By MALUM NALU\
In June 2008, nine-year-old Ngaru Nen left home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA to visit his father Aral’s home in remote Watut, Morobe province, Papua New Guinea.
It was the trip of a lifetime for Ngaru, who had never travelled out of America before, to his mama graun and it had a profound effect on his life.
The trip was a special one for Ngaru, because he is the elder son of the Nen's and according to Sangark clan of Watut, needs to go through an initiation ceremony and be declared as a chief.
One thing that bothered him was the large number of children roaming around because of no schools, no school fees and no space.
|Father and son...Aral and Ngaru Nen in Green Bay Packers colours|
He was also surprised to learn that schools in Watut had very little school supplies and books, and had to sit on the ground and learn, because there were no classrooms.
“I could see that this really bothered Ngaru because he kept on asking me ‘why’,” his father recalls.
“I had to explain to him the truth of the situation, and also told him that it happens in many other very- remote areas in the country, and even urban areas.
|Nen children Betty, Aral Jr and Ngaru having lunch with former PNG missionary Vins Ohlinger|
Ngaru was heartbroken, so much so, that he vowed that that upon return to USA, he would collect whatever books and school supplies he could, and send them to the children of Watut.
Thus began a three-year labour of love, collecting books and school supplies, however, the young man hit an 11th-hour hitch.
His dad, Aral, tried so many shipping companies, however, the fees were so high and father told son that the books would go to Africa instead of Watut, as there was a Rotary club which could ship to that continent.
|Aral Nen (left) with school supplies for Watut children in 2008|
A teary Ngaru was heartbroken and prayed for a miracle to happen.
God must have heard his prayers, for in far-off PNG, Morobe Mining Joint Ventures general manager - sustainability & external relations, David Wissink, turned Good Samaritan as he read about young Ngaru’s plight on Facebook.
On Monday this week, thanks to Wissink, a container load of books and school supplies left Milwaukee for Lae, final destination Watut.
“When I was in Papua New Guinea, one of the things that struck me most was that so many people would go barefoot, be able to live so far away from hospitals and also have no health care,” Ngaru tells me from Milwaukee.
“I was also surprised that the schools in Watut had very little school supplies and books and had to sit on the ground and learn.
“I know I have a lot of books and supplies I can donate to them.
“I told my dad that, when I return to America, I'd like to collect books and school supplies and send them to Watut schools because I feel sorry for all these kids.
“My dad and family agreed and helped me collect books and supplies over three years.
“Now we have a problem with transportation.
“My dad tried so many shipping companies but the fees were so high for us to afford.
“Sadly, one afternoon, my dad told me that, the books would go to Africa instead of Watut, because we cannot afford it and there is a Rotary club which can ship only to Africa.
“Also, since our garage was so full of boxes of books and winter was approaching, we needed to get rid of those books somehow.
“My heart was broken and I prayed in my heart that the Good Lord will know the struggles of my people and will help me get the books and supplies to Watut.
“While we were packing and taping the boxes for Africa, my dad got a message from someone in PNG ( David Wissink of MMJV), offering to pay for shipping costs from my garage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, to Lae, then to Watut.
“We thought it was some crazy guy, but the longer we communicated with him, it seemed real.
“I call him my guardian angel.
“Without him, this would not have been possible.”
Aral Nen first came to America in April of 1995 after meeting his wife, Mary Johnston Nen, at Dregerhafen High School in Finschhafen when she was an American Peace Corps Volunteer teaching at the school.
“I was raised and brought up in Lae during the later part of the colonial era,” he tells me.
“My dad was a police officer and we used to live at Bumbu Police Barracks.
I attended Bumneng, St Paul and Igam primary schools during my childhood.
“Bumayong was my high school and UPNG was my college.
“After graduating from UPNG in 1982, I spent some time between Lae and Chimbu doing odd jobs.
“In 1986, I completed a one-year post-graduate diploma in education and was sent to Dregerhafen High school the following year to teach.
“I taught there until 1991 and was transferred to Bugandi in 1992.
“In 1993, I was again transferred to Lae High School.
“I resigned from teaching the following year.
“When I first came to America, I had to get adjusted to life, culture, weather, people, food and many other things.
“Everything here is done in a different mode as PNG and I have to keep up, otherwise, I would
be left behind.
“I had to work odd jobs at factories and supermarkets to get money to pay for my college school fees in order to get my American teaching license.
“I did not last for more than three months, because I could not keep up with how things are moving here.
“I kept on going back to PNG and returning over some years before I got used to doing things here.
“Right now, I am fine living in America and PNG.
“I made sure my children know where they came from by visiting their country and hauslain and getting to know their people, tribes, and origin from my end.
“I am currently teaching high school students here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
“My daughter Betty Nen visited Lae, Finchhafen, and Kundiawa in June of 2005 and my son Ngaru Nen visited in 2008.
“I try to save up every summer to visit mama graun PNG.
“It is very hard for me to forget about Watut and PNG.”
Nen knows he has to do his bit to help PNG move forward by way of assisting those who genuinely need help.
“I have sponsored two students from Bumayong High School, my ex school; one at Gordon High School; set up and support Lae Volunteer Service to clean up Lae City; contributed money to send a Goilala family back to their village via AIDS Foundation; contribute to Sir Peter Barter's Melanesian Foundation to help Manam volcano victims; contribute via Lae Volunteer Service toward cholera victims at Angau and Sialum landslide victims; and also a Simon Mane from Chimbu, whose house was burnt down to the ground at Five-Mile a couple of years ago.
“My current project is Lae Volunteer Service and Lower Watut Tournament, which is held every June -July.
“My son Ngaru's project was sponsorship of a grade five student at Bubia Primary School two years ago and now the books and school supplies for schools in Lower Watut.
“I know I have a lot of blessings from God and I must not be greedy but must extend or share them with those in need.
“Looking back, I think I enjoyed Lae and PNG in the very good old days where respect, peace and harmony prevailed, unlike today
“I love those good old days where Lae was so peaceful, clean and many people knew how to respect and live peacefully amongst each other.
“I also think that God has taken a good care of me and my family and is using us to help others.
“My greatest thank, to my parents Mr and Mrs Nen (deceased) for all their sacrifices to bring me up to where I am now.
“I would also like to thank PNG and the tax payers for the education, experiences and support though national scholarships.
“Without such support, I would not have made it.
“I would like to see the young generation of today to work very hard together in honesty, pride, respect, love, peace, and put the people and the country in our hearts.
“Get involved in preserving our wonderful cultural diversity and natural environment.”
Like father, like son and charitable Ngaru sweats that he will be back in Watut.
“When we travelled to Watut, I was so fascinated by the beauty of the nature and how people use the environment to survive,” he says.
“I love PNG and will save up to see my Sangark tribe, my land, my people and my two coconut trees I planted while there.
“God bless PNG.”