Papua New Guinea
Be The Change Volunteers has been supporting schools and students in Papua New Guinea (PNG) since 2009. BTCV has completed education focused development aid projects in partnership with communities all across this beautiful country. The journey to PNG is long, but the rewards are exceptional - PNG is a unique, diverse, and gorgeous land filled with extraordinary people who value culture, community, and education! Every BTCV project in PNG has been an epic experience that Changers will remember forever.
Community activist, Petrus Martin, is a "homegrown" leader who has dedicated his life to improving housing, local services and economy, community infrastructure, and education. He and his wife, Ida, have been our partners for all of the BTCV projects in PNG. They work together to prepare and submit applications, coordinate planning and logistics, mobilize the communities, host the teams, complete the projects, administer BTCV Kids scholarships, and submit annual reports. They are inspiring Changers who value hard work, community, and the power of the opportunity for education.
Travelers... the time it takes to travel to PNG can be summed up in one word... LONG! It can take teams almost 3 days to get to New Ireland Province 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 Sumuna." This journey is not for the faint of heart but it is for the Changer desiring to Hand Deliver Hope to one of the most remote, unique, beautiful and welcoming parts of the world.
Omo Community Campus is our flagship project in PNG. The Omo Community is located on the beautiful South Pacific Island of New Ireland Province in Papua New Guinea. Omo is comprised of a central village and surrounding jungle settlements. The community was passionately committed to education for their children, but faced the common developing-world hurdles of lack of access and infrastructure. When Omo native, Petrus Martin, moved his family from the mainland back home to Omo, he also brought his vision for a comprehensive community campus with him. The Omo Community shared this vision, and so with Martin's established connections to BTCV through our previous project in Apangai, we were able to partner together on a phased-build whole campus solution with this incredible community.
The first phase for the Omo Campus included the Kindergarten and Elementary Classrooms building, completed by the community and local skilled labor with support from BTCV. This demonstration of community buy-in was immediately followed by their pursuit of PNG-government certification for the school, hiring and support for teachers, resourcing with educational materials, and a school maintenance program involving the entire community. These first 2 classrooms were immediately filled with eager students who honored this community's commitment to a quality education. Through the hard work of parents, grandparents, community members, administrators, teachers, and students, Omo Community Campus has been able to "stay one step ahead" by partnering with BTCV to build and resource classrooms, a science lab, teacher housing, an assembly hall, an agricultural area, and recreational area so that the first group of students has been able to stay on pace by completing each successive grade in their educational process. The BTCV needs-analysis, phased-building, and return partner application processes have been key to this progress, and has resulted in the Omo Community Campus receiving official government designation as a Model School in PNG.
In PNG, BTCV volunteer teams have worked on a variety of construction projects at The Brikiti Elementary School, Lipek Elementary School, Sumuna School, and Omo Campus under the supervision of local skilled tradesmen and project managers. The work can range from mixing, shoveling, and pouring concrete to framing to desk building to painting and much, much more. In PNG, you can bet that the community members including parents, grandparents, teachers, and students will be pitching in right alongside you to build their futures in education!
Some of the most special aspects of serving in PNG are the cultural exchanges and village hospitality. Teams live on-site right in the village in a true immersion experience. Meals are prepared by local volunteers and enjoyed family-style and the Changers always take a turn preparing a "traditional American meal" for our hosts. The village kids, and adults, are always up for a round of games, sports, and sing-alongs. And then, the sounds of the island jungle lull you to sleep at night after a full day of shared work, fellowship, and fun.
Needs-analysis and phased-building included Teacher Housing as well. The provision of quality on-campus teacher housing has proven extremely effective in PNG for recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers, campus safety and security, and student and teacher attendance. 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 through generous donors and legacy gifts, BTCV is able to accelerate 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 in-service training for teachers was completed.
At the conclusion of each project, the team and community gather to celebrate, which often includes a sing-sing and an incredible pig roast prepared by the community in the traditional PNG way. There is nothing like a true islander sing-sing to celebrate a global partnership formed to deliver the power of education to the future generations. The community shares music, dancing, games, and speeches to honor the work, unity in vision and purpose, and our shared commitment to education!