By MALUM NALU
A dream came true for 13-year-old Ngaru Nen in remote Maralina village in Lower Watut, Morobe province, last Saturday, July 7, 2012, as he delivered a container load of books from the USA for the children of three schools in the area.
In emotional scenes at picture-perfect Maralina, six hours by motorised canoe up the Markham and Watut rivers, Ngaru and his siblings Betty and Aral Jr presented the books to the children of Maralina, Uruf and Tsili Tsili primary schools.
They, their mother Mary and father Aral travelled all the way from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, too make the book presentation.
The people of Lower Watut laid down the red carpet last Saturday to welcome the Nen family home to present the books.
They sang, danced and cheered as the books were handed over.
|Some of the books on display at Maralina last Saturday.|
The Nen children had been collecting books for the children of Lower Watut since 2008, however, they ran into a hitch when their father could not afford the high cost of transporting the books to PNG.
|Givers become receivers…Nen children (from left) Aral Jr, Ngaru and Betty are showered with gifts from a young warrior at Maralina last Saturday.|
Morobe Mining Joint Ventures general manager - sustainability and external relations, David Wissink, turned Good Samaritan as he read about young Ngaru’s plight on Facebook.
|One of the positive stories in light of all the negative...Watut man Aral Nel (left), wife Mary, and children Aral Jr, Ngaru and Betty with their Good Samaritan David Wissink of MMJV at Maralina village last Saturday.|
In January this year, thanks to Wissink, a container load of books and school supplies left Milwaukee for Lae, final destination Watut.
The books arrived in Lae earlier this year and were kept in storage by MMJV until the Nens arrived.
|A local singsing group welcomes the Nen family to Maralina Primary School last Saturday.|
In another twist of fate, major Korean TV company SBS, heard about Nen’s story and paid for all his family to travel to PNG so that they could make a documentary on the life of the family.
Betty Nen (right) and a female member of the Korean TV crew join in celebrations at Maralina last Saturday.
Immediately after the book presentation, the Nen family and the TV crew travelled to Nen’s Zenem village, where they will spend the next couple of weeks shooting the documentary,
A quietly-spoken Ngaru said he was glad that the books had reached Watut safely after his ordeal in putting them together.
|Young Ngaru Nen addresses the crowd at Maralina.|
“I hope that they are useful to you,” he told a crowd of Watut school children and the local community who gathered at Maralina.”
Wissink heaped praise on Ngaru and his siblings.
“This is a good partnership,” he said.
“Thank you to Ngaru and his sister and brother.”
The story starts in June 2008, when nine-year-old Ngaru Nen visited his father Aral’s home in remote Watut.
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.
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.
Bush material classrooms at Maralina Primary School
“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.
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.
A teary Ngaru was heartbroken and prayed for a miracle to happen.
God must have heard his prayers, for in far-off PNG, MMJV’s Wissink read about the plight of the young man.
In late January this year, 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 told me in January.
“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 (Wissink), offering to pay for shipping costs from my garage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, to Lae, then to Watut.
“I call him my guardian angel.
“Without him, this would not have been possible.”
The final chapter of this story unfolded in style at Maralina last Saturday.
It’s good to be back home again.Nen brothers Aral Jr (left) and Ngaru enjoying the Watut countryside last Saturday.