By WANPIS AKO
It was 8.43am on a Friday and I was on the road in my car; the flow of traffic abated along Waigani Drive in the capital city.
Despite the humming and rumbling engines of machines and vehicles, I was overwhelmed with positive emotions and feelings at the sight of cleanliness of the Waigani-Morata bus stop, walkways and flower gardens. The bustle of street sellers is now a thing of the past.
The kind of feeling reminded me of my first memories of Cairns, Townsville and Brisbane in Australia, and Los Angeles, Dallas and Washington DC in the United States.
Our city may not have their kind of glamour and glitter but it is an amazing city with people of 860 tongues; we are united in cultural diversity.
Port Moresby does not have many skyscrapers and marvellous architecture and roadways but it has acquired a whole new look which should be maintained beyond the Apec leaders’ summit which is only weeks away.
Across from me were volunteer cleaners along the driveway.
The cleanliness in itself portrayed the highest good the participants of the Active City development programme’s Walk and Yoga for Life tribe initiated and maintained for the residents and visitors to enjoy.
It also spoke volumes about the progresses that have been made and that city residents have taken ownership of their city.
National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop should be commended at least for what he has been committed to since taking office in 2007 which is eventually coming to fruition. His other initiatives are also aimed at addressing petty crime and other anti-social conduct.
However, the ugly sight of red betel nut spittle and graffiti still remain a challenge.
My ring tone ‘Dream it Possible’ by Jane Zhang alerted me on an incoming call.
The voice on the other side of the call pointed me to an amazing event at Taurama Aquatic Centre.
I assured the caller that I was going to be there in half an-hours’ time.
I quickly had to drop my wife off at Kaugere. Wow! The cleanliness was extended to downtown, Badili, Hohola, Murray Barracks, Four-mile and Manu.
I was true to my word when I reached there on time.
I parked the car outside the centre. When I got off the car with my laptop and camera bags, I met familiar faces whom I have met before.
I was briefly checked by security officers manning the entrance and allowed access to the hall. A staff inside showed me where the activities were taking place as it was my first time there.
I could hear the lovely voice of the teacher imparting yoga poses and stretches to a crowd of youths. Fazilah Bazari of Yu Yet PNG Ltd was audible enough with instructions in a clear accent of British English, switching now and then to Tok Pisin. She was assisted by yoga manager Ezra Adino and 53 trainee yoga teachers.
They are undergoing a two-week intensive teacher training programme which also included the morals, ethics and science of yoga. They will graduate with certificates in yoga teaching after the completion of the course.
The world-class court was packed with an assembly of youths from all across the city.
The turnout was amazing with some 600 youths who are neither at school nor at work.
As told, many have arrived there by foot or paid their own bus fare. I learnt later on my way out that those I had met them at the entrance were denied access because they were late to the yoga and acrobatic class, and didn’t comply with the attire regulations. It is part of the training that students show up clean with their right foot wear.
Governor Parkop has given them a second chance in life; they have found a much better life being there instead of doing nothing at home.
While at training they are introduced to feel of the world-class facilities, eating in hotels, tasting a variety of cuisine, and how to earn a living and stand on their own feet. They were even taught table manners.
These youths have turned over a new leaf to enjoy a more positive outcome based on living a more value-driven life, working hard and being disciplined, so they too can enjoy and be a part of something which seemed like a luxury to others in the city.
In informal conversations I had with them, they told me that they were blindfolded by their bad behaviours. They all realised the negative impacts of their previous behaviour. Their mindset was negative from dawn to dusk. I have found out that some were former convicts, street boys, drug addicts, unemployed, school dropouts, orphans, gang members or cult worshipers.
Some also told me in tears that they chose the bad pathway of life to make ends meet.
Bazari said yoga had taught them doctrines and techniques which are necessary to impact behavioural change.
She added: “It doesn’t preach but engages a person with their whole body – physical, mental and emotional – to take personal action for a sustained change.”
Yoga, she said, was a means to arrive at the outcome which was to see Port Moresby clean, safe, active, liveable, smart and an amazing city.
The Active City development programme is one of the many initiatives Parkop devised to change bad behaviour and attitudes of the people using non-competitive sports and holistically-driven, creative movements.
Classes at Taurama shaped and moulded them to become better citizens. The faithful and rehabilitated ones are selected for yoga teacher training. Such is true for the current students.
Since taking office in 2007, Parkop has tried traditional methods and strategies which have been implemented to drive change but to no avail or with minimal outcomes.
Now, he has got new innovative tools and means to arrive at the same outcome. Rome was not built overnight. Time is the best judge of his endeavours.
Port Moresby, let us be the change that we want to see in our city! Time is now!
- Wanpis Ako is a social media blogger and freelance journalist.