(MissionNewswire) The Refugee Livelihood Program, a program for the refugee population of West Papua, an Indonesian Province on the island of New Guinea, is a collaboration of Caritas of Papua New Guinea and the Don Bosco Technical School in Gabutu, near Port Moresby, the capital city of Papua New Guinea.
The West Papuan community has more than 2,000 people who are living in five camps across Port Moresby. They had been promised resettlement to allocated state land by the previous government, but have yet to be resettled. With this uncertainty, leaders from the camps approached the Catholic Bishops Conference for help in reducing some of the ongoing challenges at the camps such as food security, clean water, education, land and housing.
Caritas launched its support by providing educational scholarships to 20 West Papuan youth so that they can attend courses at the Don Bosco Technical School, Gabutu. The short four-month courses give disadvantaged young men and women an opportunity to attain basic certificates in computing, administration, electrical and motor mechanics.
Thomas Wangai, one of the scholarship recipients, will soon to be studying metal fabrication and welding. He spoke of the hardships he faced and said the scholarship was a turning point in his life. He noted, “I am honored to receive this scholarship. I faced many negative situations, but I never lost faith. I am grateful to God that He has heard my prayer.”
Hans Wonsiwor, representative of the Nine-Mile West Papua community, also expressed how much the scholarships meant. “I’m proud of the partnership between Caritas and the Don Bosco Technical School. I thank them both in providing this wonderful scholarship program to assist the West Papuan Community.”
Salesian missionaries in Papua New Guinea provide primary and secondary education as well as technical skills training to prepare youth for the workforce. Missionaries also help to ensure that basic needs like shelter, food and water are met so students are able to focus on their studies.
“’They welcomed angels’ is our Mission theme for 2019. In keeping with the theme, we are happy to welcome the West Papuan refugees and offer them education at Don Bosco Technical School in Gabutu. The program will develop their skills, and most importantly, help them find a decent job,” says Kenneth Gonzales, deputy principal for technical affairs at the Don Bosco Technical School.
Caritas Australia’s Program Quality and Support Coordinator in Papua New Guinea, Marie Mondu, emphasized the need for empowerment and a sense of purpose to be imparted to the refugees. She says, “Refugees in Papua New Guinea today need our help, particularly our brothers and sisters from West Papua. This program provides them with the tools necessary and the opportunity to rebuild their lives.”
Papua New Guinea has a population of approximately 7.5 million. It is a resource-rich country with oil, gas and gold reserves as well as fertile land capable of producing high crop yields. Despite this, an estimated 40 percent of Papua New Guinean’s live below the poverty line of $1.25 per day, according to the World Bank.
Close to 50 percent of adults are illiterate and 25 percent of children are unable to attend school in the country. Part of the problem with getting to school, work and hospitals has to do with the country’s infrastructure. In rural areas where nearly 88 percent of the population resides, there are few roads or means of transportation to get to schools or places of employment.