By WANPIS AKO
Despite the storm in social media and the uproar in Parliament last month sparked off by the National Capital District Commission’s Active City Development programme, the turnout on Sunday, April 8 in the usual 8km Walk for Life was overwhelming.
In the words of the NCD Governor Powes Parkop, this is a programme based on a recommendation of the PNG Olympic committee.
The turnout on the day spoke volumes about the programme’s positive impact on city dwellers since its inception last year.
The route of this component of the whole programme is from Murray Barracks to the newly-built road below Paga Hill.
When the discussion on the programme’s funds had gone viral on Facebook since the leaked video, I really wanted to see it for myself.
I set my mobile phone alarm at 5.20am on Saturday night as the programme starts at 5.30 am on Sundays.
Whilst driving, I noted that parents, women and girls, school children, youths and working class people turned up in numbers by foot all the way from Taurama, 6-Mile, Boroko, Morata, Gerehu, Hohola, 2-Mile Hill, Koki, Hanuababa, Konedobu and other parts of the city.
Many told the writer that they took part in the programme in their own will for fitness, health, wellness and behavioural change.
It provides a forum for the voters to interact with their governor. So it is not only an opportunity for residents to meet each other but also provides a market place for mothers to sell their items.
I also noted that they woke up in the wee hours with enthusiasm dictated by their passion for fitness, health, wellness and behavioural change.
The objectives of the programme are to achieve a clean and green city, healthy living and healthy community, a safe and secure city for girls, women and investors and, peace and harmony.
More importantly, it is for behavioural change so that over K20 million spent annually for cleaning betel nut spittle, rubbish on the main highways, and hiring private security to guard public utilities, can be saved for other priorities.
This sum of money should have been spent in the other areas had it not been for our attitude problems.
I have been living in the city for over a decade and foreigners jogging or doing physical exercise along the roads in the city for wellbeing was a common sight.
This has changed with the introduction of this programme. Many locals are seen jogging or walking today. Many people who cannot afford access to gyms are benefitting from the programme.
The Yoga and Walk for Life programme in Port Moresby is run in parallel with other six major cities across the globe, learning from the experiences of England’s Liverpool city which has become successful in running a behavioural change campaign.
Yoga and Walk for Life has attracted interest from other centres. It has already been replicated in Kimbe, West New Britain and Wewak in East Sepik. Western Highland will soon jump on the bandwagon.
Ecam Primary School at Taurama is introducing Yoga and Walk for Lfe as part of its early childhood syllabus.
Interview samples for a brief evaluation of the programme show that K3million invested in the programme has achieved its objectives coupled with a lot more positive impacts on the lives of many city residents.
Rose Hagua, a volunteer in the programme, said she was delighted to see many kids partaking in the programme.
Hagua said they were looking for a future with many of them promoting healthy living if the programme continued.
Commending Governor Powes Parkop, she said many women and girls could not afford access to gyms in the city and were benefitting from the programme which was free of charge.
That morning, new kids on the block in the music scene, Viber belted out their fresh songs which mesmerised the crowd who were asking for more.
Kelly Homo, a foreigner, testified that he started taking part in the programme two years ago and it was lifesaving.
Homo said since the introduction of the programme, his health has improved, adding he really supported it.
Junior Joshua, a youth, from the New Guinea Islands said it was aimed at changing people’s mindsets.
Kids, he said, would grow up with good manners and mentality through this programme.
He added that the programme was a catalyst for addressing lawlessness in the city.
Raymond Howa, another youth leader from Hela, said the programme has helped in reducing lawlessness in the city as many youths who had engaged in crime have switched to participating in it.
Howa is calling on his fellow youths, who have not joined, to do so for their fitness and health, and to help create a better city for all.
Hila Rigana, 38, of Wanigela village, said cases of TB and diabetes were common in her village but when the programme was introduced in their community four years ago, the number has dropped.
Governor Parkop encouraged participants to continue engaging in Yoga and Walk for Life in the wake of Facebook criticisms in relation to a leaked video detailing the cost of the programme.
He said the fitness and wellness, and behavioural change would help to make the city better and liveable.
He added that the programme had positive impacts on the city residents, saying their participation was in itself a testimony of its success.
“When we are achieving our goals, there is resistance. Through the programme, we are breaking down barriers in ethnic groupings. We are united in diversity for one city, one people and one future.
“We are not here to serve Yoga and Walk for Life but it is only a means to achieve our outcomes. Our critics have not provided a better alternative. Do not buy into their small-mindedness,” Parkop told an applauding crowd.
He urged them to ignore all the negativities about the programme on Facebook.
Parkop said comparing with the programme, for over 40 years the same methods and strategies were devised to no avail, adding desired outcomes were not achieved.
- Wanpis Ako is a blogger.