Monday, February 19, 2007

Day 3: Nine Mile Urban Clinic

8 am. sharp. A personal chauffeur, no I mean, a brother Titus came to pick me up and drove me to the HOPE office in Boroka. I'm not allowed to be alone or wander off, which helps me understand how the rich and famous must feel like, no privacy and such.

I'm grateful for the protection, but at times I miss the freedom to roam around the city on my own. Port Moresby isn't a place for a foreign woman to wander alone. The HOPE building is fenced off with barbed and razor wires. There's always a guard at the door. At 8.15 am, the office was already bustling with people.

I met Graham Ogle for the first time. I've heard so much about him. He gave Tim and I an assignment for the day to film/ photograph Nine Mile Urban Clinic. Every skill that you know is useful in PNG. Every bit of talent counts. What I do, however small like taking photographs, matters.There's nothing more satisfying for me than knowing that what I do affects lives, and it's more visible in places like PNG.

Nine Mile Clinic started off as a mobile clinic in 1994 with a camper van going around various settlements, then it became a fixed clinic in 2000. The temperture in the clinic began to rise as the day went on. The air was thick, smelly and babies were crying. People were elbowing each other due to cramped space. Many young moms and children came because of TB. They were sick but still smiled for the camera.

Today I had a chat with Ivon. She has a chiseled face with curious dark brown eyes, hair underneath a red bandana. When she smiles, she looks like a model. Ivon has TB in her lungs, and yet she's been volunteering for HOPE for one year, educating settlement people about AIDS awareness with twenty other volunteers three days/week, three hours/day. It wasn't a problem for her to stop for a chat with a stranger like me.

Needless to say, I had a sensory overload. I admire HOPE workers/volunteers who show up day in and day out to serve the poor. Hats off to all of you, the true unsung heroes...

In the afternoon, I had the privilege of attending an education meeting with Graham. Mind you, he'd been in meetings back to back all day long and still had the sharpness of mind to carry on discussing the building of a school. In the meeting room, there was no air conditioning, no glass of water or tea. It was late afternoon and the heat made my eyes droopy. But I still got the gist of the meeting, which revolved around building a school that will best meet the needs of PNG students and the available budget. Ah! meeting the budget, that's always the tricky part. I'm glad to see that part of our work to film/photograph PNG will help raise money for the underprivileged. By the time the building will be constructed, they may not have enough money to build flushed but only pit toilets, which is still better than what they have now, for they've got none. Tim and I will go to the school tomorrow and will report further of their conditions...

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