Archived News Item

Building capacity in PNG Highlands

The Mercy Works Goroka and Mt Hagen progamme helps communities tackle many issues around poverty. One aspect of ensuring our programmes are as effective as possible is training the Sisters in these areas to help meet the needs of the people.

Maryanne Kolkia has begun a two year Diploma in Project Management. while much of her course work is done via distance learning, she has recently completed a two week residential course at the Divine Word University campus in Madang.

Maryanne has applied her learnings in her work and feels it has given her greater confidence. ‘I am hoping the course will broaden my thinking,’ said Maryanne. ‘I’m learning to help people make choices and critical decisions. It’s important to help them understand that, even in difficult circumstances, their decisions have consequences.’

One useful aspect of Maryanne’s training, is the exposure to people from different walks of life. ‘there are people from different programmes in PNG, from mining and government departments and other non Government organisations. It has been really interesting learning how different people manage people in their workplaces and I am learning a broad range of techniques that I can apply in my work in Goroka.’

Sr Theresia Boyek, of the Mercy Works Goroka team attended the Caritas Capacity Building programme with sessions in Port Moresby and in Sydney. The programme aims to enhance participants’ work in providing social services such as health and education, and in community development projects. They are trained to work with communities to identify urgent needs and design efficient, appropriate and effective development projects, geared toward reducing poverty and promoting justice. Participants learn to plan, develop and manage community projects, report on them, and how to seek resources and technical support.

Theresia found the training useful for her outreach work. ‘following up with the people you get in touch with is really important. I’ve learned that being proactive in this really helps to strengthen our projects and build good partnerships. through these partnerships we can get so much more information out to the public, because they pass on what we give them. I’ve found using partners like that very effective.’

Stories from Goroka & Mt Hagan
Two of the sisters from PNG tell us about some of the women they work with.

Sr Theresia Boyek – The Flower Girls of St Marys
The “Flower Girls” are a group of older Catholic women in Goroka. They come together to sew items and learn cooking skills. The group from St Mary’s Parish first came to Mercy Works in 2006 for Budget Training and since then have come regularly for other training. A unique bond has formed between them. They are there to help each other and have become strong members of their families. The training sessions have helped them become aware of the importance of respecting themselves personally and others. They have learnt to acknowledge their own weaknesses and find ways to work on the areas they need to improve on. It has been struggle for them but all feel the struggle is worth it.

Being part of the group has made a big difference in their lives and has also had an impact on their family as well. Some of their families have approached Mercy Works and complimented us because of the change they have seen in them. The members of the group have been good role models for people in the wider community. They shared how they felt, saying, “We are truly blessed because we have attended trainings at Mercy Works. These trainings have been an eye opener for us and we wish this could have happened years ago.”

Louise Parinjo – The women of Baisu Prison
‘A very interesting group’ is how the officer in charge of Baisu describes Mercy Works, ‘for you come regularly to provide training for women prisoners and juvenile boys.’ The staff from Mercy Works Mt Hagen provides training in Human Rights and emotional support for women prisoners. Most women have committed offences like family violence, murder, misappropriation of public funds and drug smuggling.

Most of the women are local but some come from other provinces. Some are pregnant when they arrive and have their baby while in prison. The law stipulates that any baby under three years may remain with their mother. Currently there are 8 babies living with their mothers in Baisu prison. While the mothers receive their training the children eat fruit and candies which we bring in for them.
We give the women life skills training such as sewing and bilum making as these will be useful to them when they finish their term. They can use these skills once they are home. We have taught them to make the pattern for skirt-trousers and simple blouses and how to cut up material. As there are no sewing machines have to hand sew the clothes and have produced excellent work.

The women who have completed their trousers, wear them with pride and have expressed their thanks for the training which will help them be useful citizens when they finish their sentences. The women have said that these practical activities keep them busy and so that they don’t have time to dwell on their problems. They have expressed their gratitude for engaging Mercy Works to give them the training and more importantly emotional support while they serve their sentences.