming sporting talents will attribute their success to be based on being inspired Kato Ottio.

Rest in Eternal Love

Paul Titus, an inspirational tale of struggle, success and forgiveness

PTPaul Titus was born in Simbu. His father, Yol, died of prostate cancer when he was eight. His young widowed mother suffered abuse at the hands of his uncles wives who distrusted her. When he was 10, his mother abandoned Paul and his two bothers. They were mistreated for many years. Paul recalled having to steal food to survive. He was able to get a scholarship and study in New Zealand. Years later, he reunited with his mother and forgave his two uncles who had left his father to die at the Goroka hospital.


Seeing the life that Paul Titus has given to his family today, it is hard to imagine the difficulties he went through as a child.

Paul Titus was born in 1982. His mother, Kama Bertha, gave birth to him in a hut in Dulai village in the Simbu province. The family lived a typical rural existence surrounded by a close knit clan.

Paul lived a carefree existence. But at the age of eight, his father, Yol’s health was failing. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer when the illness was already in its advanced stages.

Kama was at the time, expecting their third child and couldn’t accompany Yol to Goroka hospital where they hoped he would get treatment for the cancer.

“The village contributed money. They had to sell pigs. Two of my paternal uncles, took my father to Goroka.”

But instead of caring for Paul’s father, they split up the money.
“One went to Kimbe and the other went to Port Moresby. My father was uncared for. Because the hospital had a policy that wouldn’t allow patients to stay without guardians, he had to be sent back. He spent three days at a Kilau Aid Post, which was near our village and then he died.”

Without a father, life became tough for the young family.

As a young widow with children living among her husband’s people, Kama faced a lot of challenges. In the traditional polygamous society, new suitors emerged within her dead husband’s clan and many of their wives were very angry.

“Some of my uncles tried to marry my mum as their second wife. My mum was with us to support us. Some of our uncles were generous. They gave us land to make our gardens and they would show concern. But their wives were not happy with it. So they would accuse their husbands of showing interest to my mother.”

Kama suffered abuse from the wives of her brothers-in-law over a period of two years. Paul watched as his mother was accused and attacked in the village.

“I witnessed two separate incidents. On one occasion, two women came and physically fought with her because their husband bought lollies for us.

“I was frustrated and angry that my mother had to go through this. I wished I was older so I could make gardens and stand up to those women. What my mum went through was all unnecessary.

“After two years, mum left us to marry someone else. She couldn’t take it any more.”

He was left in the care of his father’s clan. For the rest of his childhood, Paul Titus’ story played out like a fictional TV series about life and struggles complete with protagonists and antagonists hated and despised.

“When you are fatherless. People don’t treat you well. When you live with extended family, they will take care of their own kids before they take care of you. So I had to work for my food. I struggled with clothes, money and food.

“I worked to fetch water in bamboo containers and carry it over long distances.”

Life threw obstacle after obstacle at Paul Titus.

“My sister-in-law helped me with school fees for one year in high school. After grade 10, I didn’t get an offer. So I went and worked at a fuel station. Then I went and did some missionary work in the prison.”

Later, Paul found that there was space at the Popondetta Agricultural College.

“I went and asked if I could be enrolled as a self-sponsored student. There were seven spaces left. I paid half the fees and got in.”

After a whole life of struggles, the blessings were slowly trickling in. At the end of his course, The New Zealand Government announced that applications were open for their Aotearoa Scholarships.

The odds of Paul getting a New Zealand government scholarship were against him. There were 200 applicants and one of the basic requirements was a grade 12 certificate. He didn’t have one.

“I was a grade 10 drop out and they wanted grade 12s. But I still applied and out of 200, I was selected.”

In 2002, Paul Titus left Papua New Guinea and traveled to New Zealand on a new adventure, this time in total control of his own life and future.

After 2005, when he completed undergraduate studies in New Zealand, Paul returned to Papua New Guinea. For the child left fatherless at eight and abandoned by his mother at 10, he had a lot to fix.

Paul tracked down his mother and found her in Port Moresby. After leaving the children, Kama Bertha had married a truck driver from another village and went to live in Lae, then Port Moresby.

After years of being angry about her abandoning him and his brothers, he finally let it go.

“It took me at least 20 years to forgive her. I was 28 when I finished my undergrad studies. When I got back, I hired a car, had her sit in front and I told her that I forgiven her.

“She cried and she was embarrassed. She said she didn’t deserve all this. But I said: you are my mother and that’s it.

It was one of the most difficult chapters of his story and he took at least three years to prepare for that meeting.

“When we met, I went and embraced her and just cried. I didn’t say anything for a while. I just listened. I guess that’s all you can do. Listen.

Years later, as an adult, Paul came to better understand the difficulties his mother had gone through and the decision she made. While Kama Bertha may have left them without a mother, the children remained with their clansmen and in a place they belonged.

“When I was young I didn’t understand why she left. Later, I appreciated what she did. Even when mum left and married someone else, I now appreciate the difficulties she was going through.”

Nearly 30 years after his uncles abandoned his father in Goroka Hospital, Paul returned to his Dilau village for revenge. After completing his post graduate studies, he bought a shotgun with the intention to kill them both.

“You know, those two guys… the guys who left my father to die are still alive. I put them in front of the hausman and I showed them the gun and the money they took. I told them, that I brought the gun to kill you both because of what you did to my father.

“But God changed my heart. I kissed their feet and I let it go.”


*Paul Titus recently graduated with a post graduate qualification in education. He is married with three children and lives and works in New Zealand. He has just finished writing a book about his life called “Sibougo – Born in a pig’s hut” published on the 28th of October, 2017.

Wionare Mitimu, Bible translator who established 27 tokples preschools, trained 67 teachers

WmWionare Mitimu may be small in stature, but he is a powerful force in his community.

The Bible translator and language preschool teacher trainer is responsible for the establishment of 27 language preschools and the training of 67 teachers in three language groups in one of the most inaccessible areas of the Raikos District of Madang province.

In 1981, Wionare completed grade six in the Eastern Highlands where his father worked as a missionary. There was little hope of going on to high school because his family couldn’t afford the school fees.

In 1994, he started training as a “tokples preschool” teacher. This involved learning how to use local languages  in preschool education. In 2003, he was called to Ukarumpa in the Eastern Highlands where he started a two year course called “Strengthening Tokples Education in PNG” or STEP.

The STEP Course opened up new opportunities for Wionare Mitimu.

“In 2005, I started a literacy program in my Nankina language group. But I had to take the first step of creating awareness and when the people saw the benefits, they gave me a place to start.”

Some 5000 people speak Nankina. The language group blends into the Dumun and Teptep language groups.

That part of the Raikos district is one of the most difficult to get to because of its rugged terrain. Teachers and government officers from other provinces who are posted to work there, don’t usually stay for a long time. The hardships eventually force them back to the comforts of town life.

The tokples preschools have become a local solution to ending a vicious cycle of the lack of education that exists in the area.

“In 2005, I trained 20 preschool teachers. Then in 2006, I trained another 20.”

It takes one year to train one batch.   The training begins with and intensive two week session in the beginning of the year, followed by practical teaching.   Then, there is another two week session at the end of the year. In total he had trained 67 teachers, including 27 from his own language group.

Within his language group, those 27 teachers each started 27 preschools.

But the work he started in 2005 was just the latest of his work over 25 years as a bible translator, language preschool teacher and trainer.

As a language preschool teacher, in the mid1990s, he was responsible for bridging an important education gap in a district that had a chronic shortage of teachers. That period was when the government introduced the elementary school system and the failed Outcome Based Education (OBE).

Schools in rural areas that were poorly resourced suffered the most. But Wionare Mitimu used methods taught to him by Bible translators to fill the education void.

“I didn’t teach in Tok Pisin because I found that Tok Pisin affected their learning when time came for the kids to transition to learning English.

“I taught them in their own language and then I did the ‘bridging’ process and sent them to grade three to learn English.”

After more than 20 years, the humble Bible translator is being rewarded by the success of his students.

“I have been told that some of my students are training to be pilots in the Philippines and Australia or where wherever it is they learn to fly planes. I know of one, at least. He’s from Teptep.

“One of my former students is a surgeon at the Goroka Hospital.   Two girls are studying to be teachers at the University of Goroka. Another girl has graduated as a nurse. They are all my students. They come from my village.”

One of the things that astounds many people who come to learn about Wionare’s feats, is that none of the preschool teachers he trained get fortnightly salaries like their colleagues in government and church run schools.

“They don’t get paid money. The community gives them a house, makes their food gardens for them. The community supports them.

“Every six months, the people give them a small cash compensation they collect in a bilum. Then at the end of the year, we make a small kaikai and say ‘thank you’ to them.”

 

 

 

Neville Hayes: My body may have left, but I left my heart in PNG

NH

Forty-nine-year-old, Neville Hayes, grew up in Lae in the 1970s. His parents  arrived in the country five years before Independence.  When he was nine, he was sent off to school in Australia. The departure was sudden and he didn’t get to say goodbye to the friends he made over six years.  Those heartwarming childhood memories are still fresh, more than four decades later.  This is his story.


When he was about three years old in 1970, Neville Hayes arrived in pre-independence Papua New Guinea with his parents – Cleve and Margaret.

He spent most of his early years in Lae where his dad, worked for Air Niugini and Ansett. His mom worked in the courts and spent a lot of time travelling up the Sepik river working on resolving issues related to native land titles.

“So It was like being born in one country and waking up in another.”

Later, Neville attended the Coronation Primary School. Most of his earliest memories revolved around the feeling of freedom and adventure. He spent a lot of time walking around in the bush and finding machine guns and other war relics.

“We lived on Vee Street in Lae. Some of my memories include chasing butterflies in the Lae botanical garden and looking for large millipedes.”

Neville Hayes, today runs his own business. He also films documentaries that help small towns draw vital tourism revenue.

A few months ago, Neville posted a bit about his early life on Facebook. The post drew a lot of interest, especially, the account of his childhood friends. – Marka, Lina and Ludy.

“He was my best mate. He still is. His Name was Marka, but I called him ‘Marcus.

“What was so special is the happiness and the laughter. We didn’t have toys. All we had was a tyre and a rope… and each other. I guess the bond became strong because that was all we had.”

When Neville was about nine years old, his life in Papua New Guinea came to an abrupt end when he was shipped off to Australia for school. To this day, he recalls that he wasn’t prepared to leave and his departure was quite sudden.

“When your whole life revolves around the mango tree, it’s difficult. We used to play until dark with the local kids and we would get called in by our parents.”

On the day he was leaving, Neville says, the departure was difficult.

“I can still remember looking out the window and all my friends had come to say goodbye. My body may have left, but my heart was left behind.”

In Australia, his teenage ears were difficult as he tried to adjust into a society he didn’t quite understand.

“When they gave me a football, they expected me to know the rules. In New Guinea, we didn’t have white chalk lines, all we had were two coconut trees.

“So I ran as fast as I could. I wasn’t sure when to stop so I ran past the goal mouth some more. They couldn’t catch me. Later They explained that I ran 20 meters past the dead ball line.”

Today, Neville struggles with clinical depression. But he has been able to ride through the challenges.

“That childhood experience has made me a better man. I’ve helped a lot of people. Some people I meet have told me that I have been an inspiration to them. I guess I’ve been able to take some of the New Guinea love and spread it to others.”

Today, connecting with Papua New Guineans is always heartwarming for him.

“When the hunters came to play, I thought I was going to be the only one supporting. But when I got there, It was like the whole stadium was supporting the hunters.

“When I see a Papua New Guinean these days, I don’t have to talk. It’s like our hearts are talking first. Then, we start talking.

“It’s a connection, maybe…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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