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  • Writer's pictureNicola Smart

Progress in PNG - planting trees and building for the future

In February Peter Cheers, Partner Housing Board Director visited Papua New Guinea to conduct training with our partner Vision for Homes (VfH), and to visit some of the new and recently completed projects designed/funded by Partner Housing and constructed by VfH. These visits were across the Western Highlands communities of Kwip Dau, Kopeng, Umi and Kenembo. Peter shared some updates on these projects.

''In our travels from Mt Hagen VfH Program Manager, Kelly Kombra Peng, and I met with school board members, school principals and community health workers and celebrated the official start of construction of the new Kwip Dau teacher accommodation duplex, and the hand over of the keys to the newly completed Kenembo Primary School classroom. It was a fabulous opportunity to witness Partner Housing funding and design expertise being put to such good use.

The Kwip Dau project is for teacher accommodation at the local secondary school, with structural design using the Partner Housing DANCER method, construction undertaken by VfH and site preparations made by the school and their volunteers. We heard from the school's Principal, Vice Principal, other staff and school board members how needed this accommodation is and how grateful they were that for the project was commencing in 2024.

Trusses ready for construction in Kwip Dau

At Kenembo Primary School, we celebrated the official key handover with the school principal, the staff and school board, with the broader community and school students looking on. There was a lot of excitement about the new classroom, which was also designed by Partner Housing and constructed by VfH. The school has further plans for more school buildings and accommodation to meet growing needs and is keen for ongoing PHA and VfH assistance.

Kelly and I also visited two health clinics that were built in recent years by VfH with funding support from Partner Housing and the local district health authorities. One was Kopeng Community Health Clinic, completed in 2021, which sits on land donated by the local community. The building is again of Dancer design and includes four rooms and entry reception, with a waiting area on a covered veranda at the front. A very functional building. The other was Umi Community Health Clinic, using the same design model, which was finished in 2020 thanks to funding support from the Shoalhaven Bushwalkers. Also with four rooms and a reception, it is the first and to date only clinic in the area. Feedback from the local health care workers was that the clinic has been of high benefit to the local community. Serving over 4000 people, last year alone it handled over 2000 visits from locals. 

Left and centre images: Kopeng Community Health Clinic Right image: Umi Community Health Clinic

Finally, we visited the Tree Planting Program in Kenembo that Partner Housing has been supporting. Our funding has purchased 1000 eucalypt seedlings from the PNG Forest Authority, which have been planted on land donated by the Kenembo community. This land was previously deemed unusable by the community as it was very swampy, however a network of trenches was dug to drain the worst of the surface water and the seedlings were able to be co-planted with creeping food crops such as cucumber. This helps with soil retention and weed management. The trees are expected to reach maturity in 9-10 years’ time.

Kelly from Vision for Homes showing Peter the tree plantings in Kenembo

This visit to Mt Hagen was a great opportunity for key insights into what future support from Partner Housing should look like. There are high needs for communities outside urban centres for health services, school infrastructure, and accommodation for health workers and teachers, who generally need to be recruited from outside the community area. 

Student numbers are ever increasing and overcrowding of classrooms is a common problem. The new DANCER designed classrooms being built by VfH are a popular design as they are wider by nearly 2 metres, providing increased space for teachers and students. They are also more cost effective, more robust and quicker to build than many other construction options.

Many communities also lack basic health facilities for their population and anyone needing medical care is forced to travel great distances to the nearest regional clinic or hospital. They also face the challenge of having only limited access to transportation over poor quality roads. Community Health Clinics provide a first point of call for local people, a triage unit of sorts, with a health care worker who can undertake initial medical assessments, dressing changes, ongoing medication delivery or referrals to the nearest hospital or ‘next level’ health care facility. Similar to teacher accommodation needs, accommodation is also needed for health care workers to service the new clinics as they are built.''

Meeting room ready to go in Vision for Homes' Mt Hagen office

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