I haven’t written for a while. I’ve felt the pressure to write! To be honest I’ve felt a bit flat (oh, and it is school holidays here). A friend of mine who is a writer advised me to just write when I felt like it and not feel pressure to do so – thanks for your encouragement Dr Lynette. A lot has happened over the past few weeks. I could write about 50 things to keep preteen boys occupied in the school holidays, finding time for me while living in the chaos of a family made up of a sailing mad husband, 2 exuberant boys (have I mentioned that they are preteen yet??), a demanding golden retriever puppy (teen as well!!) and a senile 17yr old Siamese cat…Sometimes at the end of a day I’ll just put my head in my hands, take a sip of crispy cool white wine and sigh – wow, what a day!
Anyway, why was I feeling flat? Well, I find in my life that there are times where the ‘compartmentalising’ becomes quite overwhelming. You know the sense that there are things coming at you from all sides and so you have to make a decision to put something aside and focus on another for a while, then when the moment is right again you can pick that something up again, before the demands of something else come by again…And so it goes on. I’m not sure if that is the experience of men too? Certainly as a woman and as a Mum, that has been my experience. Enter trip to PNG…My mind wants to focus completely on those preparations, but while I’m trying to write an important email to someone who works for WHO in PNG, my kids are fighting in the background, or when reading an interesting article on the ‘Millenium Project’ I’m reminded of the fact I need to “treat the kids like a dog and take them out for one good run a day”!! Oh and that we do need to eat – “Why do we have to eat all the time”, I cry.
And then I read 3 Lamentations 22-26. : “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion: therefore I will wait for him’. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”
As I sit quietly and contemplate my life and this trip to PNG I am reminded that the Lord has given me this opportunity to travel to PNG, He will equip me, He will go before me.
Oh, and the dog ate my brand new ‘Cotton rich’ bra!!
In an earlier blog I had mentioned that the humidity in PNG is apparently appalling. At my fundraising morning tea last week a lady who had lived and worked in PNG told me to make sure I only wear cotton clothing. I suggested that I was going to take a woollen T-shirt because it soaks up the sweat and doesn’t smell, but she was insistent that cotton was the only way to go. Well, my Bibbulman track hiking friend, Deb, has bought me a pair of woollen underwear to try before I go! I never knew there was such a thing as woollen underwear. The label says that merino wool keeps you cool, dry and oudor free – sounds good to me. Anyway, after talking to a few people in the know I’m going to follow the wool route – lightweight T-shirts to soak up the sweat and keep me cool. I’ll report back after my trip.
Today I went to Mountain Designs as they were having a fantastic sale and managed to find some lightweight long pants that are soaked in mozzie repellant and antibacterial/fungal stuff! Wow! They’ll be perfect and what’s even better is that they were $150 and on sale they were reduced to $54. Wow again! It was fortunate that Deb was with me because she helped me choose the pair with the right number of pockets in them, something which I had failed to consider.
Now Deb, who is a bit of a gadget girl has introduced me to something quite special – a GoGirl http://www.go-girl.com/. What is it you may be asking? Well, it’s a little device that lets girls urinate standing up! You read it correctly… My children think its hilarious and my husband says he wants one too! You see, I have been wondering how I’ll manage when I need to ‘see a man about a dog’ while travelling through the jungle. It’s easy in the Aussie bush, plently of spaces between the trees and bushes to be able to find a safe spot to squat, but where I’m going is thick jungle. I now have the answer. Thanks Deb!
Their slogan is: GoGirl: Don’t take life sitting down! I like it…
The village we will be visiting is called Bunam. It is in the East Sepik Province of PNG. This province is quite large approximately 42,800 km square in size. The Capital is Wewak which is where we’ll be flying in to. The population is estimated at 343 180 people (2000 census). I’ve been reading that the average life expectancy age is 51.3yrs for men and 53.1 yrs for women in this province. The people grow and sell coconut, food crops, betel nut, fish and cocoa. The province is dominated by the Sepik River, one of the largest rivers in the world with a huge tidal difference of up to 5m at times.
Bunam is very remote. We’ll fly from Perth to Cairns, then on to Port Moresby, then Wewak via Madang. From Wewak we take a road trip for 2.5hrs to Angorum and then a boat ride for 5hrs along the Sepik and then turning left up the Keram River. Bunam is situated somewhere along the Keram. When researching some information about Bunam ‘poor and remote’ comes up a lot. It is in the southern part of the District of Angorum. This district has a population of about 68 796; 31 589 are aged under 15yrs, 35 546 are 15 – 64yrs and only 1661 are over 65 yrs of age. So there are lots of children. But sadly child mortality rates in this part of PNG are high:
Under 5yrs 115:1000
Infant < 1yr 79:1000 compared to Australia which is 4.61:1000
Child 1-4yr 36:1000
The Newborn death rate is 29:1000 compared to 9:1000 in Australia (and Australian statistics include all babies born after 20 weeks gestation).
Now wait for the Maternal Mortality Rate…I read these stats on the Burnet Institute website where they had trialled a Hepatitis B vaccine for the women and babies in the East Sepik Province in 2008 – 2010. The Mortality Rate in 2006, they report was 733:100 000! These deaths were related to preventable problems: postpartum hemorrhage, puerperal sepsis and
obstructed labour. In Australia our Indigenous women death rate during prepnancy and the first year of giving birth is 22:100 000 and the Non-Indigenous rate is 8 per 100 000. Causes of death in Australia are related to Cardiac disease, psychiatric disorders and hemorrhage – all very rare.
These numbers are so sad. And that’s just the numbers. What about the people who are the numbers. The women who have died giving birth and left husband’s widowed, children motherless and a family without an important carer. The death of a baby or child leaves a family grieving. The reasons for these deaths are things that here in Australia we’d have no trouble treating – usually with simple antibiotics, immunisations, good food and clean water…
Who are ‘we’? The team is a small one. To do specific things. Three in total. Mike is the team leader. He’s a Church of Christ Pastor and leadership consultant who will provide leadership training to the local pastors from the region. Simon is a vocalist and music teacher and he will be providing some musical teaching and support (something which the local churches have asked for) and then me, the midwife. You can see why I’ll be going there. When I look at the numbers I feel overwhelmed at the task ahead. In the Angorum District alone, where Bunam is located, there are only 2 Doctors (1 per 34 398), 21 Nurses (1 per 3276), 8 Health centres (1 per 8600 population) and 20 Aid posts (1 per 3440). Where will I start? Well I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I need a place to start. I think I’ll begin with listening to the women and answer their questions; hear what they do and how they do it. I want to learn about their ways. I’ll look and see what the potential is – what could I do in the future. And I really want to love the women and share what I know with them at their leading. Mike said to me, “Sara, whatever you have to give them will be something and will build on what little they have”. Listen, Learn, Look and Love.