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  • Writer's pictureNicola Smart

Making connections - Julienne McKay's story

Updated: Apr 5

This week we share a story that showcases how making connections can lead to great things. Julienne McKay, a long time supporter of Partner Housing and Vision for Homes (VFH) discusses how connecting with Partner Housing has opened doors for VFH and their work in Papua New Guinea and the wonderful flow on effects of sharing the work of VFH with her local community in Australia.

PHA and VFH continue to enjoy a strong partnership, and we are proud to share Julienne’s story with our supporters.

How did you come to be involved with PHA? I became involved with PHA through my association with Vision for Homes, a community-based organisation in Papua New Guinea. In 2009, I undertook a strategic review of the operations of Habitat for Humanity in PNG for Habitat for Humanity Asia Pacific, and, in the course of the review, met the manager and Board of the Western Highlands affiliate of HFH PNG. I was extremely impressed with the way in which the group had been managing the work of HFH PNG in very difficult circumstances. When HFH AP decided to cease operating in PNG, I undertook to help the former Western Highlands affiliate to continue its work if they could register as a community-based organisation. While Vision for Homes was being registered in PNG, I was extremely fortunate to be put in contact with Rod Johnson, the President of PHA - a connection made through PHA’s links with Habitat for Humanity Australia. PHA agreed to assist Vision for Homes with seed funding but, even more importantly, PHA offered to provide assistance with establishing and overseeing good governance processes and with the technical aspects of building design and construction.

What is the most fulfilling aspect of the work? Without a doubt, the most fulfilling aspect of my involvement with Vision for Homes and PHA has been to watch the development of a thriving and, I think, mutually rewarding partnership between the two organisations. Over the years, strong friendships have formed between the Board of PHA and Vision for Homes, based on professional regard. The association with PHA has enabled Vision for Homes to establish a reputation in PNG as a builder of high quality, value-for-money projects for families wanting safe, secure housing, and for government agencies needing houses for police, teachers and community health workers, and classrooms, clinics and aid posts for communities. In recent years, I have also had the opportunity to introduce members of my local community on the South Coast of NSW to the villagers of the Western Highlands. In 2019, I took a group of bushwalkers to areas around Mt Hagen, where Vision for Homes is based. The trip was designed to raise funds for Vision for Homes, and the Board, ably led by Kelly Kombra Peng and his wife Temo, and their family, played a major role in hosting the trip. So impressed were the bushwalkers with the work of Vision for Homes that the trip led directly to the construction of a Community Aid Post, funded by donations from the bushwalkers as well as from PHA. PHA also provided assistance with the design and technical specifications of the aid post. The successful construction of this building, in turn, led to Vision for Homes and PHA being commissioned by the Western Highlands Provincial Health Authority to build an aid post in another, even more remote, community.

Are there any challenges you've found? The need for patience! Things happen, but at their own pace and in their own way.

What does the future hold for you? What are you excited about in the work being done with PHA? I hope that once COVID restrictions are lifted, and international travel is again possible, that I will be able to take other groups to PNG - raising funds for Vision for Homes as well as getting more Australians to come to know and respect our nearest neighbour. And I look forward to continuing to work with PHA, helping to bring to fruition any projects that arise from these trips and through the growing reputation for high quality, value-for-money construction that has been fostered by the partnership between Vision for Homes and PHA.

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