Papua New Guinea, Omo Community School
Be The Change Volunteers has been working with and supporting schools and students in Papua New Guinea (PNG) since 2009. There are multiple locations where BTCV's partners have completed education focused development aid projects with the current main campus focus in the Omo and Kulangit Villages near the town of Kaving on New Ireland Province. This is a long journey but well worth it for the traveler hoping to be the change!
Community activist Martin Petrus is a local community leader who has dedicated his life to improving housing, basic utilities, community infrastructure and education. He and his wife Ida are the key partners behind all BTCV work in PNG. They worked together to mobilize the communities of Kulangit and Omo for each phase of the construction of the Omo Community School.
Travelers... the time it takes to travel to PNG can be summed up in one word... LONG! It can take teams over 2 days to get to New Ireland Provence from the USA. One Changer described it as, "five flights and a jeep ride to the nearest school. Add a boat ride and a hike to the most remote classrooms on the small island of Summuna." This journey is not for the faint of heart but it is for the traveler desiring to Hand Deliver Hope to one of the most untraveled parts of the world.
Omo Community School is located on the beautiful South Pacific Island of New Ireland Province in Papua New Guinea. Omo is made up of an indigenous community of islanders that live both in the main village and in surrounding jungle settlements. The biggest problem facing this community was a lack of access to education. The existing government schools are overcrowded, the city schools are far away and expensive. When Omo native Petrus Martin moved his family home to Omo from the mainland he became determined to build a community driven school in Omo that would serve his communities needs. Martin had a high level of experience working with other mission organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. He was connected to BTCV and applied for the new project.
The first building completed on the campus was the Kindergarten and Elementary building. This was completed by the community and local skilled labor with support from BTCV. The next step was really the biggest community buy in and that was hiring and PAYING a teacher. No teacher no school. The great news is, they did it! The first 2 classrooms were immediately populated with eager students. In the coming years BTCV would apply needs analysis tools to the PNG project to help determine the greatest needs for the school with input from the community and collaboration from BTCV experts.
BTCV volunteer teams work on a variety of the construction projects on campus under the supervision of paid local skilled tradesmen and project managers. The work can range from shoveling wet concrete to cutting and nailing up walls. In PNG you can bet that the community and students will be pitching in alongside you!
Now probably one of the most special aspects of serving in PNG is the lodging and village hospitality. Teams live on site in the village in temporary housing constructed by locals. This is where local meals are enjoyed family style and the sounds of the island lul you to sleep at night after a day full of service and cultural exchange.
As more classrooms were completed and the student population increased at the Omo Community School the need to recruit more teachers became an issue identified by BTCV's annual reporting and ongoing needs analysis.
The provision of quality teacher housing near or onsite at rural schools as part of an employment package has proven to recruit and retain high quality teachers. This is one way that BTCV utilizes infrastructure that will last a long time with little ongoing investment to reduce recurring monthly expenses and overhead for partner schools.
As resources and funding become available to projects through generous donors and legacy gifts BTCV is able to accelerate and equip special aspects of total campus solutions such as science labs, playgrounds, cafeterias and bathrooms. In PNG thanks to a generous gift in honor of Frankie Trull and the work of teachers from the BTCV New Mexico Chapter a science lab was equipped and inservice training with teachers was completed.
At the conclusion of each project the team and community gather to celebrate and often dine on a pig that his been given by the community and cooked in the island fashion. There is nothing like a true islander sing-sing performed to honor the team, donors and school staff. The community shares music, dancing, games, and speeches to honor the work, partnership, and our shared commitment to education!