Life in Papua New Guinea is exciting, interesting and at times still full of surprises even though we moved here in 1998. Papua New Guineans are nice, warm and friendly people. There is always something happening around you. We live in a small town called Lae where there is absolutely no source of entertainment and yet; we manage to keep ourselves very busy. Probably because Atul, my husband and I have a range of interests and issues that we are passionate about. Atul is a Rotarian and I am a Soroptimist and thus active community workers. Besides working, past few days have been very hectic as I had been busy writing and posting letters for ‘Trivia Nite’, annual fund raising event for ‘Soroptimist International of Lae’ (SI Lae) which is scheduled for 27th may this year. I have been successfully coordinating this event since 2001 with a lot of help from Atul, our daughter and a group of my soroptimist friends. This has become my passion too.
For the benefit of readers who do not know what ‘Soroptimist International’ is!
Soroptimist International is a worldwide organization for women in business and professions. Click on to www.soroptimist.org for more details.
Until Nov. 2005, there was only one SI club in Lae in PNG and now there is one in Port Moresby too chartered on 26th Nov. 2005.
Soroptimist International of Lae was chartered on 30th march 1995. It is a group of some 20 plus professional women from 10 different nationalities. I served as the President for two terms, 2004 and 2005. Click on to the ppt. on ‘SI Lae’ to get the gist of our operation. I had composed this presentation last year for one of the extension meeting sessions during the process of formation of SI Port Moresby. (An article on extension project is under construction) In due course of time I will be putting various links for different activities that we have done and work acknowledged by media.
I could go on and on about Soroptimist International as I am passionate about Soroptimism. If I could, I would go spreading the word of Soroptimism as it is a beautiful concept and has done wonders to improve the lives of countless women around the world. In my pursuit to do so, each time I traveled, I managed to either get a few interested in Soroptimism or stir up a few to think about women related issues.
I must mention a part of Soroptimist International Pledge. The pledge for Soroptimist goes like this:
I pledge allegiance to Soroptimism and the ideals for which it stands.
The sincerity of Friendship,
The dignity of Service
The joy of Achievement…………………………………..
I am passionate about the adjectives used for friendship, service and achievement; I have experienced first hand how meaningful these adjectives are.
To start with ‘The sincerity of Friendship’, I have made some life long friends through Soroptimist International. A very dear friend is Dr. Catherine Evans from Canberra, Australia. I met Catherine in Lae while she was here for a Veterinary conference. Catherine at that time was the President of NSW region (that is 13 SI clubs) while I was the President for SI Lae. She helped bring some women undergarments for SI Lae’s ‘Women and children Support Centre’, which was donated by SI Hills, Sydney, Australia. Just that time we were moving our only daughter to Canberra for her schooling and Catherine became her local guardian. Since then Catherine has become a special family friend and we all are very fond of her. So this is Soroptimism that brought Catherine close to us. It becomes easier to make friends through Soroptimism when you are visiting a place. I was in UK for 2 months (Dec. 2005- Jan. 2006). Nothing can be more depressing than being in UK during winters all alone. I was based in Greater London and looked up the website for SI clubs in and around that area and wherever I traveled. I soon had some very good friends all over UK and then my time there became a memorable one. I have made many good friends all around the world through Soroptimism.
I experience ‘the dignity of service and the joy of achievement’ whenever I evaluate our two big projects ‘Halt Family Violence’ and ‘Yalu’. These two projects carried out by SI Lae have not only helped a number of women and children but also helped put PNG on the world map.
Last year’s ‘Trivia Nite’ raised an ALL time high profit of K20,000 plus in the history of the event organized by SI Lae. My daughter has been helping us with all the computer-related work since 2000 and she has been fondly called ‘Our Honorary Computer Consultant’ by then President Sheryl Guthrie (2000). Click on to the ‘photos’ link to check some of the previous Trivia Nite tickets and flyers. Our daughter has still continued to offer her help with that even after moving to Australia for school and now University.
So far, I have posted letters asking for donations to some 200 companies (big and small) and now with the help of five other Soroptimists, Tina, Merilyn, Sciony, Cynia, myself and a good friend Dawn, we will each start following up the donation with a number of companies. It is a very time consuming, requires a lot of patience and at times frustrating exercise but it needs to be done. The donations that come in are used as trivia prizes, raffle and lucky door prize/s, ‘silent auction’.
While we are busy doing this, Atul is busy compiling the questions and answers for 10 rounds (each round comprises of 10 questions)
Since last year’s success, I have secretly set a target of K30,000 plus as net profit this year: only time can tell!
While all this was going on, I get an email from our Immediate Past President, Elaine Moffat asking if I could help put something together on our federation project ‘Halt Family Violence’ which she could use for a presentation at the Brisbane conference (14-16th April 2006, Brisbane, Australia). ‘Halt family Violence’ is a project of SI Lae which was chosen as the federation project in 2002-2004 and then again chosen for another two years 2004-2006. PNG is one the countries notorious for violence against women and children. Click on to a ppt on ‘HFV presentation 2006’ While there is still so much that needs be done, Soroptimists in PNG are making a difference and contribution in improving the lives of women and children in PNG.
After Easter, we move into week 6 of first semester teaching. I generally teach a class of nearly 200 students in the first semester for the 1st year Chemistry course to Applied Science, Applied Physics, Agriculture and Forestry students. It takes a huge effort to teach a class as huge as this and to try understanding your students is equally huge in PNG. Students are respectful. The one particular aspect that worries me about the students here is ‘chewing betel nut’. I often notice young men and women come to university and with in no time they pick up the chewing of betel nut (betel nut is called ‘buai’ in pidgin (pidgin is national language of PNG), Piper betel is its scientific name: buai is mixed with lime and macerated inside mouth for hours and slowly the juices are gulped; making you prone to mouth cancer!) along with all the other habits that university students normally indulge into on getting into the univ. The ‘Independence’ does mislead some students, which is the case everywhere else so PNG is no special. There are some students who I would be very keen to follow, say, where would they be in 10 years from now like Daroa Inai, Douglas Mausen, Zenerdine Chee and quite a few others. That is the ultimate experience of the teaching profession!
We have made some good friends in PNG from different parts country like Rabaul, Siassi, Sepik, Milne Bay, Port Moresby, Finschaffen, Manus to name a few and from different countries like Kenya, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, UK, US, China, Indian subcontinent, Phillipines, Canada etc. It has no doubt, enriched our lives and we have been able to learn about different cultures and people.
The scene is now changing in PNG, though there is still a reasonably sized expatriate community, there are a number of Papua New Guineans well placed in private sector too. Even in the hotels and clubs, which used to be expatriates dominated is now becoming more eye pleasing with lots of nationals around. It is a very unique place and it is very difficult to describe the place. Like Atul wrote to me when I asked him to describe the place on his arrival here in 1998, “you have to be there to know the place!” How very true, and I am still learning about many things here. I have some good Papua New Guinean friends through my soroptimist activities and I feel that has enriched my life too. There is no doubt a lot still needs to be done in this country. What I always tell my friends is that we need to have people trained and not just go for funding only. As it stands, PNG is a rich country for it has so many natural resources. I often compare its natural wealth with India because that is where I am from and PNG is far richer if you compared natural wealth per sq km of the two countries. So to start with the situation is not bad, we just need some sort of strategic planning! So, I can only wish that responsible nationals in PNG would take care of that because this country can do so much better than what it is doing at the moment.
Well, my interest lies in issues related with women and we have done some brilliant work here. I will continue talking about it and my experiences as a ‘Global Woman’ in my next chapter.