Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tenderly hooked by Tembari kids

American air hostess Diane McLea with the children of the Tembari Children Care (TCC).

Diane (right) and Penny Sagembo with her son beside the many items which were donated by the visitor's friends in the US.-- Pictures BY ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ

The writer, with Diane in a picture taken atop a hill in Port Moresby where one could see the panoramic view of the city harbor. - Picture courtesy of Ms DIANE McLEA

A Friend of Tembari Children

MIAMI-based air hostess Diane McLea did not hesitate to fly to Port Moresby on Wednesday night last week.

There was this group of 83 children whom she eagerly wanted to meet the next morning, even for a few minutes – these children whom she discovered through Google.

These kids live at ATS Oro Settlement outside of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea and are being cared for by a fledgling care group.

Was her planned coming to PNG, which was to take place in a few days’ time, and her by-chance internet-googling of the orphans, abandoned and neglected children under the care of the Tembari Children Care (TCC), pure luck or coincidence?

For her, it was both. All along in her career as air hostess that spans 20 years, she has been looking for young people across the globe whom she could help.

And she just did that in her travels to Africa and South America and other countries where her work brought her with both pleasure and sheer mental and physical fatigue.

Diane, 41, started her career at age 17, with a training sojourn in air hosting in Makati City, Metro Manila. Later, the city became her temporary home. (No wonder she picked out my accent quickly when I first spoke with her).

But over her entire life, she has been moving from one country to another, starting in Sao Paolo, Brazil, when she was 4. Her dad, an engineer, worked with a multinational company. Then she lived in Ibiza, Spain; then in Milan, Middle East, Paris, Senegal, Cairo, and then Manila. She’s now settled in Miami, Florida.

Before she joined her current employer, she worked a number of years as air hostess for a Kuwaiti Royal family.

Sometime last week, our blonde air hostess was on a frenzy of preparing for her next flying assignment in the Pacific and was searching on the internet for people, young people in particular, whom she may visit and, if opportunities permit, help.

She felt that almost all refugee camps that popped on her screen are highly-organized by international humanitarian groups if not sponsored by the host-country’s government. Not to mention their being crowded and stressed up for lack of food and what-have-you.

There was a time some years ago when she was in Africa and chanced upon a young man on crutches along the road while she was driving.

Talking with him and discovering how he ended up losing two legs, she offered help to cheer him up. The guy could not believe his luck.

But since the crippled young man lives in a refugee camp along with hundred others, Diane decided to move on later, looking for new prospects.

“Refugee camps hosts several hundreds if not thousands … what I wanted was a small group which I can interact with and relate … and maybe develop some kind of person-to-person relationships …” Diane told me.

Why not try some orphanages, she might find her luck there. Of which she did.
Googling for “orphanage”, the Tembari Children Care (TCC) Inc blogsite ( immediately popped on her screen, advising that it is based in Papua New Guinea.

No kidding! And just to think that she was flying into this country in few days’ time! She really couldn’t believe herself.

Reading one of the blogs that told the children’s story, she was immediately hooked.

This is the sort of thing she wanted to take on – a struggling orphanage with a growing number of beneficiary-children making do with only kawkaw (sweet potato) and sliced bread for lunch four times a week. Only four times a week! What about those days in between? She can’t believe it!
More stories and pictures downloaded, amusing her no end that goose-bumps crawled all over her as she regarded how the kids looked in their young, innocent faces. “Too young to lose parents!” was what quickly jammed into her head.

“I was quite excited but anxious, and seeing those kids in pictures while they ate their meals and smiled on camera, I felt my heart melt … yes! I’m going to see them …”

Immediately, she told her friends in the US about her rare find and what she wanted to do for them.

Taking their cue at what she was driving at, her friends – Kubs Lalchandani, Dr Younan of Palm Beach Surgical Center (California), Mike Gerber, Nancy Freitus -- hastily put together various stuffs which comprised the goodies that she bundled into their sleek jet.

Now, with only a few hours left in her less-than-24-hour-stay in this burgeoning city of POM after flying in on Wednesday night, Diane made it a point to carry out her only agenda for coming:

To travel to the ATS Oro Settlement at 7-Mile outside of Port Moresby and say “hello” to the kids of Tembari Children Care (TCC).
With her in tow are goodies which she promised me in her email just hours before she took off for her POM trip.

Stuffed in seven pieces of luggage, the goodies included a few week supplies of powder milk, medical and healthcare items, footwear, clothing, chocolate bars and a lot more.

All courtesy of her good friends back home.

And Diane had a special present to Penny Sagembo, the co-founder and coordinator of TCC, and of course, The Center’s matriarch – a brand new (laptop) notebook Asus Eee PC sent by her friend Dr Yonoun of Palm Beach Surgical Center.

The generous doc also sent some cash in US currency for The Center’s miscellaneous expenses.

Penny had been dreaming to own a laptop to help her prepare the profiles her 83 kids. Until the laptop came, she was only handwriting her reports as she did not have access whatsoever to personal computer. Now, she can work properly.

As a token of their exploding appreciation, the kids presented Diane a unique shell necklace and a PNG-motif ceramic vase. Possessing such a beautifully-crafted ceramic work made her so ecstatic.

The kids serenaded her with a song in pidgin, and she was teary-eyed.
She told them: I am really fortunate to have met all of you … I will cherish this few minutes I have been with you … I wish I could stay another two hours … but I have to go now … I’ll be back, sweethearts …”

“Now, I know what to do when I travel … I would be telling my friends in those countries about “my kids” in PNG … this way, they could expect more help and not only from me.”

Shortly after reading all my articles on blogsite about The Center’s activities, she emailed me about her soon-to-come quickie trip to PNG and of her wish to see the Tembari kids as soon as she arrived.
I hastily made such arrangements.

Last Thursday, all of us – the children, volunteer- moms and volunteer teachers, Penny, TCC chairman Hayward Sagembo, and me – were on Cloud nine for having with us a new friend and benefactor in Diane McLea.

On Friday morning, she emailed me from Australia to say how much she enjoyed the few minutes she had with the kids and that she wished to be with them again one of these days.

We love you Diane! Lukim yu!

(ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ refers to himself as a “Friend of Tembari Children”)

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