It’s a fact unknown to many, but Papua New Guinea has some of the best surfing locations in the world.
In actuality, for the most part, it is a country which has much to offer the tourism industry. With rural areas untouched by modernity, its landscape lush with bright blue oceans, pristine rainforests, visibly phenomenal coral and incredible flora and fauna. And with more than 800 different dialects spoken, to say it is rich in culture would be an understatement.
Yet, with all this to offer the keen traveler, Papua New Guinea is one of the last frontiers as far as tourists are concerned. Grim Australian Government warnings deter travelers to visit. Why? Because juxtaposed to this unimaginable rural beauty lies a city centre which tells a different story. One of chaos, poverty and crime.
Sixty years ago the population in Port Moresby was 4,000. Now it is 255,000. Infrastructure is inadequate and there have been little improvements to support this expanding population. Unemployment rates are now estimated to be between 60 and 90 per cent.
Sonia is in Year 10 and lives in Port Moresby. She eats only one meal a day. Her father and mother are uneducated and unemployed. Their family of seven lives in a two room shack with an electric light, a standpipe outside for water, and no toilet.
Sonia’s Mum spends all day on the streets selling anything she can find to keep her daughter in school. Unfortunately, this will be Sonia’s last year at school as her parents are now unable to pay her school fees.
Still only a child, Sonia is prepared to carry the burden of being her family’s only hope for a better future by gaining an education. And her mother can only be described as cheerful in the sacrifices she makes for her children.
There are so many families like Sonia’s in Papua New Guinea. For all of them, their escape from poverty is an uphill battle against the Government’s failure to provide basic services to its people such as water, sewerage, electricity, schools and health clinics.
As the global financial crisis continues, many governments around the world are doing what they can to protect their people from poverty and unemployment. But in Papua New Guinea poverty and unemployment are two issues that political leaders seem unable to successfully address.
In 2004, Port Moresby was ranked the worst capital city in the world to live in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s ranking of 130 of the world’s capital cities. This was attributed to higher rates of violence and robbery and the ongoing presence of street thugs, known locally as “rascals”.
Most rascals say they get into crime when their parents send them out to make money. Pressured to generate an income, without education or skills training to gain employment, they turn to crime.
With incredible adventures and amazing scenes to explore, Papua New Guinea should rate highly as a tourist destination. Unfortunately with all this to offer, it is marred by the ongoing poverty and desperation which is ever present. And with a Government unable to offer an adequate education system, it seems a certainty for the situation to continue.
Fortunately there is hope for change. There are many Aid operations in PNG doing what they can to educate, care for and employ people. The De La Salle Brothers have been working in PNG for over 60 years establishing schools, training young people to become teachers, employing staff and generally offering care and support to those in need. They play a crucial role in educating people who will be able to build a Papua New Guinea which offers a peaceful and fulfilling lifestyle.
The De La Salle Brothers are offering a volunteer experience for guys (aged 20 -35) to work at Mainohana Catholic Secondary Boarding School on the coast of Papua New Guinea, departing June 21, 2009.
Besides education, the Brothers each day are faced with the challenge of providing water, food, electricity and general site maintenance. “Everyday, we have so much to do”, says Br Bob McLaughlin, Principal. Volunteers can expect to engage in a range of tasks from classroom activities, after school sport, manual labour and possibly even helping to cook the 1,000 buns that are baked daily! Experience the extraordinary impact the Brothers make at Mainohana.