KUNDIAWA - In a critical economic situation like now in Papua New Guinea, when even a single kina matters a lot to many families, the generosity shown by the Simbu people toward the Simbu for Australia bushfire fundraising appeal is amazing.
Simbus from all walks of life poured their hearts out for the fundraising effort to help the people of Australia affected by devastating bushfires.
Incredibly, elderly mothers clambered up the rocky Simbu mountains to give some money, so did young children, as did market hawkers in Kundiawa, public servants, educated elites in faraway places and small business entrepreneurs.
And it wasn’t only the people of Simbu making donations but the neighbouring Jiwaka people, including political icon and Jiwaka chief Sir Philip Kapal and his daughter Debbie, who donated K500 and K1,000 respectively.
The generosity of people has been so amazing and the fundraising committee wondered why that was so?
One phrase frequently uttered, particularly elderly donors, was “Australia em mama” (‘Australia is our parent’). Why do the Simbu people describe Australia like this?
“I wouldn’t be here like what I am now if it wasn’t for Australia,” said the managing director of Greenland Motel, Andy Siure, giving his donation of K5,000. “It was Australia who gave me the education.
“Australia is like a mother to PNG. In good times and bad times, Australia is always there for PNG and there is no better time to show them our appreciation when they are faced with devastating bushfire.”
Another Simbu businessman and philanthropist, Peter Iggy, presenting his company 350 Limited’s K5,000 donation expressed the same sentiment.
“Australia is like a mother to Simbu and PNG. They give us a lot of aid for infrastructure, health and education development and we have the social and environmental obligations to help them when they are affected by the bushfire,” he said.
An old woman placing a handful of coins in the donation box said in perfect Tok Pisin, “Astralia i lukautim yumi taim yumi no save long rit na rait. Ol i bringim lotu, school na hausik. Ol i wokim ples balus, rot na bris. Na bihain ol i givim independens long yumi tasol ol ino lusim yumi. Ol i givim moni yet. Nau ol i gat hevi, em taim blong yumi long helpim ol,”
‘Australia looked after us when we did not know how to read and write. They brought churches, education and health services. They built airstrips, roads and bridges. Later they gave us independence but they didn’t leave us. They continue to give us money. Now that they face problem, this is our time to help them.’
Mechanical engineer Robert Bal Muka from Genabona in Gumine and currently working for Qatargas in Qatar in the Middle East donated K1,000 to the appeal.
In 2009 while working for Santos in Adelaide, South Australia, Robert had witnessed a similar bushfire in Victoria. In Robert’s own description, “The bushfire killed many people, animals and destroyed many homes. Due to the vast devastation, it earned itself the name Black Saturday.”
The prime minister at the time, Grand Chief Michael Somare, on behalf of the PNG government and the people of PNG donated $1 million to relief efforts.
The thing that was most memorable to Robert was that his Australian colleagues at Santos House came up to him and acknowledged publicly PNG’s donation.
Those were people not directly affected by the bushfire but their words of gratitude and facial expressions clearly indicated to Robert that they really appreciated PNG’s support. As a Papua New Guinean, Robert was proud of Grand Chief Somare.
That experience taught Robert that if ordinary Australians could acknowledge the humanitarian efforts, then those directly affected must have been touched profoundly.
“After all we are all humans so any humanitarian efforts are felt by others too,” he said. “Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate more and more that all humans are connected at some level, perhaps spiritually.
“That’s why I try to contribute to such causes whenever I can and encourage my children to do the same.”
Dr Ga’allah Peter Kora is from Daware in Dom, Sinasina-Yongomugl, and he donated K1,000to the appeal.
When making his donation at the appeal launch, Dr Ga’allah said two things that remain vividly in my mind.
He challenged the audience that if they were true Christians, they should show love by donating something. It wasn’t known at that time that Dr Ga’allah had started a love ministry.
Later he said, “This year we are in God's ministry under the ‘Love Your Neighbour’ banner. We believe that only by love we can enter the kingdom of God. Without love we cannot.”
Dr Ga’allah also mentioned was that he owed the Australian people his education and he wanted to show them his appreciation at this time of bushfire.
After graduating from UPNG with a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1996, he was sponsored by the Australian government for further studies in Australia where he attained his PhD in 2005.
At this time, when Australia is grieving the effects of its worst bushfire, Dr Ga’allah felt very indebted to the people of Australia. He wanted to impart the Godly love and care to them through his donation.
Dr Tine F Ningal from Imiltop village in the Dom Sipagul area of Gumine District was another philanthropist who donated K500 to the appeal all the way from University College Dublin in Ireland where he works in the School of Geography as a senior technician.
Prior to that, Dr Ningal got his masters degree in cartography and geovisualization at Twente University College in the Netherlands. He also received another masters in geographical information systems (GIS) from Wageningen University, also in the Netherlands.
Dr Ningal’s current role involves performing a range of tasks involving GIS, remote sensing and cartography, computer maintenance as well as teaching, running courses on drone flying and research.
He was brought up with a strong Catholic faith, his father was a pioneer catechist, and he learned to share.
“I would hear him preaching about giving to others who are in need of help without expecting anything in return. Only God knows your heart and will reward you accordingly. That kind of talk registered strongly in me.
“We had very little and were poor compared to others, yet he would take whatever meagre resources we had, like food, money and material, and give them to others who badly need them. This would make me angry as a child but, in retrospect, he demonstrated what he preached and that humbled me.
“We don’t get to live on this planet for eternity. We also do not need a lot of material wealth and money to make us happy.
“Sharing is caring and I believe that whatever little help we can spread around to those who are in need of help is the humblest act of love we can show our fellow human beings.
“This would then instil in them the act of giving to help others around them – it is contagious act and the more we help each other, the better our society can become and set a benchmark for future generations to adhere to,” Dr Ningal said.
The fundraising will end on Friday 7 February and if any Simbu member of parliament wants to stand alongside the little people of Simbu who have overwhelmingly supported the fundraising because they feel that Australia is their friend and helper in good and bad times, you have until Friday 7 February to give your donation.
This message also goes to business houses in Simbu who feel that they have social and environmental obligations to help Australians affected by the bushfire in rebuilding their communities.
The fundraising committee highly acknowledges Kundiawa based local companies Greenland Motel and 350 Limited for being the only two business houses who donated K5,000 each toward the appeal.
The committee also acknowledges the Sir Joseph Nombri Memorial Hospital for being the only government agency to donate K1,000.
The committee highly praised the ordinary Simbus and Jiwakas who gallantly poured their hearts into giving 50% of the funds raised.
Whether big or small amount, the generosity you have shown is what counts and hopefully the government and people of Australia will appreciate that they have true friends in the central highlands of Papua New Guinea.