Overwhelming Generousity In The Pacific

A joint New Zealand Herald and World Vision effort to raise funds for those living in the remote Pacific has raised $216,000 to the Hidden Pacific campaign. The New Zealand Herald journalists Kirsty Johnston and Mike Scott, and World Vision ambassador Clarke Gayford travelled to Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Solomon Islands to report on the hardship and poverty prevalent in the Pacific. In these nations, the local people relied on fishing and farming, had limited access to healthcare and education, and were struggling to adapt to extreme weather and rising sea levels. However, it became evident during their visit that these people were desperate to improve their lives.

The New Zealand Herald enunciated that the stories brought back from PNG and the Solomon Islands shone a light on the reality of life for huge numbers of people in some of the most impoverished places on earth. Melanesia has the highest levels of poverty in the Pacific, with more than 80 percent of the region’s population living in impoverished conditions. Chief executive of World Vision New Zealand, Chris Clarke, said, “in an increasingly fractured and disconnected world, where more and more people don’t even know the names of their next-door neighbours, it says something about the Kiwi character that so many of us have joined us to stand with our Pacific neighbours. New Zealanders have seen the great need here, and responded magnificently.” For the Herald and World Vision, among the various and evident concerns, it was the access to a safe and reliable drinking supply that became their priority for the communities. For this reason, the first $100,000 of the campaign funds will go directly go towards an urgent water and sanitation project in the Hanuabada village of Port Moresby in PNG.

This is a fantastic project and represents the one of the greatest elements of human nature, love and generousity. I applaud the Herald and World Vision for initiating and mobilizing the general public to support but more importantly enable those in the communities and islands to help themselves. This perfectly captures the essence of this quote by John Holmes that “there is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”

The Solomon Islands became independent in 1978 through an indigenous independence movement. About 20 years later, the Solomon Islands spiralled into ethnic violence for multiple years. However, the main factor that has stunted development in the islands is the constant threat and damaged caused by cyclones. In April 2014, Cyclone Ita left at least 23 people dead and an estimated 49,000 people were affected by the floods, of whom 9,000 were left homeless. Aid has supported the islands significantly and reduced tensions between the various ethnic communities. Following the cyclone, New Zealand offered an immediate NZD$300,000 in funds and deployed emergency response personnel. Australia donated $269,000 and sent response teams to aid in relief efforts. Two days later, Australia increased its aid package to $3.2 million while New Zealand provided an additional $1.2 million. Taiwan also provided $286,000 in funds.

The region of Western New Guinea (now Papua New Guinea, PNG) was previously under Dutch occupation. PNG governance was then transferred to Indonesia on 1 May, 1963. Implementation of Indonesian governance was followed by sporadic fighting between Indonesian and pro-Papuan forces through until 2015.  There is a desperate need for the basic necessities of life and to create a sense of stability and progress for the people of PNG.

Over the next four years, the project will support the development of a safe water supply and encourage better sanitation habits across the village which will impact almost 13,000 people. This support will significantly improve the health of this important indigenous village and ensure its strength in the future. The extra funding that was raised will be allocated towards educational development, growth in health care resources, nutritional capability, enabling economic development, and building communities’ resilience to disaster and climate change across the region.

Sarah Hesson