SINGLE mum-of-five Gemma Maraiapo left school after Grade Nine to help look after her sick father 34 years ago.
That disruption to her education did not discourage her but molded her to be the strong woman she is today – determined, loyal, dedicated, industrious.
Gemma, 49, is a single mother of five from Miaru in the Malalaua District of Gulf.
She attended Grade One at the Hohola Demonstration School in Port Moresby in 1979, and completed Grade Six in 1984.
From 1985 to 1987, she completed grades seven to nine at the Malalaua Provincial High School in Gulf. But she had to leave school after Grade Nine to help her mother care for her sick father.
It was an experience which strengthened her resolve to face challenges in life the best way one could.
Gemma secured her first job at a hotel when she was 20 in 1992 as a housekeeper. She has stuck to housekeeping ever since, working in the big hotels around the capital city and at mine sites to support her children.
All has been worth the sacrifice as she now watches her grandchildren growing up.
She joined the Port Moresby Nature Park eight years ago. She is now the leader of the park’s presentation team, which is part of the guest relations section.
The team is responsible for preparing and issuing staff uniforms daily, responsible for the laundry services for its 70-plus staff, cleaning and maintaining offices, ablution blocks and other general clean-up operations.
They support the grounds section in ensuring that the park is in tip-top shape for its guests daily.
“ It is great to be working here. Yes, I do have a lot to do every day but working for the Park has allowed me to have time for my family and most importantly, to have time for God.”
Gemma leads a team of five women whose daily duties begin at 6.30am to prepare staff uniforms, and get the park ready for guests.
You will see them wiping benches, refilling hand-sanitising units, mopping, sweeping and scrubbing.
Gemma is also a member of the Nature Park’s Green Team which advocates on practices in the office and at home which contribute to conserving the environment
It has more than 500 animals, most of which had been surrendered to the park for care.
It has 30 acres of tropical gardens. It relies on its workers to keep it maintained.
The park relies on grants and donations from sponsors mostly non-government bodies to operate. Gemma loves the challenge of maintaining the Port Moresby Nature Park.
One needs to spend only a minute with Gemma to understand why the park looks so presentable every day. She ensures everything is ready for guests.
“It is great to be working here. Yes, I do have a lot to do every day but working for the park has allowed me to have time for my family and most importantly, to have time for God.
“There are other staff members like me as well here at the park. We are all family here. This is our nature park family and we have a great team.”
It has been a long road to travel for Gemma but her hard work and perseverance are reaping rewards.
Not bad for a woman who had to leave school after Grade Nine.
- Story and picture supplied by Port Moresby Nature Park communications coordinator Karen-Marie Lillie.