By HELEN TARAWA
AS I walked into the Community Development and Religion office in Waigani to cover a workshop for Child Protection Officers (CPOs), the first person to greet me was a young woman with a lovely smile. She introduced herself as Yanamlyn Yana and was assisting with registering participants for the workshop.
As I looked around for a seat Yanamlyn took a seat next to me. She apparently had completed her task and like me, was waiting for proceedings to begin. We struck up a conversation and I soon found myself unable to hold back my tears.
Twenty-three year old Yanamlyn is from Kaintiba, on the boarder of Morobe, Gulf and Eastern Highlands. She was born in Kaintiba to Pastor Yana and his wife who were serving the Lutheran church in Menyamya, Morobe.
Her childhood days were all spent in Menyamya. The Lutheran church there comes under the Yabim district in Morobe so they considered themselves as being part of Morobe, and Gulf too.
Until her selection to Bema High School in Kaintiba, which is a sub-district of Malalaua, she had never been exposed to the outside world.
“We mostly access goods and services from Lae which is easier.
“I attended Bema high school from 2010 to 2011. The school is Catholic-run and it was strict, I had to follow rules and be submissive and respectful, all those attributes I learnt from my parents.
“They taught me to respectful to the elders and to do everything that was right so I knew what was right and what was wrong.
Bema became a feeder school two years before she attended. Her cousin Roderick Simeon was the first person to be selected to Sogeri National High school from Bema.
His outstanding performance impelled authorities to make Bema a feeder school. Simeon is now in his final year at University of Technology, studying to be mine engineer.
“When I completed grade 10 I was the dux in that class and it was a milestone for Gulf province because I got all distinctions in all seven subjects,” Yanamlyn said.
“I was selected to Sogeri National High School in 2012. It was my first time to get on the PMV, a bus, a plane, to have a mobile phone and to get a taste of soft drink, the first time for everything.”
When I arrived at Nadzab I didn’t want to eat anything, I was afraid of stuff from the store and my parents had advised me to avoid food from there.
The first fizzy drink she drank was a Fanta, pineapple flavoured. As soon as it reached her gut, everything came back up because it tasted horrible to her.
“I boarded the plane for the first time and the tall buildings in Port Moresby really surprised me and I thought this must what a developed city looks like.”
During her two years at Sogeri, she not only began to adapt to the different lifestyle but worked hard at her grades.
“I received the outstanding citizenship award from Sogeri and I was happy that at least I portrayed some leadership responsibilities.
I was surprised and happy to be selected to UPNG because it was my dream school. I decided to take up social works because I wanted to work with the community services to help my people.
“My home is yet to experience civilization, my people are still wearing grass skirts and they cook food in bamboos and they don’t know about pots and plates and modern eating utensils.
“I enrolled at UPNG and did well so I managed to stay on for the first and second year and I have been on Higher Education Contribution Assistance Scheme. With assistance from Kerema Open Richard Mendani I have managed to stay on for my third year.
Yanamlyn was doing her practical experience with the NCD Welfare Office when the UPNG Council closed the campus in July this year.
Her supervisor and senior child protection officer Dorothy Nanai had sought permission for her to attend the Child Protection Officers workshop so that’s was how I got to meet her.
“I’m really excited having attended this very intensive program although I’m saddened by how the welfare officers and CPOs face real life challenges.
“They go out and deal with very urgent cases rescuing a child with the help of the police. Welfare officers need the police especially when there are reports of abductions and kidnapping.
Since I left Kaintiba to attend school I have never returned home because it is very expensive. The only accessible route is from Lae to Aseki in Menyamya by PMV. The route goes via Bulolo, Watut and then to Aseki. From Aseki it’s about a day’s walk to Poyu at the foot of the mountains and then another day and night’s walk to Kaintiba.
“My people earn about K20 or K30 at the end of every week from selling food at the market and economic development is very slow in that area.
“The health and education services are run down, there are no drugs in the aid posts, most people live traditional lives.
“My people carry 50kg coffee bags all the way from Kaintiba up the mountains to Aseki. They spend two to three nights along the road before arriving in Aseki where they catch a PMV to transport their produce to Lae.”
Yanamlyn looks forward to completing her studies but is unsure at this stage on what to do when she graduates.
“I don’t know what calling is ahead of me, but I know that God is preparing me towards my future.
“I would like to thank people who have been a part of my success, my parents, teachers, lecturers and friends from church.
“If you believe in yourself and in God, you can achieve anything, even your dream will become a reality no matter what you face in life,” she said.
By HELEN TARAWA