By OGIA MIAMEL
IN Papua New Guinea’s communal society, the skills of sustaining livelihoods in the village are passed down from generation the generation.
Skills of hunting are passed on from fathers to their sons and skills of making gardening are passed on from mothers to their daughters. All are expected to learn those skills to survive and fend for themselves.
Mark Pera, a Grade Six drop-out from Kendal village in the Imbonggu district of Southern Highlands used that principle to become an assistant nursing officer – without any formal training.
Pera became a nurse through his willingness to learn new things and the heart to serve people. He simply observed what others were doing, learnt from that, and tried to do what they were doing. In time, through trial and error, he developed the skill.
His education began at the St Claire Catholic School from Pre-school to Grade Two in Ialibu. He moved to the Kagua-Erave district where he completed Grade Six at a Catholic mission school.
After that, he did other jobs before turning his attention to working in a clinic. He began as a casual nursing assistance at the Ialibu Health Centre in April 24, 1974.
He observed what doctors and nurses were doing and quickly learnt from that. Later, he was able to carry out injections, prescribe medicines and do other tasks performed by a nurse. Senior nurses and doctors praised his work, considering that he had no formal training or qualification.
They admired his willingness and passion to help other people.
Finally in 1981, the opportunity arose for him to attend formal training for a Certificate in Aid Post Orderly.
The Ialibu health centre management sent him on a three-month training at the Togoba aid post orderly training school in Western Highlands.
He got his certificate and was assigned on his first posting to the Piambil aid post at the border of Western Highlands and Southern Highlands.
Accompanying him were his wife and children who shared with him the hardship of what their father’s job meant.
He was transferred to the Tukupangi aid post in 1989. He worked there until 1996 and moved on to the Pokonapul Health Centre in Imbonggu, before moving on to the Pakule health centre in 2001.
One of the fondest memories of his career was treating (now Prime Minister) Peter O’Neill when he was a child. He treated O’Neill’s foot for infections.
Not only O’Neill but he also treated many of those who later became prominent leaders of Southern Highlands.
They also become peace mediators during tribal fights. Most people respected them. When they arrived at a fighting zone, people lay down arms and allow for bel kol (peace) to be made.
The difficulties they faced during that period were logistics, transport and communication.
Pera and his family and colleagues travelled long distance, crossed fast flowing rivers, climbed mountains and endured the sunny and rainy days before arriving at their aid posts.
During patrols, it was twice the struggle because they had to reach a certain location by a scheduled date. The pressure was immense.
Pera explained that whenever a district administrator wants to go on a patrol, the aid post orderlies always joined them carrying medical supplies.
They also conduct awareness on healthy living. They educate villagers on good sanitation, clean water, balanced diet and how to look after their homes and children. These awareness helped reduce the number of sick people coming to the clinic for common ailments such as food poisoning, diarrhoea and dysentery.
Pera is currently on a break after serving 47 years as an aid post orderly in the districts of Southern Highlands.
He thinks that today, technology has changed everything and resources are available for medical patrols. He believes it makes people lazy and they only do it for the money. He believes that saving lives is a greater call and urged young people to experience working in such an environment before practising medicine.
By OGIA MIAMEL