Sunday, September 26, 2010

Filipino Association of PNG (FAPNG) raises fund for Tembari children

The Pretty Young Thing (PYT) sing-and-dance act from Manila belts it out on Saturday night during the Hatid-Saya 2010 dinner-fundraising concert at Hideaway hotel. The concert is an annual initiative of the Filipino Association of PNG (FAPNG) to raise funds for charity. The Tembari Children Care (TCC), along with the Pediatrics Ward of the Port Moresby General Hospital, are this year’s funding grant beneficiaries.

A Friend of Tembari Children

THE Tembari children were lucky enough to be one of the only two beneficiaries of a fundraising dinner-concert staged by the Filipino Association of PNG (FAPNG) last night at Hideaway Hotel at 6-Mile.

The association’s annual event Hatid-Saya 2010 (Courier of Fun) is also giving assistance to the Paediatrics Ward of the Port Moresby General Hospital.

As usual, the dinner-concert was a sell out. It was the only time for Filipinos in Port Moresby that they could watch the performance of known acts from Manila.

And they watch with excitement and satisfaction an all-girl sing-and-dance group Pretty Young Thing comprising Ava, Dania and Nichole, who succeeded in enthralling their audience with their musical energy.

Association president Joey Sena is quite familiar with the Tembari children, and in fact, has become a donor through their family company Unversal Ventures.

The Hatid-Saya 2010 fundraiser has given Joey a better opportunity to further help our children by involving the Filipino community in Port Moresby.

He told last night’s audience that FAPNG has been holding this regular annual event to entertain city residents and to raise money for charity.

With the concert’s generous sponsors and supporters that enabled FAPNG to import such a very talented group of three young performers, the audience was truly entertained.

And obviously, the ultimate winners are the POMGH and the Tembari children.

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Indian community’s generous donation

A Friend of Tembari Children

THE Indian Association of PNG (IAPNG) was kind enough to include the Tembari Children Care (TCC) as a beneficiary of its fundraiser on Saturday night dubbed India Nite 2010.

Held at the Sir John Guise Stadium at Gordons, the show was aimed at cultural integration to bring together the people of India and Papua New Guinea.

Although my letter of request for funding assistance came at a time when the IAPNG board was already deliberating on what group should receive assistance, it was given kind consideration.

I addressed the request to association president Sudhir Guru of City Pharmacy.

Through the intercession of Krishna Raj, the association secretary who discussed during a meeting why The Center should also be considered for funding assistance, my appeal for help was immediately given credence and thus, included among seven other charitable groups operating in Port Moresby, notably among them the Cheshire Home of Hohola and the Charity of St Anne of Gerehu.

It was the first time that IAPNG heard about the Tembari children, although some from the Indian community have already been helping our children in one way of the other, namely Sadjani and Shian Kattapuram, Manas Panicker and Chandy Kurien – all of Trade Link International (TLI) which is engaged in trading industrial and health products, vehicles and farm machinery.

Just before the cultural show ended, Mr Guru explained the night’s event, saying that the show was not only a showcase of Indian culture and values but also means to raise funds which can be donated to charity organizations and people in need.

He said it was their little ways of giving back to the Papua New Guinean community, for which the association has donated close to K1 million to various organizations in PNG.

Mr Guru also announced the eight beneficiaries of the fundraiser, including the Tembari children which received a cheque for K2,000.

The association is an organization of about 80 Indian families living in Port Moresby, with some of the members having lived in PNG for about 20-25 years.

“Many of our kids have been born and brought up in PNG and have learnt Papua New Guinean ways.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that we contribute to the development and improvement of this young nation which many of us call home away from home.”

The event’s special guests were NCDC Governor Powes Parkop and the PNG High Commissioner in India Tarcy Eri.

The funding assistance would greatly help in boosting the day to day cash flow of The Center whose children’s needs are growing everyday.

Indian children singing the national anthems of India on Saturday during the cultural presentation sponsored by the Indian Association of PNG (IAPNG) at the Sir John Guise Stadium in Port Moresby.

A cultural dance presentation participated in by the members of the Indian community in Port Moresby.

Association president Sudhir Guru delivering a remark before the presence of special guests NCD Gov Powes Parkop and PNG High Commissioner in India Tarcy Iri in which he explained the goal of India Nite 2010.

NCD Gov Powes Parkop (left) and PNG High Commissioner in India Tarcy Iri intently listening to Mr Guru’s speech.

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Sometimes, good fortune comes with inconvenience

A Friend of Tembari Children

FOR EVERY good fortune, there would sometimes be a counterpart inconvenience. And for such inconvenience, would there be a way out of it?

When Fabian Chow, manager of Lae Biscuits branch at Gerehu, informed me that his company will be donating flour to the Tembari children, I was just thinking of a few bags, which could tide The Center over during days when our children’s food stock would be running low.

But no. Mr Chow said on the phone the Tembari Children Care Center (TCC) will be getting two pallets of flour in 25kg bags – for a total of 40 bags, equivalent to one ton.

And Lae Biscuits won’t deliver. I have to pick the goodies myself, within seven days. Or else, I forfeit the donation.

What to do? I cannot load them in my 20-year-old 323 Mazda station wagon and transport the whole batch to The Center some 30 minutes away.

My new-found friend in the person of Trevor Lyall, a Kiwi working at a building project of the Holiday Inn in Port Moresby, offered to pick the flour up and haul it off to The Center at ATS Oro Settlement, at 7-Mile on the other side of the Jackson international airport.

At Lae Biscuit’s Gerehu warehouse, the Filipino warehouse assistant showed me the flour donation – in two pallets.

“That’s two tons … 80 bags in all (of 25k),” he told me.

“Two tons…? I thought it was only one ton ….?”

No, he said. “Two tons in all …”

“Do you have somebody to help you load them up into your truck?” he asked.

“What do you mean …? You mean we can’t take the flour in their pallets?”

I asked him that because if we were to take the goods in their pallets, loading them into Trevor’s mini-truck would be easy. And the warehouse forklift could easily lift and ease them into our mini-truck in matter of a few minutes.

But this was not to happen.

The warehouse man said we could not take the pallet with us because they are also needed at the warehouse for other packed goods.

Well, for those not familiar with pallets, they are a flat transport structure that supports goods in a stable fashion while being lifted by a forklift, pallet jack, front loader or other jacking device.

So, for almost an hour, I, Trevor and the Papua New Guinean who works as his assistant at the hotel project, and who also doubled as our bodyguard, sweated it out transferring the flour from the forklift into the truck’s open bed.

Arriving at The Center some 30 minutes later, I had another problem: Where to store the 80 bags of flour.

The truth is that The Center is actually made up of two classrooms fashioned out from two junk container vans. Called the community learning centers, or CLCs, they were donated to The Center by Digicel Foundation for use by our 45 preschoolers, who are orphans, neglected and abandoned children.

However, one of the CLCs actually was converted into “office” and storage room for some of our properties and foodstuff donations.

Wagi, the volunteer-caretaker, said the entire flour stock could be accommodated inside the CLC, to sit side by side with other stuffs.

Soon after half of the flour was moved inside the CLC, almost half of the space had already been occupied, leaving just a small room to serve as passage way in getting in and out of the container.

Then, while the goods were being worked, guess who arrived at The Center?

No-one but Marina van der Vlies, chief executive of Digicel Foundation, who was pleasantly surprised to see me (we last saw each other last December at a Digicel Foundation Christmas party for the city’s unfortunate children).

Surprised to see Trevor’s mini-truck parked right in front of the CLC, Marina asked what was going on.

I immediately tried to beat her into it. I said: “Well, I hope you won’t be upset to see these bags of flour inside the CLC … they are messing up the whole place …”

“Yeah … I know … you got no other place to store this stuff … and it’s messing up the classroom …”

And I could only utter “yeah …”

Then, she said: “I think I should send you another container to serve as your storage for your food supplies and other things.”

Marina, by the way, dropped by to see the progress of a daylong workshop on livelihood skill training program being held at the Tembari Center for certain parents at the settlement. To be held one day at a time in 14 other CLCs in settlement areas around Port Moresby, the training program is being sponsored by Digicel Foundation.

Then, I have another “inconvenience” arising from a windfall of this flour donation: how to make use of this huge raw material.

I knew how poor Papua New Guinean families use flour for their daily meals – they make a soft mass of it by mixing it with water and little salt. Then they fry it in deep oil. That’s all. No fun-fare like what I used to do with flour at home.

I knew this because long time ago, I used to supply a poor Papua New Guinean family friend with a 10kg bag of flour every 10 days.

And the mother of the family would just mix the flour with water and little salt until she produced a soft mass. Then, she would fry it in deep, hot oil. Her family consumed it with a tea at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Now, with two tons of flour material at their disposals, I really don’t know how our seven volunteer-mothers would handle this food resource.

May be they would be frying it everyday like my friend-family did with the flour that I gave them, and serve it for the children’s noontime snacks with cordial?

I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t work with the kids, who could go tired eating the same thing day in day out.

So I have a plan: I will teach our volunteer mothers with at least four flour recipes that I used to do on weekends when I was just a new migrant here in Port Moresby. I did this to beat my boredom of living alone.

I could teach them how to do pancakes (or hotcakes), steamed flour cake Filipino style (“puto”), Filipino-style doughnut and simple bread baked with yeast (pandesal).

Well, introducing these new recipes to them has also a counterpart “inconvenience”. But I won’t tell you about it, lest you think I am a cry baby.

What I would have to do is plan it very well. For all you know, I would be cooking flour recipes for 97 children and this is no joke!

For instance: How long would it take you to cook pancakes for all the 97 children – one pancake at a time?

Answer: Cooking a piece for three minutes each, it could take you more than four hours.

Inconvenient? Perhaps.

The 80 bags of whole meal flour are being unloaded and moved into the CLC for storage. Kiwi guy Trevor Lyall is shown on the right as he gets off his mini-truck.

Bags of flour (25kg) are being arranged inside the container.

Marina van der Vlies, Digicel Foundation chief executive and Trevor Lyall, planning supervisor at New Zealand-based construction firm Canam Construction pose for a picture.

Trevor Lyall with the Tembari kids.

Blogger APH (left) with Marina, Trevor and a local guy pose for a picture in front of the CLCs.

Children waving goodbye to Trevor and company who are driving out of The Center’s premises to go back to the city.

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Hands-on hotcake cooking lesson

Children preparing firewood on a stone-base stove.

Blowing air to build fire from a tiny ember.

Caption 3) Volunteer mother pours hotcake batter into the frying pan which I brought to The Center. See some hotcakes on a plate.

Hotcake mix now cooking slowly.

A Tembari kid poses next to a pile of whole meal flour from Lae Biscuits.

A Friend of Tembari Children

ON SATURDAY, I taught our volunteer mothers how to cook hotcake, aka pancake.

Hotcake would be one of the four simple flour recipes that I am going to impart with the mothers so that they could maximize the use of two tons of whole meal flour that were donated to The Center by Lae Biscuits a few days ago.

The three other recipes I have lined up are steamed flour cake (puto, a Filipino cake), “chakoy”, a Filipino version of doughnut and “ginataang bilo-bilo” (flour balls cooked in coconut milk). I would teaching the recipes one at a time in the next coming Saturdays.

It appeared that our volunteer mothers are seeing for the first time how hotcake is prepared and cooked.

They know of a simple process to cook flour – make a soft mass of it and deep fry. That simple, and I knew how it felt in the mouth and tasted. This recipe is very common among many households in PNG, especially those outside Port Moresby.

I have noticed one thing: whole meal flour is quite difficult to use for hotcake recipe because it easily breaks up when trying to lift it from the frying pan. I would prefer using plain flour. But we have to use our flour stocks before they are spoiled by bugs.

What I taught them last Saturday was a hotcake recipe that I have been familiar with since I was a child. As a fifth-grader in the 60s, I cooked hotcake as source of additional income for our family, which I did right in front of our house. They were picked up buy passers-by and neighbors as afternoon snack.

I had to bring my own frying fan to The Center to make sure that I could produce hotcake that looked good. The Center does not have one.

Hotcake would serve as our preschoolers’ noon snacks after their classes in the morning. We have 45 of them plus another 42 children attending classes at 11 elementary schools in Port Moresby who would be coming home to The Center after lunch.

Since we have 97 children right now including toddlers, preparing 97 pieces of hotcake everyday would be a big challenge. So we needed a bigger hotcake pan that could immediately cook at least six rounds in one go. One hotcake could take at least 3 minutes to cook. Multiply that 97 times, you could easily imagine the number of hours you would need to cook them all.

This would require a hotplate the size of 20” x 30” steel plate, which would cost us K400 to acquire. It’s quite costly, so we are having second thoughts about buying it.

But it is required so I am looking for a sponsor who could provide us with this one.

As I have said, we have two tons of flour to deal with. We should be able to use it otherwise it would be taken over by flour bugs before we knew it.

Hopefully, now that our four volunteer mothers know how to cook a simple hotcake, which they will do for noontime snacks on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we would be relieved of the costly tough biscuits that we used to serve to the children.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lae Biscuits donates flour and the Kiwi guy offers to deliver it to The Center


A Friend of Tembari Children

IMMEDIATELY after Fabian Chow, branch manager of Lae Biscuits at Gerehu, Port Moresby, told me on the phone last Friday that he was going to donate to Tembari children two pallets of whole meal flour – that is 40 bags of 25kg flour – I knew I had a problem.

And the problem was how to bring the goods weighing one ton from Lae Biscuits’ warehouse at Gerehu to The Center at ATS Oro Settlement at Seven-Mile, outside of Port Moresby.

Hauling them in my car – an old Mazda 323 station wagon – is out of the question. However, in most of the donations that were to be picked up, I used my car.

But not this time and not at Gerehu. Days before the last Holy Week, I had the bad luck of being held up around that place when my car broke down after picking up frozen meat donation from Papua Niugini Freezers, which is just a neighbor of Lae Biscuits’.

Mr Chow told me that his company normally donates substantial volume of flour to children facilities like the Tembari Children Care (TCC), a day care and orphanage.

But there’s a catch, and this triggered the problem: I have to pick it up from Lae Biscuits’ warehouse within seven days, or else I forfeit the goods.

So I really have to show up at Lae Biscuits and pick up the donation as soon as possible. But how?

On Saturday morning just before proceeding to The Center for my usual weekend cooking for the Tembari children, I had a chance to chat with Trevor Lyall, the plumbing supervisor of New Zealand-based Canam Constructions, which is constructing two high-rise hotel suite buildings for Holiday Inn.

Trevor happens to be a work colleague of New Zealand-based Filipino construction engineer Joe Buenaventura, who is the project manager of these two high-rise projects.

Joe is a new friend of mine, who is also helping The Center, and that day, he asked me to drop by his work site for a little chat about something important before I proceeded to the settlement.

A Kiwi, who has been here in Port Moresby since the hotel project began this year, Trevor said he had been in the Philippines during his younger days and almost married a Filipino girl, a teacher from Cebu province.

But nothing happened with their engagement even after what he described as “very good relationships with the girl and her family”.

Anyway, Trevor now in his 50s, asked me what I was doing at Seven Mile with all the stuff in my car (donated items like five cartons cordial drink, five containers of purified water, two bags of rice and other stuffs) and I told him about my involvement with the Tembari children, like helping them find donors of foodstuff, money and many more.

“In fact,” I told him, “there’s this one-ton flour donation which has been giving me a headache due to its sheer volume, something I would not be able to deliver to The Center on my own.”

“I can help you with that one,” Trevor casually said, while working on a new door at their makeshift worksite office.

“Let me know when you want the stuff picked up ... I am available this coming week,” he said as he pointed his finger to a white, mini open bed pick-up truck parked just next to where we were chatting.

“That could carry two pallets of your flour.”

“Oh thanks a lot, Lord,” I shouted inside my head, as I thanked Trevor for his offer.

We set the pick-up on Tuesday.

Learning about it, Joe said the Kiwi guy has a soft spot for Filipinos, adding that he has several Filipino friends back in New Zealand where Canam Construction is based.

“I’m not surprised that he offered you some help,” Joe said.

The truth is that while driving on my way to the Holiday Inn worksite to meet my friend Engr Joe Buenaventura, I kept on praying for help to find somebody who could pick up the flour for me.

That prayer was answered in a matter of 30 minutes.

YOU MAY be wondering how Lae biscuits’ general manager Fabian Chow happened to donate a big quantity of flour.

I mentioned to Tee Jay Khoo, a work colleague at The National newspaper where I work, that the Tembari children would also need flour to supplement their monthly rice supply.

I even asked him to donate at least a bag of 10kg a fortnight, which I thought would be enough for the children’s needs. It would be cooked by our volunteer mothers using some local recipes for the kiddos’ noon snacks.

Tee Jay told his friend Cindy Lim, a senior staff at Digicel outlet (Hypermart Gordon), about our flour need.

Cindy has a contact at Lae Biscuits and told him about our needs at The Center.

The message reached Mr Chow, Lae Biscuits’ general manager, and the rest is now history.

Two volunteer mothers cook the day’s lunch -- veggie dish, fried fish fillet and soup.

A volunteer mother tries to build fire by blowing into the smoky stove.

A 30-liter pot boiling mad with special soup spiced with masala (Indian) spices.

Two volunteer mothers frying breaded barracuta fillet which will go with sweet-sour sauce.

Wagi, The Center’s caretaker, and Hayward Sagembo, TCC president, carry a huge pot of masala soup.

Penny Sagembo (center) TCC founder, with volunteer mothers, pours newly-cooked soup into smaller tin cups which will be served to the children shortly.

Filipino Engineer Joe Buenaventura enjoys lunch with the children.

Joe enjoys his lunch while kids look at him with curiosity.

Children eat their lunch of fried breaded barracuta fillet and stir-fry Chinese cabbage, soup and cordial drink.

Girls pose for a picture while having lunch.

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Water crisis at The Center

A Friend of Tembari Children

THE Center has been hit by water crisis and is trying its best to cope with the dry situation to be able to properly provide the usual services to our 97 beneficiary children.

A few days ago, the ATS Oro Settlement at 7-Mile outside of Port Moresby, went dry after water agency Eda Ranu temporarily cut off its service to the area to carry out massive repair work somewhere at Erima outside of the settlement area.

Eda Ranu representatives met with settlement residents on Saturday to explain what happened and to assure them that the village association - Oro Community Development Association (OCDA) -- was up-to-date with its water bill payments.

When the news spread across the settlement that water service was cut off, people immediately suspected that the water bills have not been paid by the association.

This was not the case, according to Eda Ranu representatives, saying the fault was theirs.

They explained that a huge water main that passes by the Wildlife area was broken and causing a massive water leak that has to be fixed immediately.

The water agency said it could take a few more days before water service is restored, which means the settlement’s more than 6,000 residents would struggle for water until the big repair work has been completed.

The association, which exclusively operates the water concession at the settlement, collects K14 from households accessing water from the village’s “water station”, or simply water taps.

No water user at the settlement could install connection from the water main for household use without getting clearance and paying K500 to the village association.

There are a few “water stations” around the settlement where settlers and water users like Tembari Children Care (TCC) Inc, a day care/orphanage facility, access water.

The Center, for instance, pays a minimum of K14 for the water it accesses every fortnight. The same amount is paid by the rest of the users who collect the liquid in buckets and in big plastic drums.

Now, The Center is having a hard time with water for use in cooking our beneficiary children’s daily meals.

The truth is that accessing water has already been difficult for The Center.

Our volunteer-mothers collected water from the village’s water station some 300 meters from The Center and most of the time, water was not available.

OCDA, arrogant as it has been all these years, would decide when to let the water flow. There had never been a fixed time when water would come so that users would know when to expect it.

Most of the time, our volunteer mothers would stay late in the night waiting for water to come.

Until water service is restored, hopefully middle of this week, The Center shall be collecting water from a household tap outside the settlement and it has to spend at least K5 for the cost of water and another K5 to transport it to The Center.

With 97 children now under our care, we need a lot of water with which to cook the meals and clean the utensils, plates, cups and all after every feeding.

Yesterday during my feeding session with the children, I almost agreed to volunteer mothers’ suggestion that we skipped the children’s hand washing – a daily routine just before eating their meal.

But knowing how dirty their hands had become from the time they arrived at The Center in the morning up to lunch time, I decided that we should ask the children to wash their hands.

This little problem came up due to our water difficulty.

But of course, during weekdays – that is from Monday to Friday – I am very sure the children would not be asked anymore until regular water service is restored.

So, we are back to zero with our little education on hygiene practices.

Likewise, clean water for drinking has become another issue that The Center would have to deal with.

It is only on Saturday when our children could have purified water for drinking.

This water, which I bring to The Center in four to five containers, is being provided once a week by The Water Company, a bottler based in Gordon.

On weekdays, they have to make do with whatever drinking water – clean or contaminated – The Center could have.

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Lament of Fr John Glynn, WeCare! founder


A Friend of Tembari Children

SOMETIME last February, I took up with Fr John M Glynn the ticklish issue on monthly feeding grants he farms out to some 14 Carer Groups in Port Moresby.

Fr John is the founder of WeCaRe! PNG, which has been in operation since four years ago. It provides modest grants to village soup kitchens worthy of support and sends to schools hundreds of children in Port Moresby.

These Carer Groups are operated by village/settlement mothers who have found time to look after the street children in their areas by providing them food, at least three times a week, if not twice.

Most of the carers are simple settlement women, unemployed and in need of support themselves. WeCaRe! has a mini-loan scheme which makes money available to them personally at no interest. Those who availed of this had put the money to very good and profitable use.

In my email to Fr John, I stressed that the K400 monthly grant that his foundation gave to each of the 14 carer groups, including the Tembari Children Care (TCC), a day care and orphanage center, was, and still, unrealistic.

The measly sum was not enough to feed a group of 20 to 78 children in a month. With the soaring cost of foodstuff in the country, the sum of K400 could only support two or three feeding days in a week. In between these food-days, we didn’t know what the children ate, if ever they ate at all.

During those days in February, the Tembari Children Care (TCC) was feeding 78 children – orphans, neglected, abandoned and the so-called unfortunate.

And the grant did not really go far; The Center could only make do with four feeding days – Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Penny Sagembo, the TCC founder, allotted K40 to cover one meal – kaukau, sliced bread, veggies and cordial drink.

That’s 51 toea per kid per feeding, four times a week. The truth is, the grant could only pay for an average of K25 per feeding, to cover 78 kids, for 16 feeding days in a month.

The gap in the amount normally came from the pockets of the volunteer mothers. So, what could they have for the daily feeding?

Well, nothing much, although it would fill tummies to last the kids for the day.

(These days, however, The Center is in a different plane – it is now feeding its 97 beneficiary children twice a day, six days a week. Thanks a million to the continuous food support from a handful of individuals and entities who have found virtues in the services we provide to our beneficiaries.)

I had asked Fr John if there’s a possibility that he increased his grant to TCC and the rest of the 13 other Carer Groups to something more realistic than K400 a month.

In his reply to me, Fr John pointed out that WeCare! guarantees a minimum subsidy of K400 to every Care Group, no matter how large or small it is. And WeCare! agrees to pay school fees for children who are either orphans or have only one parent.

This year, The Center’s 42 schoolchildren are able to enroll in 11 schools in Port Moresby, thanks to school fees amounting to K7,500, which had been paid for by Fr John’s foundation.

But Fr John made it very clear to me, and he wished that the same thing gets through the rest of the groups who have stake in street children in every community:

That WeCare! absolutely refuses to accept any responsibility whatsoever for other people’s children.

This applies to feeding them, clothing them, sending them to school, providing health care, or anything else.

“The orphaned and vulnerable children of this city – and there are thousands of them – are the responsibility of the communities in which they live.

Fr John said WeCare! continuously seeks out good hearted people who have on their own volition taken on the responsibility of caring for these lost children.

“We offer these people our support for what they are doing, but they do not work for WeCare! and are not our responsibility … they answer to the community they represent, and that must be their first source of support for what they do.”

It is entirely up to the Carer Group to decide how many children they can look after. But they should not take in more than what they could ably feed.

Fr John says: WeCare! will help any group that has one or more children in its care.

But the foundation refuses to help someone who says: “If you support me, I will do the work”, he said.

“We absolutely refuse to be manipulated, or in any way, enticed into this kind of dependent relationship with a group or a carer.

Fr John started WeCare! out of his own pocket four years ago after seeing what the situation was like for the neglected and abandoned young women and children of Port Moresby.

However, he decided that it is wrong to make any attempt to take away the responsibility of others for their children.

“I am opposed to the ideas of orphanages – and also to the idea that foreigners, or strangers, should go into the settlement to ‘rescue these children from their own people’.

During his active days as Catholic priest, Fr John preached community inter-dependence – sharing each others’ burdens.

“WeCaRe! could deliberately limit what we do and concentrate all our efforts on a limited number of children and thus, provide much more help.”

“I do not want to do that,” Fr John said, “because I want to affect as many children as possible.

“I want to make people aware of what they can accomplish for themselves if only they will accept responsibility for their own lives and not wait helplessly for some outside help to arrive and save them.

In so many occasions, Fr John had stressed to the Carer Groups that WeCaRe! can never give them all the assistance they need.

“We asked them to be pro-active in their communities – talking to their leaders and churches – constantly pushing the message that we are all responsible for our children in need.

Indeed, Fr John was frustrated and could only lament: “It is an uphill battle – I have failed for all these four years to get my own Church to accept what I am doing … and to recommend to the Catholic parishes that they each adopt a care group ... the other churches are no better.”

Undaunted, he begged for money and was lucky that Digicel Foundation came to its rescue with substantial funding. This enabled him to put hundreds of children to school.

But other than Digicel Foundation, there’s nowhere funding could come from.

“There’s no one else other than myself seeking funds for what we do … but the pressure on me for yet more and more money to support them is always increasing.”

Back in 2006, Fr John began meeting with a group of young street girls from Talai settlement every Thursday on Ela Beach.

“I would cook up a big pot of rice with veggies and meat and we would sit on the sand eating it with hard boil eggs and cordial … talking, talking and talking.

“I had about K50 a week to spend … as friends begun to help me, the work expanded and I started putting kids in school ... but it was still dependent on me.

“The Church advised me that I should not be doing this and tried to stop me in fact – but I kept on until WeCaRe! developed into what it is now.

He said: “Archbishop John now approves of what I am doing … but I still get no support from any part of the Catholic Church.”

The good father has worried a lot over the fate of WeCare! once he is out of the picture.

“If anything happens to me --- I am almost 74 – that will be the end of WeCaRe!. If I failed to establish WeCaRe! as fully locally-owned, self-sustaining NGO, that will be the end of WeCaRe!, too.

Fr John said he sees the growth of Carer Groups in Port Moresby to 20, with up to 1,000 children – and it all depends to himself alone to find the money and supervise the work.

“And I am just a bush priest who came to Port Moresby in retirement after almost 40 years in remote parishes in New Ireland and Manus.”

He said that he has found a few people who are trying to help him.

“I pray that they will be able to take over from me before the end of this year.

“… I take the work of WeCaRe! very seriously indeed … I hope it will survive me, but it won’t, unless others are prepared to share the burden.”

There is no way in the world that WeCaRe! will be able to provide all that is needed to feed the growing number of unfortunate children in Port Moresby, says Fr John.

“So, we must keep pushing our basic thesis – these children are a community problem and a community responsibility … WeCaRe! can only help – but it cannot relieve the community of its responsibility.”

(I took liberty in resurrecting Fr John Glynn’s thoughts on WeCaRe!’s feeding grant after the 14 Carer Groups recently complained among themselves that the K400 monthly assistance could barely meet the food needs of their beneficiary children, and that it should be made more realistic to meet the soaring prices of foodstuff. The mothers’ grievance followed a recent monthly meeting with Fr John wherein they were made to account how they used the money. As it is now, the Carer Groups should really find new funding source to be able to buy enough food for their beneficiary children.)

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Center will have water soon

The newly-delivered 1,000-gallon water tank dwarfs the Tembari kids who are taking shelter from the sun.

A Friend of Tembari Children

FINALLY, after a long delay, the 1,000-gallon water tank for The Center’s water facility project was delivered by the supplier last week.

Installing a water facility is one of The Center’s major projects. The other one is electricity, which we expect to have very soon.

The water tank, alongside the needed attachments like pipes and more, has been provided by the RH Foundation – the charity arm of RH (PNG) Group.

As soon as RH Foundation learned of our difficulty of obtaining water for our day-to-day needs at The Center, it did not hesitate to shoulder the cost of the materials for a water facility.

We use water to cook the daily meals of our beneficiary children and clean the cooking utensils.

To do this, volunteer mothers would need several buckets of water which they have to collect from the settlement water tap some 200 meters away.

The settlement water facility is being run by a community association called the Oro Community Development Association (OCDA), which charges fees to users.

But the problem with this service is that OCDA decides when to let the water flow.

It does not tell the users like us as to when it would come so we could anticipate for it, and thus wait for it. It has no fixed schedule. So you really have to wait by the water tap the whole time, ready with your bucket, if you badly needed water.

Sometimes, water would come late in the night, thus keeping people awake the whole night while collecting water and hauling them off to their houses.

The same thing goes for our volunteer moms assigned to collect water for The Center.

Due to the difficulty in having water, our beneficiary children would usually skip washing hands before eating.

And they don’t drink water but instead, would just make do with cordial drink, prepared from water collected from the public faucet. And this is, most of the time, contaminated because it is collected in not-so-clean, uncovered buckets.

It is a common knowledge that anybody who had just meals should drink at least a glass of water because it is needed to digest the food taken.

Our children at The Center would skip drinking water – a clean one at that – after their meals. And it is a pity for them.

That’s why I tried my best to encourage The Water Company (TWC), a purified water provider, to donate to the children on a weekly basis at least six 19-liter containers of their water product.

I would collect this donation every Friday from TWC and bring it to The Center the next day when I do my especial cooking for the children. Then, I return the empty containers for refill.

It is only then that our children would have really iced and clean water. And they could easily consume a container-full in matter of 15 minutes. That’s how thirsty they are for drinking water.

Hopefully, this sad experience of our kids would end soon.

The facility will be put in place by ABC Builders, Filipino-Papua New Guinean company owned by Johnny Ala as its assistance to the Tembari Children’s Care (TCC).

It is being facilitated by Engr Joselito Buenaventua, a New Zealand-based construction engineer who is supervising a K170 million hotel project in Port Moresby owned by Holiday Inn POM.

The project involves two high-rise hotel suite buildings next to the existing Holiday Inn hotel building and is being handled by Canam Construction, a New Zealand-based company – Joe’s employer.

Yesterday, Joe took a quick break from the work site and drove up to The Center to supervise the unloading of used timber materials that we needed for some of our future projects.

The timber materials came from the compound of ABC Builders in Port Moresby.

Joe discovered the Tembari children through the blogsite while surfing the internet when he was still in New Zealand.

At that time, he was preparing to migrate to Port Moresby and one of his first agenda upon settling in this city was to meet the Tembari children and find out how he can help them.

Joe discussed with me and Hayward Sagembo, the Tembari Children Center (TCC) president, how he intends to install the water tank.

Joe told us that Johnny Ala, one of his hotel project subcontractors, is ready to help The Center with what it needs to complete the water facility, like plumbers, equipment and materials.

The good news after the first good news is that Johnny is also willing to help The Center with whatever improvements it needed to boost its facilities, according to Joe.

He said with a better facility, The Center could improve the services it provides to its beneficiary children.

Like having a stable source of water for drinking and more.

And the water facility would be his first project for The Center.

Cheers to that!

Engr Joe Buenaventura supervises the unloading of timber materials at the backyard of The Center. The delivery was made by the ABC Builders, a construction company in Port Moresby.

Joe sorts our timber materials that could be used to build tables and chairs for use at The Center.

Joe and Hayward Sagembo, president of Tembari Children Center, pose for a picture under the shade of a half-completed chicken house, a part of a planned livelihood project of The Center

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Measly funding support saddles community feeding programs

A Friend of Tembari Children

AT A RECENT meeting of 14 carer-mothers who each receive a monthly grant of K400 from WeCare PNG for their respective feeding programs in their community, it became obvious that the Tembari children are well ahead of their counterparts.

Called by retired priest Fr John Glynn, who operates WeCare foundation, the meeting discussed how the 14 mothers had spent their K400 monthly grant on their respective facilities during the month of August.

Our own Penny Sagembo, the founder of the Tembari Children Care (TCC) day care and orphanage center, was among them.

There was one common grievance from the 14 mothers: The monthly K400 feeding grant was not enough to cover the food needs of their beneficiary children.

But Fr Glynn said his foundation does not have much funding for soup kitchens and that the carer facilities have to make do with what they are getting from WeCare.

The retired priest said the street children are a responsibility of the community where they belong and therefore should provide the assistance to bridge the funding gap.

Hearing this, the mothers were dismayed, saying Fr Glynn was asking for the moon, and accused him behind his back of allegedly “sitting on the money”.

Sometime in February, Fr Glynn emailed me to suggest that The Center “must give way to other carers who are in far worse circumstances than it is”.

In fact, Fr Glynn had advised Penny “to develop her own self-sustaining operation in the same way” that a carer in Morata was able to achieve.

Using a loan from WeCare, the Morata carer-mother was able to start off with a livelihood project that it is now giving sustainable profit, and enabling her to support their feeding program.

(With lack of electricity and water at The Center, any livelihood project, even the simplest one, would be impossible to start. In fact, we have one waiting to take off but cannot due to lack of electricity to run our sewing machines to make meri dresses and others.)

Because of the measly feeding assistance from WeCare, the said carer groups could only feed their children two or three times a week and the food being served is usually kaukau, sliced bread and cordial.

Many of them would only have a budget of K20 per day from the WeCare grant to feed more than 50 children.

WeCare PNG receives its funding from Digicel Foundation. This year, it received a substantial grant, which also went to pay for school fees of many schoolchildren looked after by carer groups in Port Moresby, according to Digicel Foundation chief exec Marina Vander Vlies.

This year, WeCare paid for the school fees of 42 Tembari schoolchildren who are enrolled in 11 schools in Port Moresby.

Likewise, it is supporting 14 community soup kitchens, including the Tembari Children’s Care day care-orphange center, with each one getting a monthly feeding assistance of K400 each.

However, with soaring food prices, each of the carer-facilities has to find ways to feed their wards with a budget of K20 a day.

The lack of fund for its feeding program was the same experience that The Center had until last February: our children were only being fed four times a week.

But they are able to get out of this rut, thanks to the continuing support from our benefactors, who put up stakes in the future of the Tembari children whose number has grown to 97 to date.

With the feeding consistency that we carry out at The Center, coupled with the quality of meals we serve them everyday, I believe that the health condition of our beneficiary children has improved a lot over the last seven months.

My next project is to get their individual weight and height and monitor it over the next three months. Have they gained weight? Have they gained height? That one I really have to find out.

Now suddenly, I got a new problem: To do this job, I need a weighing scale with height indicator, just like the one used at a health center.

Any donor of this item?

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Sweet prawn dish for Tembari children

Volunteer mothers cook rice in a makeshift drum-stove.

Volunteer mothers lift a newly cooked especial soup.

Engr Joe Buenaventura helps the kids get water from a water cooler.

Penny Sagembo, TCC co-founder, supervising the children’s hands washing before eating their lunch.

Kids sip their steaming hot soup before the main course of prawn and rice, cordial and milk.

Kids enjoy their special lunch of prawn dish and rice.

Preschoolers eat their lunch inside their classroom.

Kids trying to get their nth serving of the special soup.

Children try to retrieve some leftover soup from the pot.

A Friend of Tembari Children

LAST Saturday was the second in a row in which the Tembari kids enjoyed a special dish cooked with prawn.

And according Thomas Kuo, regular donor of frozen prawn, this marine product is packed with protein which our children badly need.

Thomas is the general manager of High Energy Co, a Port Moresby-based fishing company and exporter of frozen marine products. He committed to supply us frozen fish on a regular basis.

He used to send frozen whole medium-sized mackerel which I would cook for the kids on Saturdays. But we had a sad experience with this.

One recent Saturday during lunch, three of our small kids choked on the tiny fish bones, up to the point that they vomited. And this alarmed us a bit. Used to eating tinned fish only, most of our very young kids did not know how to eat real fish – the one that Thomas sent.

I relayed to him about the incident and he promised to find a good substitute.

He came up with frozen prawn, also one of their export products, which I then cooked in some special ways.

The first time, and that was the previous Saturday, I cooked it in coconut milk, spices and pumpkin – ala-Filipino style.

It was a good one and healthful at that.

Yesterday, I cooked it with a lot of curry powder, oyster sauce, pasta tomato sauce, potatoes and carrots.

It was matched with a special chunky soup concoction of diced carrots, tomato pasta sauce, minced beef and special seasoning.

The 80 kids (out of the 97 in our roster) who came for lunch yesterday, were all delighted, having experienced a new flavor.

And of course, the soup. They tried to have their nth serving, but the 30 liters of soup that I prepared was dried up quite quickly. A big hit among them, indeed!

I made it a point to have soup because the kids have looked forward to having it every Saturday.

Thinking all about this, I realized that the Tembari children are very lucky.

This is because their diet has improved a lot since January when I started my special Saturday cooking them.

Before that, they used to have meals four times a week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. They were only having kaukau, sliced bread and cordial drink. In between, I did not know what they ate at home with their guardians.

Thanks to our generous benefactors, our children are now eating proper meals everyday, from Monday to Saturday. Their meals consist of rice, tinned fish and veggies, cordial drink and milk.

The Saturday lunch is quite special because it is being sponsored by individuals who pay for the ingredients. And I am the one cooking it this time.

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday outreach program for the Tembari children

A Friend of Tembari Children

WHEN Filipino expatriate Grace Delosa heard that a group of his friends was visiting the Tembari Children Center yesterday (Saturday) afternoon, she made sure that she came with them.

She said the birthday party at a friend’s place that was starting those hours could wait.

Grace immediately became interested in meeting the Tembari kids one of these days to create a special bonding with them.

The Center’s visitors were led by New Zealand-based Engr Joselito (Joe) Buenaventura, project site engineer at the hotel building construction project of Holiday Inn in Port Moresby.

Engr Joe and Cocoy Erbina, construction project manager of Filipino-Papua New Guinean-owned ABC Builders Co, and Grace came to The Center to find out what possible help they could offer on behalf of the Tembari children.

The two building experts wanted to build a new classroom for The Center’s 45 preschoolers and a concrete platform for its 1,000-gallon water tank and to do some more that have to do with construction.

And Grace has her own agenda for the Tembari kids – to start a Sunday school and a feeding program with help from her Filipino colleagues in Port Moresby that included Jovy Baltazar.

With the Sunday feeding program, The Center would now be feeding the children seven days a week! – from Monday to Sunday.

Grace and Jovy work as HR staff at Paradise Business Consultants with offices at the new Datec building complex at Gordon district.

“We can do a lot for the children on Sunday … we want to socialize with them and at the same time create a bonding with each one of them,” Grace said.

“It is one way for the children to learn how to deal with people other than their own races … it would help them develop a good personality …”

“On our part, it is an opportunity for us to do this community service at the settlement,” Grace said, referring to ATS Oro Settlement at Seven-Mile were The Center is located.

Back in her hometown in General Santos city, the home-base of RD Tuna Canners’ mother company in the Philippines, Grace had been involved in Sunday outreach programs.

It was something that developed in her simply because her own parents were also into it during those days when she was still in school.

“I carried it on and with help from my friends, we taught many deprived children many things that helped them became good citizens of our city,” she said.

One major project that her group’s Sunday outreach program launched in General Santos city was the handicraft project that first started as a Sunday hobby to keep the children out of the streets, which later developed into a livelihood project that has become sustainable even up to these days.

“I would like the same thing here at Tembari Center … we can do it because it is interesting to do and the kids would love doing it … who knows? … we might be able to produce something that could be marketable …?” Grace told me.

She said she and her friends will sit down to take up what could be applicable as far as the Tembari kids are concerned and launch it eventually.

“Sundays could be our home-time for family but we could make it more meaningful if we give them to the Tembari children.

“It’s also one way of knowing the Papua New Guinean culture in an intimate way,” she said.

Grace’s group would be the fourth from the Filipino community in Port Moresby that I know of being involved in feeding and outreach programs.

These feeding programs are held at Tokarara for the Tete children, Six-Mile (for the settlement children) and GK Village at Gerehu Stage 6.

But the first three would only do theirs once a month, due to time constraints, and therefore, the bonding with the children was not sustained and most of the time forgettable.

“It’s not a problem with us … we would like to devote a part of our weekend to the children,” she said.

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Kids displaying their flavored milk courtesy of SVS supermarket.

A kid enjoying his vanilla milk drink served after lunch on Saturday.

Children enjoying their prawn lunch on Saturday.

Wagi, the caretaker, mixing cordial drink with purified water.

A kid getting cool drink from the purified water dispenser.

Children playing inside their classroom after lunch.

Wagi leading the singing of Central song with volunteer mothers after lunch while the children sing along.

A volunteer mother painstakingly scrubbing the soot off the giant pot.

An abandoned dirty stove and a pot waiting to be cleansed.

Engr Joselito Buenaventura and ABC Builders solve The Center’s timber problem

This is the makeshift classroom built on the left wing of the CLC.

This side on the right wing of the CLC will be converted into a bigger classroom which would also double as audio-visual room where the children could watch video of children educational programming. It will also serve as the children’s dining hall.

A Friend of Tembari Children

LAST WEEK, I was a bit concerned after I learned that it would cost us more than K1,000 to buy timber materials to build a new, makeshift classroom for our preschool.

The new makeshift classroom is intended to take the space on the right wing of one of our community learning centers (CLCs) fashioned out a junk container van.

On the left wing of the container van already sits a new makeshift classroom built of scrap timber materials which we bought in one of the timber yards outside of Port Moresby.

The planned new classroom would not only function as one but as audio visual room as well, where our preschoolers numbering 45 could watch educational children’s programs, from my favorite Dora to Sesame Street and Bananas In Pyjamas.

This space would also serve as The Center’s dining room.

With some imagination, the Digicel Foundation has been able to produce classrooms out of discarded containers and distributes them to communities across the country as part of its mother company’s (Digicel PNG) corporate plan to boost education in deprived rural communities across Papua New Guinea.

Each unit costs at least K15,000.

The Tembari Children Center (TCC), a day care and orphanage center, represented the community at ATS Oro Settlement at Seven Mile outside of Port Moresby after Digicel Foundation found it deserving to have two of these CLCs.

They are now benefiting 45 preschoolers who are orphans, abandoned, neglected and unfortunate by learning arithmetic and the alphabet with help from three volunteer teachers.

While two classes of 15 each hold their daily sessions inside the classrooms, the third batch does it under the mango tree next to the CLCs. Whenever it rained, this batch would be sent home, while the two other classes would proceed with their day’s activities.

When Filipino construction Engineer Joselito Buenaventura visited The Center yesterday afternoon, a Saturday, he immediately told me that my problem concerning the timber materials has already been solved.

“I will take care of that,” he told me as he assessed the space where the planned new classroom would materialize.

Joselito, or Joe, a longtime New Zealand resident, works as project site engineer with the Canam Construction Co of New Zealand.

Joe’s company won the K170 million-contract to build two buildings for the Holiday Inn in Port Moresby and he’s overseeing these two projects as project site engineer.

He told me that his client, Johnny Ala, owner of ABC Builders, will provide The Center the needed materials for the new classroom.

“I will draw the classroom plan myself,” Joe said.

Joe came to the village with Cocoy Erbina, ABC Builders construction/project manager, to see the place and to assess how to go about with the planned projects.

I would say yesterday was really a lucky day for The Center and its beneficiary children.

This is because ABC Builders has also agreed to build the concrete platform for our 5,000-liter storage tank and to install The Center’s water connection from the village main water pipe located nearby.

Cocoy told me his company has a lot of extra building materials from previous projects that are just sitting and wasting away at their compound.

“Might as well bring them here (The Center) to make them useful,” he said.

While these discarded materials would no longer have value for ABC Builders, they’re worth a thousand kina or more for us as we would really have to bleed to be able to bring them to our premises.

So from last week’s little setback arising from our inability to afford the cost of the timber materials, things suddenly shot up, went on high gear, not only with the coming of free timber materials but also with the needed labor and expertise to help us realize one of our most vital facilities for the Tembari Children – a new professionally-designed classroom.

You may be wondering how Engineer Joe learned of the Tembari Children Care center while he was in New Zealand with his family.

Weeks before he was to come to PNG for the Holiday Inn building project, Joe was at a loss on how to go about setting up a new home in Port Moresby.

With no contacts in Port Moresby to ask how it is to be a POM resident, he Google-searched for “Filipino, Papua New Guinea”. Immediately, my name came up along with several articles I wrote in the past, particular those I wrote under my online column “Letters from Port Moresby”.

Then, he encountered my blogsite for the Tembari Children – and learned a lot about our activities at The Center, including the many things that our children badly needed.

He emailed me after this, to say once he was able to migrate to Port Moresby in the next several weeks and set up home, one of his first agenda would be to visit The Center and meet our children.

And to see what things he can do to help them.

Yesterday, he came with all the good news for our children.

Jo had worked in several Southeast Asian countries doing projects for Canam Construction, and one of the things he did was to coordinate with local people through whom he carried out outreach programs for the unfortunate children during the duration of his stay in those countries.

In Port Moresby, he saw the Tembari children.

Immediately, he thought about his wife back in New Zealand, who would be joining him in Port Moresby very soon. Like Joe, his wife has a soft heart for the unfortunate children.

“My wife would be very pleased to serve your children, the way you are doing it right now for them,” Joe told me

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