By JUNIOR UKAHA
SANDRA Lau is a name synonymous with charity work in East New Britain.
But on many occasions she does it quietly and with a humble spirit.
Mama Sandra, as she is affectionately known, has helped many individual and groups in the province.
Churches, prison, schools, hospitals, sports clubs and many more have benefited from her kindness and generosity.
Her popularity is testament to her philanthropical work – a sort of privilege not many expatriates in the country share.
Lau, originally of Malaysian-Chinese decent, has been living in the country for 48 years.
She and husband John Yak Hon Lau are a successful business couple who own the retail and wholesale enterprise Tropicana Limited.
Their business is not so much heard in the mainland but in the New Guinea Islands region it is a household name.
Aside from employing more than 600 people in her company, Lau gives to the needy with a big heart.
I came to know Mama Sandra, when my job took me from Lae to Kokopo, East New Britain.
In fact, my first news assignment was with her, when we visited the St Mary’s Vunapope Hospital, to check on orthopaedic surgeon Dr Robert Sharp and his team treating patients.
Sharp and his team from the Tamara Hospital in Tamsworth, New South Wales, Australia, were in the province on a goodwill trip to attend to patients with bone ailments.
The team had to transport their own medical apparatus from Australia to PNG and Lau had assisted them in paying all the freight costs.
A few days later, she took me to the Vunamami Farmers Training Centre where she donated a public address system to the school.
The school had lost its old one to thugs who broke into the administration office and stole it.
I had asked Mama Sandra why she was helping people when she was supposed to be concentrating on her business.
She replied: “I love and care for people; I do not want to see people suffer,” Lau said.
“I want people to be happy and live healthy lives,” she said.
“I feel satisfied when I help people and put smile on their faces,” Lau said.
“The little things I do, I do it with my heart for the benefit of the people,” she said.
“I pay school fees for unfortunate students, I visit people in their sick beds at the hospital, I visit prisoners in the prison and I help schools,” Lau said.
Lau, a devoted Catholic, said Christians should show their faith by their actions.
Mama Sandra has time for everyone, from the cleaner to the politician.
Her office is open to all and she welcomes visitors with open arms and a big warm smile.
Lau, who had lost her business during the twin volcanic eruptions in Rabaul in 1994 but later rebuilt it up from scratches, said she wanted Papua New Guineans to work hard and become successful people in all spheres of life.
“I’ve been in PNG for a very long time and I know people are good,” Lau said.
“If people change and have the right attitude towards life, nothing can stop them from being successful in whatever they do,” Lau said.
By JUNIOR UKAHA