Excerpt From Des Hansen’s letter

Fairly close to Australia as the crow flies but light years away in terms of real development, Tapini….only 1/2 hour flying time from Port Moresby but is located in a remote mountainous area and is one of the poorest parts of all PNG.

To put it mildly, life is interesting. It's the Goilala District a tribe with a long reputation for its fighting, cheating and violence. You'd never really know as they are very happy-go-lucky, friendly people but beneath this they steal anything given the opportunity and lie without blinking an eyelid.

No birds in the area anything that moves is killed and eaten. They are lazy and love their sleep inherent in their culture. They are subsistence farmers and their plots of land dominate their lives. Kau kau (a sweet potato) is their staple food. They live for the present…"eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die ".

The longer you stay here the more you realize not to be surprised by anything. One student who started the year in grade 10 is now in jail for murder; another year 8 boy being held as a murder suspect. My best year 9 English student was expelled for raping a primary school girl...I could go on! Despite all that I feel safe...just a matter of getting my head around how they function/think/live.

Everyone is unanimous that the country is going backwards...corruption is rife at all levels particularly at high government levels. Port Moresby is a dirty place, full of criminals and a mecca for the unemployed. Having said this there are some pluses. Their friendly nature is magnificent; the way they care for wantoks (family and friends) is amazing; rarely do you hear a cross word amongst the students….terribly patient and tolerant.

Their care for family members has to be seen to be believed. Only about 40% of the young people receive any education at all. Those that do, see themselves as "made", which is rather sad because they really have little idea about education and study. Educating them is a real challenge. About 10 students each year go on to further education at year 11 and 12 at neighbouring secondary schools .

Sacred Heart High at Tapini caters for grades 7-10 and has 170 boarders and 50 day students. Tapini is the centre of the marijuana growing in PNG and is illegally cultivated as a cash crop. The students depend on it to pay their school fees...so they hoof off to Port Moresby, sell it and they have their school fees for the year.

Communication is a challenge have to find a courier to take a letter to Pt Moresby for postage, we have regular blackouts and no phone lies since July so no phones or emails. What has happened in the cricket???? One has to have patience, understanding and a sense of humour. No one gets married here...a young girl and guy just go off into the bush, have sex and so they become a couple…..married….so easy. No one dies….they are always 'killed' by someone. The 'Someone' responsible for the death is usually the one who doesn't grieve enough at the burial. Sorcery is believed in and widely practiced.

I'd like to thank the Rotary club for their donation to PALMS in 2008. When you take on a venture like this any form of assistance is welcomed. The year here in Tapini has been very topsy-turvy with conflict between the Head Master and the board of governor's Chairman which has been extremely disruptive for the school. 2009 looks much better. It is comforting to have some contact with Australia and any funding provided, I can assure you, is well spent.

In appreciation,
Des Hansen

President’s Report

Dear Rotarians,

It has been a sad but productive month. The fires have dominated our lives for the past couple of weeks. They have affected all of us. But I am so proud to be a member of Rotary in Australia. We have helped.; not only do we have firefighters amongst us but the many Rotarians who have turned up at Yanakie to serve breakfasts and dinners to those CFA volunteers, not only locally but from as far away as Narre Warren and Berwick. 

It would be difficult to name all Rotarians who helped but outstanding is Adrian Fyfe and Rose. Adrian organised us and has been elected to be the "cluster group" fire aid co-ordinator. Some anecdotes might amuse: The egg-xtrodinary efforts by Liz and Murray to perfect the fried egg ( page 17 of the Red Cross handbook), and the "yolks" we had with the CFA about the greenies.

The most poignant was the waving "bye" to the firefighters as they left for the Front. Emotions of those in 1915?

 A statistic; of the 21 people who turned up to volunteer for the Red Cross emergency service 10 were Rotarians. 

We had a very enjoyable evening at the Foster Museum with the Yarram Rotary Club and the Rotary caravanners. Many thanks to Barrie as MC and his team of helpers, notably Adrian, Les, Geoff, Liz, Margaret, raffle sponsors and of course the partners who provided delicious salads and desserts.

The next few weeks will be busy. We have the Foster Show (gate duty) GSE visit, the Seachange festival, joint visit to Yarram RC at the Port Albert Museum (15 April ? with fish and chips) and Craft Markets on March 8 and 12 April.. Hope to see you there.

Yours in Rotary,
John Rice