Massive book program will boost schools
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Visit to PNG changes students’ outlook on life


St Clare Students in PNG PNG IS NOT EVERYONE’S ideal holiday destination. The country has a high murder rate, a reputation for lawlessness, and HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis are endemic.

But for six students from St Clare’s College in Waverley and their social justice program teachers [right], it was an ideal place to spend 12 days in December.

Year 12 student Lauren Cooper, who lives in Vaucluse, said she’d heard about the dangers of PNG, but that her experience had been overwhelmingly positive.

The students spent most of their time in Vanimo, near the border with Indonesia, and its surrounding villages.

“Everyone is friendly, you can’t go past anyone on the street without someone saying hello,” Lauren said.

“While we were there Oprah was in Sydney - we were like Oprah in Vanimo. Everyone would scream hello, it was quite amazing, it was very humbling.”

During their trip, students spent time learning to make traditional billum (bags) and observing how many people lived subsistence lives.

Lauren said she had been particularly affected by a visit to a home for young girls who had left their families rather than be forced to marry and leave school, and by visits to a local hospital where they met leprosy and tuberculosis patients.

“The people, they were so inspiring, they literally had nothing, but they were the happiest and most joyful people I’ve ever met,” she said.

“The thing that shocked all of the girls was the fact they have nothing. Their houses are made out of the trees they live next to. They have no supplies, there’s only one supermarket in the whole place.”

She said it had changed her outlook on life.

“I think I’m just thankful for the people who surround me and that I’m able to finish school and go to uni, because the girls (at the school) have nothing.”

Source:   Spotter: Peter Kranz


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