Knox students in front of the Aid Post which is being funded by Knox and Uniting World in the village of Lelehudi, Papua New Guinea.
Knox Grammar School is developing a long term relationship with The United Church of Papua New Guinea and Uniting World, centred on the Milne Bay Province, its capital Alotau and the village of Lelehudi where a mutual exchange of cultural understanding is encouraged.
The Knox focus is on education and health in Lelehudi and on each trip to PNG, Knox boys, staff and parents work alongside the locals in developing facilities and services for the village.
The recent July school holidays saw 12 students from Years 9-11 embark on Knox’s fourth trip to the village. This year Knox and Uniting World funded a much needed Aid Post which will provide accessible medical support to a few hundred local villagers as well as nearby villages.
Design and Technology teacher, Mr Mark McKenzie was able to check on building progress and meet with the foreman and workers. The Aid Post is substantial and consists of a waiting room, an examination room, an office and an operating/birthing room. A nurse will receive funding from AusAID and Knox will continue to help provide facilities and educational material.
On arrival in Lelehudi and each of the nearby villages, East Cape and Gadudu, the Knox group received an official welcome and was overwhelmed with gifts. The boys gave sports equipment, soccer and basketball uniforms, books, medical supplies and fishing tackle and received hand-crafted gifts such as woven baskets, shells and leis.
Year 11 student, Matt Yeldham said “I was amazed that people with so very little could give away so much. The generosity and humbleness of everyone in Papua New Guinea was astounding.”
Late June and early July, when the Knox boys visit, is normally after the wet season, but this year the group encountered almost continuous rain in Lelehudi. The group became acutely aware of how difficult the lives of these people are and even more so in such heavy rain. The villagers gardens flooded and their long walks to the market were challenging. Market produce was scant which impacts on the income of the poorer members of the community.
As part of their stay, the Knox boys visit the village school, learn crafts, see how sago is farmed and experience net fishing. The boys perform for the children, teach games and help lead the Sunday Church service.
Mrs Helen Clarke, Head of Christian Studies at Knox, said “Matt Yeldham played the flute for the village school children - the locals had never seen, let alone heard a flute before! Their reaction was one of absolute marvel.”
The 2010 Knox group certainly received a first-hand experience of the Talawa (local Melanesian) culture, village life, knowledge of a subsistence economy and the education and health issues faced by the villagers.
Matt Yeldham sums it up, “The smiles and joy expressed on our arrival made us feel very special. Being able to exchange cultures and learn from each other serves to strengthen our relationship with the people of the Milne Bay Province.”