By STACEY TARURA
Reaching beyond your limits to achieve what you set your eyes on takes time and even pain, sweat and tears just to go that extra mile to reach over and grab your goal.
I first met one such individual while on an assignment at the Australia Pacific Technical College (APTC) main campus at Idubada, just outside Port Moresby.
The first thing that caught my eye amidst the noisy event was his quiet but very observant manner.
Johnstead Safitoa, or just Johnny to his family and friends, was the last person I talked to and exchanged contacts with before I left for the office that afternoon.
It would take another month or so for me to locate him again so when that opportunity came, I grabbed it just to get to know him better and write something about him to inspire many who had lost hope along the way on their journey through life.
He wore a shy smile yet beneath that smile, I knew he was no ordinary character. Rather, someone who knew what he wanted to achieve out of life, someone very eager to represent the organisation he worked for because he had overcome so many obstacles to build himself up and get to where he was today.
“I get my inspirations from my parents who are both hard-working and goal achievers.
“Even though they are divorced and have started new lives, I thank God for the people they got married to.
“They met for a reason and I am happy as a result of that,” Johnny said.
When I asked him about his achievements, he said he had an opportunity to travel overseas for studies at the Kangan Batman Institute of Technical and Further Education (TAFE) in Melbourne, Victoria, which he obtained a Advanced Diploma in Human Resource with high grades.
Studying was not the only part of his life. Johnny had a keen interest in rugby union which he turned into a sporting career when he was in high school.
“I played in Lae for school boys league. When I went to Melbourne I joined a junior team for the Melbourne Rebels, a professional rugby union team.
“Although I have not taken part in any games since the beginning of the year, I will definitely play for a local team once the season starts. I will make sure that I share my knowledge and skills which I have gained from my experience overseas with other players.”
Other than rugby union, Johnny is into skateboarding, an adrenaline sport popular among youths in other countries.
“We Papua New Guineans love new ideas especially from Western cultures and I have seen that break dancing in the country has grown rapidly.
“We have crews or groups from settlements to working class participating in the organised events. Breakdancing influenced not only teens but families as well who have joined in the fun by cheering and assisting their sons or daughters who take part in local competitions.”
He said surfing has also set a benchmark for young athletes to take up in the local and world events and he believes skateboarding can do the same.
“Rather than teaching people to skate, we can design and build skate parks in the city and other provinces to maintain health and well-being of young children.
“Kids or teenagers can bring their skate boards or scooters accompanied by their families to parks to enjoy the day on an ordinary weekend.
“It also gives the opportunity to use their free time outdoors instead of sitting in front of the TV.”
Safitoa said establishing local competitions similar to breakdancing would attract families.
“Skating overseas for me was the best experience and I thought to myself, we can create similar parks just like this back home in PNG for family outings.
“Kids can enjoy with their scooters or roller-blades and have fun outdoors.
“It is such an interesting sport or activity anyone can do just for fun,” Safitoa said.
He hopes that this passion may be ignited in the future so that children could spend more time outdoors and less time indoors.
The greatest challenge Safitoa shared is when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) and was treated overseas without his family, relatives or even wantoks around to support and cheer him on.
“Diagnosed with TB and treated and cured overseas, was the biggest challenge I faced.
“To make it more challenging, I was treated overseas without any family members or Papua New Guineans around.
“Even people from Melbourne I knew weren’t there by my side or paid a visit during the duration of my stay at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.
“It was an experience and a challenging moment which one out of a 1000 young adults would go through.”
He said he decided to come back to PNG after being treated, however, his father encouraged him to stay on. Dad told me that all will be good afterwards.
“So I made my decision to stay back with no one to rely on, however, as we Papua New Guineans say “pikinini man ya,” in other words “be strong”.
“I took that in and waited for the treatment to be over.”
He said it was scary when doctors at the hospital asked him questions about the progress of the treatment and advised him on how he should live when he left the hospital. But he knew what he had to do to survive and fend for himself.
Safitoa said God had a purpose for that experience to happen which he understood.
He completed all the TB treatments and after a month he was discharged.
“Right now I am working on some business ideas to help my family and my local community.
“I want to be a testimony to my fellow countrymen. I want to show them that no matter what obstacles we face in life, anything is achievable.
“Not for anyone to have the experience, or to face similar challenges, but to learn from, work from and achieve from the people who have gone through it.
“My word of advice to the young and old is to work hard in everything you do, keep expanding your knowledge and understanding in good and right doings.
“The world, goals, dreams, are there waiting to be seen and touched.
“But remember, God will guide you through it all.”
Safitoa is currently employed in the administration department of APTC campus at Idubada.
By STACEY TARURA