Lee Duffield

Edited by Lee Duffield
Freedom and Truth

Manam Settlement Outreach Program

Helping-out at a community level is a movement now in Papua New Guinea, and Anna Chisholm found out about a Christian students’ outreach program to needy villages — everything from spiritual messages to talk about topics like health, ethics, business, and developing tourism.

She writes:

The Divine Word University (DWU) students’ Community Outreach program has entered its fifth year of reaching out to suffering communities.

This year’s program was held in Manam refugee camp on the PNG North Coast at Asuramba, where the Manam Islanders were resettled after the island’s volcano erupted in October 2004.

The program is run by Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) students who each year devote one week of their semester break in June to live with another community and share their knowledge and experiences; to educate and give hope to people in need, especially the young .

Students raised 800 Kina (A$400) for the trip by holding a fundraising performance night in Madang where 200 people attended and took part in the singing and dancing.

Vice President of Community Outreach at DWU is Wesley Bonle, a 22 year old tourism, hospitality and management student. This year the Christ of Only Hope program was run in the Manama settlement care centre in Asuramba, where 24 students lived and worked with the community.

“There are three villages within the settlement these are Dangale, Kolang and Kulugumu, each run by a leader or chief.

“The program is not only spiritual, it involves a mental aspect where students teach and communicate research and information they have learnt at university to young people in the villages. Subjects such as health, ethics, business and tourism are covered. This encourages them to go to university”, Wesley says.

Students studying the Royal Doctors course speak at the program and give health talks to the villagers. Each day covers an issue such as drug abuse, HIV-AIDS, malaria, treatment of snake bites, cervical cancer and family planning. The first year students are able to learn from their leaders in the program and from students in other courses.

“The program aims to inspire the children they encounter,” Wesley Bonle.

“Goals are to bring the good news to students because we are at university ourselves and we can show them new skills to build confidence like public speaking and communication. This is most beneficial as there and children there who are not attending school as they cannot afford tuition,” he told us at Subtropic.

He  says the Manam people were troubled and unhappy when the students first arrived because of the ongoing conflict between the settlers and local landowners, which was not helped by the two groups living in separate villages, in very close proximity, with a barricade of stones between them.

“People have boundaries, restrictions and fear the outside. When we went to the settlement they asked us to find an answer to their conflict, so we brought peace to them…”, he said.

The shared experience also taught and encouraged him.

“I learnt a lot from them, the way the Manam people organise their groups, walk and move in time to carry out daily tasks was impressive.

“We felt by being there we could provide a solution of peace and encourage the Manam people not to give up hope. We socialised with the community- they have a beautiful beach where we play sports like volleyball and swimming – and watched a DVD with singing and a positive message to lift their spirit”, he says.

He says helping others shows its own rewards in the Manam community’s comments and feedback from the program, with students making many friends and contacts for life, and the participating communities’ asking for return visits.

He says each trip teaches him how to better communicate hope to communities.

“In 2008 we travelled to Goroka and Henganofi in the North district and were able to help communities there; here I also learnt many valuable things. We were lucky this year to have raised funds for equipment such as a DVD player, projector and laptop to use technology to send our message to them.”

To Wesley Bonle, the the project has shaped and taught him as much as anybody in the participating communities.

“Being a part of the Outreach program helped me within myself to develop as a person. It taught me many skills – leadership, directing and organising people and teaching other students for future programs.”