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A Story from PNG

 

 

Dear friend,

My name is Sasa Zibe-Kokino. I come from Zia tribe in Waria Valley, from Bau, one of the coastal villages. The only Primary school available that time was located more than twenty kilometers away from my village

The Waria Valley is the ancestral fortress of the Zia tribe  (7,000 people.)  The Zia tribe comprised of 18 villages located along the Waria River and the coastline. The tribe has four major clans, which is still in existent. The tribal law/rules restrict marriage within the clan. Clans support each other and the members within. 

Land area in PNG is held at 97% in traditional ownership.   Traditionally, land belonged to the people and not institutions like government, churches, companies, or councils.  A person's right to use the land comes  from his membership of a line, tribe or clan that is descended from the first  people to settle the land.  The names of the tribes/clans and the authority they give are passed from generation to generation through word of mouth, illustrated by actions or symbols, from elders to youngsters.  In this way, members of the same kinship know their land rights with simplicity, and without confusion.

 I just want to share with you a short memory lane story of my childhood days at elementary school from 1968 - 1972: 

When I was 10 years old my mother decided that I should move to a boarding school, a dormitory build by our own parents from bush materials. The students grow their own food, cook own meals, and provide self logistics.  I stayed there for 4 years and completed Grade 6 and went to a boarding High school in Lae city in 1973.

My life in this boarding school in Waria Valley was quite exciting and a great experience.  My friends and I grew our own foods and cooked our own meals.   We even built bush material classrooms and desks. The school grounds are located almost 1.3 kilometers away from Waria River where one take bath and fetch drinking water every morning and evenings.  We all relied on each other.

I can remember one thing which I still talk about to this day - most students did not have towels, proper clothing, or most basic things in life.  On the way to the river for morning bath we collected many dry leaves from the banana trees and lit a big bonfire to dry ourselves after diving into the cold Waria River.  This was my life for four solid years.  We used to have two pencils and three textbooks for an entire year of school.  There was hardly no library books.  However, with little knowledge of the outside world, I always thought this was quite a luxury life.  Even so, I cannot remember my mother owning any basic household material things in our bush material house.

I started reading library books when I entered High school and learned about other people's ways of life.  I felt sorry for myself and cursed the world for being so unkind and unequal.  Other people in this world consume so many resources and energy capitalizing on the ignorance of others.

From that day on, I decided to help my people.  I read more library books and studied very hard. I completed the high school and won a scholarship and studied Forestry Science for three years.  After two years working with a logging company, I won a major national scholarship and ended up in North Wales University in United Kingdom. After three years I graduated with Bachelor of Science Specializing in Timber and Wood Technology.

Five years later I set up my own development organization, "Village Development Trust", a non-government organization.  Through this organization I developed a global network which 1) enhances the delivery of basic goods and services, and 2) empowers many people in PNG, and my own people in the Waria Valley.

In March 2001, a team of English teachers from Japan visited PNG. This is where I met Mr. Carlo Capua,  a young man with great heart. He felt and saw the remnants of my life that I have been through some 30 years ago.

That is where, Mr. Capua and his comrades  decided to work with the people of Waria Valley, supporting education and working to eradicate socioeconomic poverty.  My people and I have vowed and honored our commitment to support these worthwhile initiatives.

Through the advent of Tomorrow's Forest, we have ongoing support, from the grassroots level to the government.  All materials and cash donations comes through VDT (Village Development Trust) and is passed directly to the people.  This system is set up to ensure transparency, accountability and good governance.

Your generous donations are transferred  by Mr. Capua in Japan or America to Tomorrows Forest committees through VDT.  We use the the money to:
 
1) set up a scholarship fund.  Students who cannot afford $20/year tuition can borrow from it and attend school.

2) fund construction of teachers' houses.

3) Continued cultural exchange activities between Japan, PNG, and the USA.
 
The people of Waria Valley acknowledge and value your great contribution, support, and awareness of our activities.  Thank you.

Yours Sincerely,

Sasa Zibe Kokino
PNG Minister for the Environment and Conservation, 2002-2003          

 

:::TOMORROW'S FOREST:::     carlo@tomorrowsforest.com

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