By TREVOR WAHUNE
MY childhood would be what many would call, a series of unfortunate events,” says Lazarus Towa.
As one those recognised last Thursday in Port Moresby during the Digicel Men of Honour awards,Towa, in a speech reflected on past struggles he had encountered before he got to where he is today.
“I have no memories of my mother, she passed away when I was two years old. I grew up with my father, who left his job as a public servant when I started elementary school.
“I literally grew up with the selling of betel nut, cigarrettes and lollies at a small market we set up outside our home, at 6-Mile, in Port Moresby,” Towa said.
“I wear glasses today because it was also in the same market stall and the light from a candle that I would study, while minding the market.
“This was part of the reason why I failed my grade eight exams, and did not make it to grade nine,” he said.
Towa said growing up in a notorious place such as 6-Mile that is known for harbouring drug lords and homebrew makers, he was influenced into the so-called strit mangi life. He naturally joined the others in consuming marijuana and homebrew.
“My redemption from this life took place when I enrolled and studied at Don Bosco Technical Secondary School in Gabutu, with the hope to be an IT specialist.
“DBTS literally changed my life.
“I stopped homebrew, and drugs immediately when I got accepted into school. I knew life would be okay.
Towa dreamt of becoming an IT specialist to be able look after his dad.
“Dad played the role of a father and a mother at the same time. In my life, it was only my dad and I.”
Towa was looking forward to give his first pay packet to his dad but that was not to be. He was in grade 11 and didn’t know he was going to face his worst nightmare.
“My dad was on drip, he had an ulcer in his stomach. He had this illness for a long time but did not let anyone know about it.
“He had to stay strong because of me, because he knew we only had each other.”
In the morning of April 20, 2009, Towa woke with a feeling of being reluctant to go to school.
“I had stayed overnight at the hospital taking care of my sick dad.
“I wanted to stay near him but he chased me away.”
“Go to school.
“I don’t want to see you hanging around here,” Towa’s father said.
Towa left for school without the slightest clue that it was going to be the last time he saw his dad alive.
“His last words to me were ‘go to school’!
“Those around me thought that was the end of me. They thought I would amount to nothing after the passing of my father.
“But his last words kept me going all these years.
“They kept me going to school every day. If dad was still here, I would rather give my Men of Honour award to him, because he deserves it more than I do,” he said.
After his father’s passing, Towa was cared for by the Don Bosco priests.
“I was very hardworking, and determined. I had nothing and no one so I had to do chores and odd jobs at the school to meet my boarding fees.”
Towa vividly remembers days when he found himself crying while collecting and emptying trash bins daily.
“When I realised the tears in my eyes, it made me question. Why did I experience all bad things since childhood? Why did I grow up without a mother? Why did my father die? And why was I even here collecting rubbish when all my friends went home to have their parents and have decent meals.
“I had no answers then, so I just brushed myself up and continued emptying the rubbish bins.”
Towa finally got accepted to the University of Papua New Guinea to study Information and Communication Sciences. That to him was a second chance in life.
At UPNG, Towa went back to selling betel nut and cigarettes to make ends meet in University.
“I also got a chance to secure a full time job while doing final year in UPNG while still living on campus.
“When in the workforce, I realised many of my friends in university were finding it hard to find jobs.
“I assisted my friends in photocopying, printing, scanning, and emailing their applications on their behalf, by marketing their skills to suit particular jobs.
“My friends told their friends, and their friends told other friends.
“Soon I was assisting strangers.
“I opened a Facebook page called Current Job Vacancies Reposts with LT on Dec 10, 2014. This page now has 114,000 followers from PNG and around the world.
“With this page, I repost vacancies post my CV and letter samples, job interview tips, and have daily interactions with my page followers. I also provide CV and letter editing assistance to job seekers, I normally use 30 to 40 per cent of my salary to keep me going.
“The main motivating factor is when I see a smile on the face of a father or a mother who is successful in securing a job, and knowing he or she will provide for a household.
“I ensure all my assistance is transparent, with no under-the-table deals.”
Today Towa has a database of of more than 30,000 CVs of Papua New Guineans searching for jobs. He is confident that the database is big enough to run PNG in terms of securing jobs for pilots, lawyers, doctors, engineers, accountants, cleaners, mechanics, and so many other fields, with different skill sets.
Most organisations in PNG now know of the database which is advertised online and request recommendations from Towa for recruitment.
“I do all this for free and use my own time and resources to search these jobs.”
Over the past four years, Towa has found job placement for more than 450 known reported cases of people who have returned to thank him.
“Many strangers come to me with cash but none of that is accepted. All I say is that I understand the hardship faced by PNG citizens and the least I can do is sacrifice my time and resources to at least create a better platform for my followers.”
“I in turn advise them to pass that assistance to others. I love the fact that my assistance towards one person finding a job will assist a family and even more the wider community.
“Helping others is in-built, I can never say no to lending a helping hand.”
In 2017 Towa was awarded the United Nations Youth Champion for Sustainable Development Goals.
By TREVOR WAHUNE