By REBECCA KUKU
IT’S not every day that we meet, or hear stories of people who had defied all odds to become somebody simply because they believed in themselves. This is the story of a young man who did just that and paved his way out of poverty and hardship.
Nathan Ponjel was born in Tekipo village in the Nepo Plateau in Nipa in Southern Highlands. He is the third born in a family of seven. His parents were Pastors of the local Baptist Church.
He went to school at Injua Primary School and did grades 1 to 6, from 1994 to 2000. In 2001, however, there was a big tribal fight in his village and Nathan had to forego doing his grade 7 and left home for Mt Hagen where his relatives lived.
His relatives had said to find him a place in one of the schools there for him to continue his education, but when he arrived there was no space for him. So keen was he to continue with his studies that he got on the next bus and headed for Goroka in Eastern Highlands to look for a school.
“My parents were pastors and sometimes had an income of K50 per month, and with seven children, life was pretty tough.”
“I knew my parents were not able to financially support me, but as a Pastors son, I was raised in the church and believed that God would provide.”
And indeed God did provide. On arriving in Goroka, a family took him in and helped him secure a place where he completed grades 7&8.
Nathan lent money (maket mani) in the area to make ends meet and to pay for his education.
After completing grade eight at Kainantu Primary School, he moved up to Kainantu High School and entered Aiyura National High school in 2005.
During the five years from grade 7 to 12, Nathan was a small business man who sold money and lived on the profits. Using the profit, he would pay for his school fees in instalments, and occasionally, would send money and clothes to his parents and siblings back in Nipa.
“I knew that my parents would not be able to support me, so I decided to pay for my own school fees because I knew education was the key.”
From Aiyura, Nathan was accepted into University of Papua New Guinea to study Law. In 2009, he received an offer to study in Florida, USA.
Nathan didn’t have the means to take up the overseas offer. He earnestly prayed to God to make it possible for him to go to the US.
He fundraised and eventually came up with the money needed for studies abroad.
To cut a long story short, education, has opened many doors for him.
“When I was young, whenever I asked my dad for anything he would send me to the church and tell me to ask God. He said God would provide.”
I held on to that lesson, all my life, even when I had no money to pay for my school fees I would ask the Lord for his help and support.
I left my home, my parents, my siblings in search of education, I sold stuff on the roadside to make money to buy food and school stationaries, I sold money on the streets to pay for my school fees and God was always with me.
Nathan hopes that his story will empower other youths to strive for a better life.
“If you know your parents cannot afford your education, uniforms or stationaries, don’t sit and wallow in self-pity, don’t wait on relatives to help, they may or they may not.”
“You must take ownership of your education. Education is the key that opens all doors.”
“I was just a boy from a village but I took ownership of my education, and now, because of education, I’ve seen the nation’s capital, I’ve seen Australia, I’ve lived in the USA. And all this was through education.”
“Put God first in your life, and take ownership of your education because your future is in your own hands.
“God looks at the heart, when he sees your commitment and hears your silent call of help he will step in, and I tell you, he will bless you.”
Nathan recently returned from his studies and now works at helping other young Papua New Guineans wanting to attend university overseas.
His organisation has seen more than 400 Papua New Guinea students entering universities in Australia, New Zealand, USA, China and Germany.
Thanks to him, his other six siblings have also been overseas to study for their university degrees.
By REBECCA KUKU