Posted by Kane Raukura AFSC
on 30 July 2019
Visiting Papua New Guinea has been an item on my bucket list for many years. It is not easy though getting away when you're normal classroom teacher most days and a Father to three young kiddies. I was recently blessed though to be invited to present at the PNG National Gathering and through the kind support of my College, I was allowed leave to attend.
Life is about friendships and people, although my task was one of presenter, I was also overjoyed to be visiting old friends and colleagues deeply involved in our Lasallian Mission in PNG. At the bequest of Grace Wrakia, the PNG National Coordinator, my selected topic was 'The Significance of Lay Partners in the Lasallian Mission". Luckily this is something that is close to my heart and one which provides rich material and examples. It was not too difficult putting together my workshops and creating a presentation that I hoped would inspire, challenge and reassure my audience in-regard to their overwhelming contribution to Lasallian Education in Papua New Guinea.
Grace worked me hard and four workshops in a row later, to 75 plus attendees a time, and I was done! My participants were the most wonderful, attentive and caring people that I have had the pleasure presenting to. The questions and sharing were rich and diverse, and always quite clearly focussed on the rights of the child, child well-being, child educational progress and future pathways that allow the children to have full and productive lives.
Visiting the schools in Hohola, Bomana and Jubilee, I was struck with how there is a core of hardworking Lasallians in each place, some who have soldiered on tirelessly for many years. This is also true for many of the schools throughout PNG, who may not necessarily be a 'Lasallian' school but who may contain loyal 'Lasallian' teachers who continue to 'fight the good fight' daily and through their actions and example continue to support our charism and mission. This commitment and love for what we do is so commendable and is deserving of recognition. In light of this, it was most warming to see key Lasallian Partners from the PNG Family formally recognised at the Gathering in front of all its participants. This was a wonderful celebration of their hard-work and years of committed service.
The challenges in Papua New Guinea are great and will continue to be so. From poor wages, lack of resources, inadequate buildings, teacher shortages / skills, very poor communities, crime and all shades of violence, disruptive politics and corruption. But, amongst this harsh backdrop, we have people doing their utmost in the most trying of circumstances. As a first-time visitor, I was humbled by their kindness and generosity. What is achieved by the Lasallian Family in PNG may appear small by our standards but to that one child they help it is the world. One child at a time, that is all it might take.
So, if you haven't been, put it on your bucket list. In the words of Pope Francis, "Be shepherds with the smell of your sheep, in the midst of your people like Jesus the Good Shepherd." The Lasallians of Papua New Guinea are our people. Let's continue to be in their midst, lending a strong hand and working in solidarity.
Dear Grace and the Lasallian PNG family, thank you for the invitation, it was a moving experience.
God Bless you all, Kane.