Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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Hera (pictured left), aged 15, lives in Gabagaba, a small coastal village an hour and a half south of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. For young women like Hera living in rural parts of the country, there are many obstacles to achieving a higher education including gender expectations and financial restrictions.

“I left school during year 10 due to COVID-19 so I came back home to live in the village. I couldn’t go back to school because of financial difficulties and as a big sister I wanted my younger siblings to carry on learning,” said Hera.

In her village, Hera is teaching her peers about life skills development as part of ChildFund’s Youth Peace and Protection Champion program. Through her participation in the project, she was able to find a new purpose when she couldn’t return to school.

“During my stay in the village, my little brother had joined this group and he was the one who introduced me and told me a lot about the group. I wasn’t aware of them before.”

Although she was initially hesitant about taking part, her younger brother convinced her to attend a meeting. Most of their meetings are outside, down by the water or under a tree.

“I went, first when I sat with them, they started introducing the group and so on like I have a lot of experiences.

When I first went and sat with them, I learned that we had a lot of similar experiences. I I decided to join the group and bring them into the church so we could talk to more of our peers.”

Hera and the group leading a peer education session.

Like many other young people in her village, Hera has found it difficult to find purpose and meaning in her day-to-day life. This group is a safe place for her to share her experiences, challenges, and her hopes for the future with her peers that can relate.

“I have learn a lot from the other members. You know, as a young person I go through situations which I feel like there’s no need for me cause I’m in the village I can’t do much. Living in the village you have to provide and also do things to make your family happy and contribute.”

ChildFund Papua New Guinea, in partnership with Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) is providing young people across the country with necessary tools and skills to promote peace, resolve conflict and prevent violence and become Youth Peace and Protection Champions (YPPC).

As a YPPC, Hera has gone through extensive training on awareness of rights, respectful relationships, non-violent conflict resolution and peace building. Working alongside five other YPPC’s from her village, they have each claimed a role in the group and together they are creating an action plan to reach more young people in the community.

The group ran a peer education session with about 40 year 8 students. They drew on their training, running different energisers and brainstorming activities to encourage their peers to think about the issues they face and how to best overcome these challenges.

Now Hera, is confident in her leadership skills and abilities. She feels more excited and optimistic about her future. “I have ups and downs but through the advice and experience from this group, they help me a lot.”

Learn more about our work in Papua New Guinea.

Rosemary (pictured left) was born and raised in Kivori. She has been a ChildFund volunteer for almost six years. She is warm, kind and takes pride in being part of helping build a healthier community. “When people have a health emergency, they run to me. They recognise me as a community health volunteer – it gives me authority,” said Rosemary.

Four hours north of Port Moresby sits Kivori, a small coastal village. The road into the village is rough, rocky, and unreliable – often becoming impossible to drive on when it rains.

In remote villages like Kivori, timely health care is hard to find. ChildFund Papua New Guinea has worked in Kivori for more than six years and in 2021 opened a fully stocked health post. The Kivori Health Post is open one week every month, when district health professionals visit.

During this week, families visit the clinic for tuberculosis diagnosis, routine immunisations, and any other health concerns. In between these visits, Community Health Volunteers (CHV), like Rosemary, are the backbone of healthcare in the community.

As a CHV, Rosemary supports pregnant mothers in the community to access antenatal care. She also identifies possible tuberculosis (TB) cases and encourages children to be tested, diagnosed, and treated.

Before becoming a CHV, Rosemary worked with the village courts to respond to domestic and family violence to ensure that children were safe and protected.

She first heard about ChildFund Papua New Guinea through a TB prevention and treatment workshop. In the last few years though, her attention has shifted from TB to COVID-19. She attended a ChildFund workshop to learn about the symptoms and how families could protect themselves from the COVID-19 through hand hygiene and social distancing.

More recently Rosemary has been advocating to families to get the COVID-19 vaccine. After the training Rosemary went from door to door to talk about the vaccine.

“There are so many challenges. It is a lot of hard work. Sitting and having a conversation though, doing the explaining – that is how I encourage my friends and family. This is what encourages them to get the vaccine.”

Rosemary explained that many parents question whether the vaccine is safe for their children and if there are any long-term impacts. She says that widespread misinformation and lack of access to the vaccine is largely to blame for the low uptake. Only 3.5% of the country is fully vaccinated.

Rosemary and her one-year-old grandson.

“This is my community, and we are very far away from other health posts, so we must work as a team to keep people healthy.”

Once a month they host community information sessions at Kivori about the virus and the vaccine. Slowly, more people in Kivori are choosing to get vaccinated.

Rosemary is happiest when watching her community grow. When asked about her own family during the interview, her one-year-old grandson crawled over and grabbed for her. She smiled and picked him up. “This is my grandson; I call him my booboo.”

Rosemary is one of three volunteers working in antenatal care. “We do home visits to see the mothers and attend the clinics with them. We also support them with transport to and from the community.”

She says that she particularly enjoys the antenatal work and supporting expecting mothers; she loves talking to people in her community and seeing it thrive.

Looking to the future she hopes to see health care professionals stationed at Kivori on a full-time basis. This would mean the clinic could open every day and people in the community could access healthcare when they need it.

“Kivori needs an ambulance,” says Rosemary. “We do many referrals but the road in and out of the community is not very good and it is a long trip. Sometimes people sit in their sickness because they can’t get to the hospitals.”

CHVs like Rosemary are crucial to achieving better long-term health outcomes for the children and young people. ChildFund is committed to working with communities and medical professionals to ensure children and families can access basic healthcare so they can lead health lives.

Learn more about ChildFund Papua New Guinea.