WHAT was once called Oro Village at Nine Mile, Port Moresby, is a sprawling settlement, home to scores of people from all over. It may yet become a formal suburb with a name to be decided or something sinister may happen, the way big portions of land are being grabbed by private developers.
Most people are calling it A-T-S. But that’s not a name at all. ATS is – Air Transport Squadron – base of the PNGDF which is nearby. For the purpose of our story, we’ll just say, ‘the settlement’.
The settlement is like a big village. A village in the outback sense would be rows of dwellings divided by a plaza down the centre. A short distance from the entrance to the settlement, eucalyptus appear; no crotons, coconuts or betel nut, bread fruit and lau lau yet. Perhaps they feature further on.
This is now ‘home’ for many people. What they miss is the setting of their original villages where clans were clustered in their family plots of a big village. Once upon a time in a typical Oro village scenario, at least on the coast, originality was determined by house posts where they went into the ground. This transition has not been captured in planning where the size of land is a typical town allotment or the immediate neighbours are complete strangers. The implication there is that as more people become disconnected from their places of origin these kinds of scenarios will repeat in most PNG towns.
Inevitable? Of course. But you don’t build towns and tell people to go live in them. We have 1000 tribes with different cultures and the social structures we put in place will define our economy and give meaning.
The concern though is that family unit as we once knew is breaking up. But wherever they might be, either living in Port Moresby or scattered in different towns we should not overlook the fact that families are one of the fundamental pillars of economy.
LEFT: INITIATIVE: GEORGE PAUL WITH RAFFLE TICKETS TO RAISE MONEY FOR A GRASSROOT COMPANY HE HAS REGISTERED CALLED WEALTH SHARING LIMITED.
RIGHT: A LADY SHOWING OFF A END TB SHIRT.
Well then; since villages are cropping up in towns and cities, and our cities are designed with Melanesian concepts, aren’t we missing something here? Everyone seems to be passing the buck. Youths are blamed for selling land giving rise to new settlements, squatters who are evicted are put into organized settlements to receive services such as water while there are settlements that do not have any sense of order and impossible to put in services – like Taurama.
About five minutes from the entrance of the settlement lives Rodney Kove, a northerner with his wife Pauline, a mission-trained nurse who works full-time at a government clinic in the city. The couple’s story simply shows that serious control is wanting and there are some very desperate people looking for help.
No one really knows the extent of poverty wreaking havoc in the settlement or the social issues permeating in their lives. Poverty is collaborating with diseases such as TB because the conditions here are rife for disease and the poor and destitute are easy targets. The poor and the destitute do not have the capacity to fend for themselves which is why they are very vulnerable. For many, they have no idea where their next meal will come from.
This is not an observation; it is what they are telling the paper.
Pauline and Rodney offered their small yard for a TB outreach centre. Pauline struggled on her own until Rodney joined in 2008. The couple is shouldering society’s burden as volunteers because they cannot ignore what is happening around them.
Dealing with TB, an arrogant customer TB (tuberculosis) is a serious disease and it is communicable. To hand out TB capsules is one thing but when the sufferers who come to Rodney and Pauline’s tent have no food in their stomach to take the capsules, TB becomes a double-edged sword. Whatever support that arrives at their tent cannot be sustained because it is mostly NGO stuff. Not knowing when the supplies will stop is always a bother. This is additional to the burden described at the outset.
It is midday, clear skies and a steady breeze is fanning the valley. Usually the eucalyptus would sing but today there is eerie lull. The yard seems to speak; there is heaviness here, the atmosphere is sombre. If we keep still long enough we can detect something more.
God manifests in physical activity. As we are about to depart, Cathy Tolom, a volunteer TB worker stops us. As we wait she is inside the TB tent, frantically searching for something. It’s the visitor’s book!
Rodney Kove is a trained performing artist. When he says people find it hard to swallow the big TB capsules, there are a few connotations there. But the big help would be to have cartons of biscuits to give out with water. One thought that comes to mind is the creator who gave us the environment to look after. It belongs to him and we’re only visiting. Signing the visitors’ book beckons us to the truth that God is manifesting in physical form.
There was something else our drama specialist said. Those who absconded were becoming drug-resistant and their drugs were much harder to swallow. Why people are absconding points to their ability to keep up with the medication regime – water, food, lifestyle and so on.
Pauline does not have much free time. People needing help are always coming around to their home and the fight against TB is clearly not on their side. But they push on nevertheless hoping that one day they will find the answer they need. The company, Wealth Sharing, set up by one of their former patients to spread wealth and fight poverty is a fight against TB because George Paul has undertaken to build a mobile TB clinic as his ‘thank you’ gift and to do something about people in the community who need serious help.
The people’s call to end TB is being looked at one dimension. We need to look at the root cause as our response.