Sunday, October 10, 2010

A chat with the deputy US Ambassador to PNG

A Friend of Tembari Children

ON FRIDAY morning, I had a chance to meet Paul Berg, the deputy US ambassador to Papua New Guinea, at his office at the US Embassy in downtown Port Moresby.

It was an appointment his staff Stacey arranged a few days earlier. She told me Mr Berg wanted to see me in person and talk to me about something that interested him most. I did not want to miss this meeting

You see, Paul is a good friend of the wife of Parker Borg, a very good friend of mine.

Parker was my teacher in English and Literature in high school in 1960-62. He was then a young American Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) sent by the Kennedy administration to the Philippines. I

In fact, he was among the very first PCVs the US government deployed all over the world as part of the government’s outreach program to under-developed countries – and that included the Philippines.

Parker descended on our small fishing-and-mining community called Jose Panganiban, in Camarines Norte in the Bicol region, Philippines, and settled there for two years.

I was one of his favorites. He edited-mangled the very first poem I had ever written for the school newspaper. Because of that, I decided to become a journalist although I earned my degree in accountancy.

Anyway, Parker went on to become a diplomat and later became the US Ambassador to Mali, then to Iceland. He was supposed to be assigned next to Myanmar (then Burma) but the US Congress blocked his ambassadorial posting because of the country’s human rights sins.

Himself an educator, Parker was appointed Diplomat in Residence for the American University in Rome (AUR) from 2005 to 2008, and then to Paris, at the American University in Paris (AUP) until now. During the 60s, he was on a diplomatic mission to Malaysia and Vietnam where he learned the language of both countries.

After we communicated briefly in the middle 80s, I lost him, but got connected with him again about two years ago. Then we drifted apart again but resumed exchanging email again just a few months ago.

Learning of my involvement with the Tembari Children, Parker immediately called Paul Berg from Paris and told him about my connection to him (Parker).

Parker also told Paul about my activities with the Tembari children, aside from being a journalist based in Port Moresby.

Meeting me on Friday morning, Paul told me that he has read all my blog postings at and was amazed by the passion that I have for the children’s welfare.

Now, he wanted to hear first hand my Tembari story.

I told him.

Soft-spoken as he is, Paul told me frankly that the US government resources for such programs like the ones the Tembari Children Care center is involved with are “disappointingly small”.

But anyway, he would enjoy talking with me about my Tembari project.

Paul said there might not be much the US Embassy could do, but he may be able to offer some ideas about local groups or NGOs operating in PNG.

In his recent email to me, Parker said: “I will continue to reflect on other possible sources of assistance, but Paul will probably have more interesting ideas than I might.”

For me, Paul’s having interest in what I do for the Tembari children is more than enough.

Here’s a guy who would be in the country for a limited time only and would move on according to the wishes of his government but found the Tembari children his new personal focus which could last even after his time in the country is up.

I have always marveled why it has to be a non-Papua New Guinean that should feel the concern for the unfortunate children like the Tembari kids and not the ones from their own people, race and blood.

Reflecting on it more deeply, I realized the reasons are varied, and most of them tainted with aversion to share and to be of help to the needy.

This is one of my disappointments with Papua New Guineans.

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