By DAVID HARRO
THE name Bulolo evokes memories of the gold rush days in the 1950s and 60s when minerals were first discovered there.
Today the township has transformed with people of all walks of life flocking in like doves to settle and seek employment.
Bulolo is not what I used to know back in the 90s when there was peace and harmony in the sleepy little township which would come alive with people going about their daily activities. Opportunists, cult groups, swingers, street preachers, con-artists, and the common old riff-raff have migrated to the historic township. It’s hard to tell who is who but for the ordinary Waria, Biangai, Watut or Buang, asples as they call themselves, you can tell from their features.
With the establishment of one of the biggest mining conglomerates in the world – Harmony Gold – an influx of fortune hunters has poured in their hundreds mining alluvial gold on the river beds of both Watut and Bulolo rivers. Settlements mushroomed overnight along the river banks and these small alluvial gold miners will stop at nothing.
In the midst of able-bodied people doing what they do best, the voiceless mingle amongst them living off their wits, using their savvy and cunningness to survive. People living with disabilities (PLWDs), at the end of the day, are like everyone else struggle in the name of survival. Their conditions prevent them from pursuing certain avenues.
Two fine gentlemen, Gibson Seseru and James Wanaki, both from Garasa confided in me at Garaina Compound within the proximity of infamous Bulolo River, their plans and the impediments they might encounter for implementation of their programmes.
On Nov 28, 2019 a small supportive crowd converged at St Peter’s Primary School to witness the launching of Bulolo District Disable Association. This was another milestone and history rewritten for Bulolo. Those living with disabilities attended and rallied to become financial members of the association.
There is no such thing as sitting around crying over spilled milk but it is all about moving on with times. After the launching a meeting was convened for the election of office bearers.
“We have a full board and working committee in place,” says BDDA chairman Gibson Seseru.
Bulolo District Disable Association (BDDA), has laid its foundation and will be the mouthpiece for PLWDs. Wheelchair-bound Seseru couldn’t hide his emotions stating that; “our association at long last has been established and we will become role model for others living in Waria (Garaina), Wau, Upper and Lower Watut, Mumeng, and Buang.”
With support from the district administration, the association is contemplating to establish a small resource centre and a sheltered workshop to manufacture walking sticks, crutches and simple forms of wheelchairs. The association has already established a network and partnership with individual stakeholders in Bulolo District to collate relevant information for their baseline data.
The BDDA have arranged volunteers in various capacities as technical personnel to assemble information and are seeking further assistance from the district administration, National Government, non-governmental organisations, business houses and individuals in Bulolo.
“I’m appealing to people out there in our big world that being mouthpiece of the voiceless people living with disabilities support us for a worthy cause,” says Seseru.
True to his words, Seseru represented Bulolo during 2019 National Disable Conference held in Port Moresby where he was commended for his stance as a major player on the committee for drafting the National Disability Policy.
Seseru’s humbleness has equipped him with an ocean of knowledge for being innovative and creative to “talk the walk and walk the talk.” Intuitively there’s nothing evasive about his thinking because his right frame of mind and intellectual can motivate and empower his colleagues.
To achieve these dreams and aspirations he says PLWDs can contribute meaningfully to development in Bulolo one way or another. “You don’t have to have smart brains but you have to be smart to be a better person. I never go and beg other people, I do my own things to help myself.”
His elder sibling, Robert Seseru is also disabled like him from birth but they share their brotherly love and care for each other to carry on with life like any normal person. If something is wrong they come to each other’s assistance for comfort and assurance. Another colleague James Wanaki shares the same sentiments to support their cause and says that association is in dire need of acquiring resources and equipment to assist their fellow brothers and sisters.
I modestly applaud and acknowledge the commitment by people like Seseru and Wanaki even in their predicaments. The brave efforts to spell out how hard it is to convince able people to understand their needs, sometimes their ordeals are impregnable but because of their courage and will to survive gives them a new lease of life.
The impression is that they are knowledgeable, diligent, bright minded, thoughtful with an enquiring side to their nature. In short they are accomplished conversationalists with a ready sense of drawing attention. With articulate minds, they are but humble instruments in serving their fellow colleagues.
Being in their shoes pain is just another enemy to be met and overcome otherwise, there is nothing else to tell before they both start out on their new journey. I believe that getting back to simple things in life is the best way to bond with uncooperative and unambitious people who misunderstand the lives of others. Sitting on the fence looking in from the outside I can see and feel their thoughts and dreams like blood seeping out from a knife wound.
Both Seseru and Wanaki have been passive, looking at means and ways of assisting other PLWDs, but what will become of them and the future? I fervently hope that in time they will be able to handle the pitfalls that come into their lives but one cannot do it alone. PLWDs are no different to the any able persons. They have the savvy with right attitude and instincts.
Violence and unforgettable tragedies have enveloped their lives and the good memories, yet still, they have the stamina, power and strength to contribute for development and nation building. They can claw their way into the able world with zest for living a better life if given the opportunity.
A good number of PLWDs come from impoverished childhoods and families who struggle to make ends meet in their communities. Their need for assistance cannot go unnoticed or fall on deaf ears.
They are fighting for their rights as citizens of this country therefore, able persons in society are put on notice to hear their pleas for favourable support and assistance. Show decorum and some decency in accepting PLWDs back into the fold with as sharing is caring.
PLWDs cannot pantomime their needs and wants, it is merely thinking outside of the box by able persons to harness and empower them in their endeavours. They have the knack for a take-charge attitude. There is no slacking off mentality.
“We take no prisoners but love everyone around us as friends,” they say.
- David Harro is an information officer in the Morobe Provincial Administration.