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Project Compassion: Creating a harmonious future in PNG

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Photo credit: Richard Wainwright


‘Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.’ Hebrews 13.16.

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Participating in the Caritas Australia supported Community Conversations program has empowered Dominic and the people of his village to create a new way of life, far from the violence and gender inequality of the past.

Generational poverty has led to many challenges in communities throughout Papua New Guinea (PNG), challenges that Dominic, a 36 year-old farmer and father of four, witnessed every day as he grew up in a large village in the Jiwaka province.

Dominic speaks of how drug and alcohol abuse were common in his village, as was fighting, theft, harassment and ongoing gender inequality. Families experienced many difficulties in the home, with high rates of adultery, domestic violence and divorce. And Dominic admits that his family was not immune to these troubles. “In the past, I was very impatient with my wife and short tempered,” he says. “I took alcohol. I couldn’t say no to beer if my elder brothers offered. In the past, I was the one that made the decisions. I was the boss of the house.”

But when Caritas Australia and local partner, the Sisters of Notre Dame, established the Community

Conversations program in Dominic’s village, he saw an opportunity to create change, and quickly became involved in the program.

Dominic attended regular Community Conversations training sessions, where he and people from neighbouring areas learnt communication and problem-solving skills that would help them talk to their communities about issues like gender inequality, alcohol abuse and HIV. “I was inspired to hear of the different issues highlighted and processes used to come up with solutions,” Dominic explains. “Something pierced my heart as these issues are real and people face these situations every day.”

Using the experience and insight he gained through his training, Dominic has led discussion and problem solving sessions in his community. These have become a forum where the whole village can voice concerns, discuss problems, make plans and take steps towards creating a safer, more caring community.

“I’ve applied the skills I learnt from Community Conversations very well,” says Dominic. “In the past only males made the decisions. Now everyone, women and young people, have a voice and peace is maintained that way.”

Improved communication, problem solving skills and self-awareness have had a big impact on Dominic and his community. A Community Conversations session even sparked a decision to build a new road, which has opened up a new world of opportunities for the village.

“Before I didn’t know that I carry a lot of power within to change myself and others around me,” recalls Dominic. “When we start to realise we have power to stand independently to change ourselves and help ourselves, we feel liberated.”

While big changes are underway in the community, equally big changes are happening within families, including Dominic’s.

“The biggest change in my life is better use of income. At first, I used to misuse family income on alcohol,” he tells. “After getting schooled in Community Conversations, I let my wife and children partake in decisions affecting our family and I have quit alcohol.”

With the support of Caritas Australia, Dominic’s village has achieved greater peace and gender equality, giving the community a chance to thrive and shape a better future for themselves.

“I am most proud of the positive changes I am witnessing,” he says. “I pass my big thanks and pray God will bless our supporters in Australia.”

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