Literacy


It has been well over a year now for me at this job and I have found it to be nothing short of an eye opener for me, working in the conservation NGO circle. One interesting aspect of this job is the occasional travel to our project sites. Seeing new places and just getting away from the hectic 8-5 raucous affair that is life in the city.  Breaking this monotony is refreshing and enriching.

It’s then that every so often I get to meet some genuine people out there who are keeping it real, putting in the hard yards to help out their communities. Be it either in education or in administering health care to the sick and needy, at often times sacrificing their own comfort for others, impassive to the pressing demands of fast money, televangelists,  bubblegum music and the pursuit of opulence evident in urban centres. To them the bare essentials are what really matters.

Chris and the syllabus chart he had drawn up himself which is comprised of 19 characters out of the 26 letters of the English alphabet.

One such person I recently bumped into is Christopher Asiurina of Ogana village near Afore in the Managalas Plateau of Oro Province. Chris happens to be a Sunday school teacher, a community youth leader, a community basic constable (CBC), a peer educator and an adult literacy teacher – all volunteer work.

Going as far as Grade 8, he happens to be the only person from his clan and village to reach such a level of education. In his incessant quest to help out his community and church activities he went out of his way to buy 2 guitars for his village church congregation out of what little money he could find.

His drive was given a boost when he was taken up by Anglicare StopAIDS to undergo literacy training to translate HIV/AIDS information material into his local dialect. Using this knowledge he was able to draw up a syllabus chart for his dialect which he uses to conduct adult literacy classes in Ogana and Afore village where he’s already had a classroom built. He has 19 students, all of whom are within the 30 to 40 years age group and his initiative has enabled them to go on to read their local language bible.

His adult literacy program has had such a profound impact on the villagers, he said “Fest taim ol ridim tok ples blo ol yet na ol karai” (they cried when they were able to read in their own language for the first time).

More people from surrounding communities have since expressed their interest for him to conduct similar classes in their villages but he is hampered by need for stationary supplies and training for his 4 volunteer assistants.

This I believe is my cue. I have been looking for such opportunities to tap into to reach directly to the locals on our project site with our message of conservation and environmental awareness.  I have been fortunate enough to meet this young men and I am looking to collaborate with him in getting these vital information to a level where our village people can understand at their level.

Here is a condensed version on my report covering the actual expedition phase of the book-delivering awareness exercise I undertook under the banner of Hope Trek Leaving on the 19th of May 2010, it took me and 9 youths from NCD one month through five (5) provinces to conclude this awareness run in the Western Highlands Province.

Hope Trek is in essence a demonstrative awareness exercise that first seeks to highlight the need for books and reading as a fundamental cornerstone of education and literacy.  Through the delivery of donated books to remote schools in PNG it is hoped to contribute in elevating PNG’s low literacy standards by promoting books as an additional source of knowledge.

In addition to this main agenda, it further seeks to enlighten as many people as possible about the importance of the environment and what we as Papua New Guineans and citizens of this world stand to gain or lose, in either the practise or non-practise of conservation in our day to day living. Other related points were also raised in this month long run making it a multi-pronged awareness exercise. These points collectively were used to enlighten and help broaden the horizon of people by demonstrating how we as ordinary citizens can contribute in our own little way in seeing change and progress within our community and the country at large. In so doing, it further reemphasised the idea of being self-reliant through responsible living by thinking and acting proactively in seeing change.

The key points addressed in this exercise include:

  1. Books and the importance of reading
  2. Environment and conservation awareness
  3. Climate Change
  4. Looking into sustainable income generating ventures
  5. Being responsible and self-reliant
  6. Basic Hygiene & Cholera Awareness – the cholera outbreak was a hot issue (and still is) at the time of our departure, so we made it as a last minute inclusion into our awareness points upon request by James Enage, the Chairman of Kokoda Track Authority who helped facilitate our trekking by providing us with trekking passes free of charge.

Modus Operandi Dissected

Leaving from Ower’s Corner in Central Province, we took on the arduous Kokoda Trail and conducted awareness and distributed posters every step of the way to Oro Province and onwards to Morobe, Eastern and Western Highlands Provinces where the donated books were eventually handed over to the schools.

As a starting point in our outreach, familiar grounds like traditional practises in farming, hunting and land use plans as well as the Bible story of creation were used to drive home the message of conservation and being environmental friendly. The idea was to start with the most mundane of actions like minding our litter, reforestation using local species of trees, maintaining traditional hunting practises and the prevention of unnecessary bush fires. Information on cholera with was also shared with them as well, advising them that the only defence available was in taking preventative measures like practising basic hygiene.

With these fundamental ideas, we appealed to our audience at the end of our talk that it was within our control to make a difference in looking after our natural ecosystem and in being more mindful about our actions in relation to the bigger picture as to how our actions will impact our natural environment and our lives. We further appealed to them to pass on these messages to their wantoks, relatives, friends and neighbours.

The dissemination of information materials in the manner of posters also enabled them to better understand the concepts and the mechanics of what we were trying to get across to them as well as to remind them constantly about these issues even after we were long gone.

Our outreaches were structured to engage our audience in discussions through a Question & Answer segment after every talk session. This helped them to further understand the points of discussion and also helped us to gauge our audience’s comprehension of the points that were broached. Hope Trek youths familiar with Motu further facilitated the discussions in Motu – especially along the Track route – and further helped to pave the way for the locals to step forward with queries and questions.

Being a public awareness venture, it was void of any form of discrimination. In fact, whenever we came into contact with any people, whether individuals or groups, we kept on with our outreach. And it did not stop there. We carried on in buses, on boats, on trucks, in schools, in villages, in urban settlements, in market places, at bus stops, on local radio stations and even around the age-old fireplace. In short, we were simply on fire and everybody else around could feel the heat and they were all burning and lapping up every single word (Whow!).

Given the varied background of our audience we made it as palatable as possible in their comprehension of key issues like Global Warming and Climate Change – among others; by laying it down in the most laymen of terms as possible, using local examples as illustrations whenever necessary.

As a demonstrative awareness exercise, we embarked with the motto of “walking the talk”. Hence a total of six (6) plastic shopping bags of litter of all shapes, colour and form were collected, starting from Ower’s Corner all the way to Kokoda Station. This meant we also had to mind our rubbish. The same was practised the entire length of our travel up the Okuk Highway to WHP and back.

In topping off this run (and coinciding with the World Environment Day), the books were delivered to thowe went and delivered the donated library books to schools in Western Highlands Province and sent two boxes to remote Lembena in the border area of Enga Province, Madang and East Sepik Province.

This gesture was hoped to drive home to children and adults alike the importance of books, as the most sure-fire way to help enlighten them and broaden their horizon. This in time will help in addressing the challenges we face in educating our people and the future generation about the importance of our natural environment because I believe that a literate society will be better equipped to address not only these conservation issues but the entire development process of our country.

Digress into the Employer Angle

From the stand point of an employee of a national conservation NGO like Partners with Melanesians, this exercise can be seen as an innovative approach into the idea of education and awareness on environment and conservation to include people and places outside of PWM’s project sites. Without placing any additional stress on PWM’s working budget and schedule, it was included into my initial work plan within my programme component to coincide with both my annual leave and the World Environment Day 2010. With this in mind, funds were independently raised through the sale of T-shirts in Hope Trek’s Shirt-for-Books campaign, thus eliminating any extra financial burden on PWM’s working budget.

I am of the strong belief that this exercise has raised the profile of this organisation and has helped shed more light on PWM’s activities and on environment issues and the idea of conservation, notwithstanding PWM’s commitment to the people of Managalas in our joint bid to attain Conservation Area status for the Managalas Plateau. As further illustrations of positive steps being taken by existing conservation organisations, the work of the Eco-Forestry Forum and PWM’s partner organisations all over the country were also highlighted during our awareness.

Call to Action

It was apparent that most, if not all of the information presented was lacking in the communities we entered and passed through. According to most people including village leaders, church leaders, women and youths, such vital information was lacking in their community and was an eye-opener for them. It is without doubt that more such information is required at the community level and in some instances, there is the need to connect these locals with technical specialists to look into pursuing such ideas like eco-friendly income generating ventures as a means to promote self-reliance as well as a support mechanism to drive forward the concept of conservation and environmentalism.

It is of my strong belief that the idea of environmental awareness and conservation needs to be shared with everybody in our country, from urban centres to rural and isolated communities alike. It is imperative that this idea needs to be reiterated and ingrained into the psyche of all members of our communities to reach ideology status so that it can be eventually transpired into ACTION at the individual level up to the bigger community level.

Take for example the hot topic of Climate Change. We talk about trying to combat and reverse this global crisis but the fact remains that we cannot make even a dent in the outcome (of total CO2 emissions) if this message is confined to only our project sites. Furthermore, being an environmentalist only on World Environment Day will make zilch difference to our fight to reduce human impact on our environment. The message of environment and conservation has to reach out into all corners of this country and its practise has to be maintained on a day to day basis to become part of our lifestyle if we want to truly drive home this message and get results.

In saying that, many a times those of us within the conservation circle or even those of us environmentalist at heart at oft times only preach about these issues and that is about as far as we go. Our actions often veer away from the path of our words. It is high time we reanalyse our actions starting with the very mundane ones like littering. This starts with that simple match stick, cigarette stub and bubble gum wrappers – buai spittle notwithstanding. It starts with us switching off the air conditioning unit to only when required. Switch off those lights and electrical appliances when they are not being used. In short, we have to practise what we preach. Walking the talk should be our code of conduct to demonstrate to others, giving the less enlightened a more realistic starting point to work on in being more proactive in becoming environmentally friendly in our actions. Only by doing that can the masses out there take us seriously.

::end::

More pictures of the Kokoda Trail segment of our awareness travels can be found  HERE

NB: Images from subsequent segments of this venture were not as yet uploaded at the time of this post. It should be made available in the next few days.

I don’t know if had mentioned this earlier but I was working on something crazy. Well not the diabolical kind but outrageous nonetheless. Well, now its here at long last in all its naked glory!

Hope Trek gives you the opportunity to participate in a worthy cause through the Shirts-for-Books campaign. This is a fundraiser exercise in which printed T-shirts are sold to raise funds in helping to freight library books to children in remote schools.

It is basically an awareness trekking initiative with its primary focus in providing library books to remote schools within PNG to help in the education and early development of children. As a demonstrative exercise, members of Hope Trek will take on the Kokoda Track on May 23rd 2010 to raise awareness – NOT funds – in promoting the reading of books as a fundamental cornerstone in education and literacy.

In its pilot run, the initial books numbering to more than 2000 have been donated with the kind help of Hope Worldwide (PNG). Still more books are on their way from the Rotary Club of the rural township of Emerald in Queensland, Australia.

The initial target schools are Bukapena Top-Up in the Mul District of Western Highlands Province and Saluk Community School of remote Lembena, located in the border area of Enga Province (Kompiam District) and East Sepik Province (Angoram District). Bukapena, in a first of its kind, has erected a school library through local initiative and is in need of books to fill up its shelves, while Saluk, given its remoteness has only grades 1 – 4 and is in dire need of learning resources and books.

Further to its main purpose, this venture will also serve as a platform for raising awareness to certain key issues facing this country and its people. As such this initiative can be seen as a multipronged exercise aimed at bringing to light the following issues.

  1. Environment and Conservation awareness – people need to be reminded of the importance of the natural environment. Scheduled to coincide with the World Environment Day (5 June 2010), this point will be highlighted in line with this year’s WED theme of ‘Protecting our Biodiversity’. Highlighted also will be The Managalas (Ijivitari district, Oro) people’s bid to get their area to attain Conservation Area status in August of 2010.
  2. Climate Change awareness – related to the first point, this is a hot topic that is facing the wider global community including PNG who is already in the forefront of this agenda, with it having the first “refugees of climate change” in the world (Carteret Islands) . It is therefore imperative that our people are armed with this knowledge as this agenda requires affirmative action from one and all.
  3. Eco-friendly Income Generating Ventures – there is commercial viability in the sustainable management and use of our rich natural resources and forests without the need to delve into more destructive land use practises. Trekking is one of the many eco-friendly tourist attractions that we all should look into for income generation. This will no doubt encourage the protection and preservation of our rich cultural and traditional heritage.
  4. Responsibility and Self-reliance – as a demonstrative exercise, it is envisaged that this initiative will challenge people to be more proactive in their wish to see development within their area. That we as individual members of the community can participate meaningfully in the development process of our province and the nation as a whole instead of wasting our time and resources either waiting for services that never eventuate, or go chasing after claims and free hand-outs from the government, politicians and leaders. It is high time we eradicate the Cargo-Cult mentality from our mindset and set out to be more self-reliant and innovative in our thinking to see true progress.
  5. Youth Mobilization – the participation of youths from Morata and Waigani in this exercise will no doubt be an eye-opening experience for them. By participating in a worthwhile cause, it will enable them to see themselves as more responsible citizens instead of just bums squandering their lives away in the city.
  6. Books and Literacy – the primary focus of this initiative as outlined will be to challenge young children (and adults alike) to take up a book to read, thus helping to broaden their horizon, not only in the subjects taught in school but about the wider universe at large so that they can grow up to be better, more responsible citizens.

I therefore appeal to you and your organisation for your support in this worthy cause through the purchase of a few T-shirts. Proceeds from the sale of these T-shirts will be used to airlift these books to their intended destinations as well as to meet other necessary logistical expenses.

The T-shirt designs are attached herewith for your perusal. A detailed definition of this trekking venture can be made available upon request.

Nickson I. Piakal
Hope Trek Founder

For further information please contact me on the following.
B: 7695 1446    D: 7168 1837     E: niicaux@gmail.com     E(work): npiakal@pwmpng.org.pg

T-Shirt Designs

FRONT view: white t-shirt

FRONT view: black t-shirt

BACK view: standard white t-shirt

BACK view: standard black t-shirt

Back view: customised white t-shirt

Black print with orange and white texts: “05-06,`10”, “KOKODA to YUAT”, and “Powered by…” followed by YOUR company’s/ organisation’s LOGO.
Condition: Minimum purchase of 10 units.

Back view: customised black t-shirt

White print with orange and black texts: “05-06,`10”, “KOKODA to YUAT”, and “Powered by…” followed by YOUR company’s/ organisation’s LOGO.
Condition: Minimum purchase of 10 units.