MICHELLE Palakai was four when she attended the Rainau Elementary School outside Kokopo in East New Britain.
In the early years of her life, she had no idea what the future held for her. But she told herself that she would make progress if she had a positive mental attitude.
After Rainau, she attended Tapo Primary then in 2006 went on to Rainau Destiny School. That’s where she made up her mind to become a doctor one day.
Michelle, 24, from Rainau village, is the second eldest in a family of eight. It meant looking after the younger siblings which was stressful at times. But she wanted to set a good example as their big sister.
She also started reading books about medicine and the people who work in hospitals.
One of the most inspiring books she read was by a Dr Ben Carson. It really inspired Michelle.
Whenever she could, she also started watching how nurses and doctors go about their work, especially in treating sick people.
She told herself that one day she would be like them. The key was to work hard.
In 2012, she topped her Grade Eight class and received the Dux prize. But Michelle did not let the prize get to her head and continued to focus on her school work.
“ This is not the end. I will still pursue studies until I achieve my dream of becoming a doctor.”
In 2013, she was selected for Grade 9 at the Kokopo Secondary School. At Grade 10 in 2014, she was among the top 10 Mathematics students selected to take part in a Mathematics competition in Australia.
She also managed to complete Grade 10, Grade 11 and Grade 12 at the same school.
In 2017, she attended the College of Nursing in Enga pursuing a Diploma in General Nursing.
“College life was not as easy as I thought. I thought it would be just the same as in school where it would be easy to do things. It was tougher than I could ever imagine. We had to spend more time, be more dedicated and committed in our studies and worked extra harder.”
Worse, the college was in the middle of a war zone.
“It was not easy for me because I’m from the coast and have never experienced anything like it. Tribal fights every now and then. I started missing my family back home.
“Staying up late completing assignments and tutorials, getting up at 4 am to get ready for class and practical, walking long distances to practicum sites in a not too conducive environment. It really made me want to give up and go home.”
But Michelle refused to give up easily.
On April 7 this year, she received her Diploma in General Nursing and immediately signed a one-year contract with the Enga Provincial Health Authority. She is currently working at the Kompiam District Hospital in Wabag.
“This is not the end. I will pursue further studies until I achieve my dream of becoming a doctor.”
Her message to her peers is never to give up easily.
“There are many roads that lead to your destination. There are other branches of the road you can follow. But you will eventually get what you want. So never give up.”
She believes that mental power is important.
“They say that what you think is what you become.”
One thing that is clear in her mind right now is to be called Dr Palakai one day. That’s her goal.
- Pictures and story supplied by By MICHAEL PHILPS