Papua New Guinea
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Garum’s ‘Dreams in the sky’ for Drimskai comes true

A big river with huge logs on the banks. A plucky former councilor and a dream as big as the tallest trees.

In the canopy of the forests of Drimskai, 50-year-old Kila Garum had a dream that one day, all his village people would have a home each. When he had that vision, he was a councilor in the Kiunga rural local level government (LLG) of North Fly District of Western Province. He wanted to make a big difference in his community and change the way of life of his people.

But as a government councilor, he realized, the government doesn’t always have the money.

The government doesn’t always heed the dreams of a village councilor. The government doesn’t always make dreams come true.

In frustration Garum quit. He went back to his village and mobilized his people. They would cut the logs by axes, drag them to the river, float the trees down to their village and saw them into planks.

Unknown to Garum, someone was watching. Garum recalls the villagers used to chop down the trees by hand until the North Fly District MP, James Donald heard about their venture.

James Donald is a man after the heart of people like Garum. When word reached Donald of Garum’s courage and determination, the MP ordered his North Fly District Development Authority to immediately fund the Drimskai Housing Project.

Out of nothing, plucky Garum’s Dreams in The Sky was on its way to fruition.

With support funding of K136,000 and a portable sawmill, Garum has voluntarily built 21 houses for people living with disabilities, widows, the elderly and newly married couples in his community.

The development project aims to build 49 homes to accommodate every family in his village.

As previous ward councilor, Garum understood the hardships of his people and wanted as much as possible to ensure that his people would be able to have a comfortable lifestyle so that they could work on being self-sufficient.

“I resigned from occupying the position of ward councilor after the 2018 LLG election after realizing that the community needs that had been identified were not being prioritized,” he said.

He added that he had to take action instead of waiting on the Government as it was also his duty as a community member to ensure a good life for his people.

“My dream is to see that everyone in the community owns a permanent house with solar lights and a water tank,” he said.

“I believe that once people have comfortable homes to live in, they can be able to look after themselves better.

“They can be able go out and till the land and be more productive and bring incomes to their households as well as support others in the community.”

People living with disabilities, widows and newly married couples were prioritized in the housing project and the first 21 houses built were given to them.

“People living with disabilities and widows were given the homes first because they are the group of people in the society where we most often overlook in terms of their welfare so we as a community felt that this was the right thing to do,” Garum said.

“Newly married couples were also given their first homes to start their families in as we believed they would be the ones to nurture the next generation.”

Garum said that building one house took less than a month as everyone in the village participated including the women who cooked for the men.

“It is a hard task especially when you are using manual labour but one thing good about my people is that they are big on helping each another,” he said.

“And they want better living standards which is the main driving factor behind our achievement in completing the first 21 houses.” Garum explained that the houses were built by the villagers themselves with the help of one skilled carpenter and himself.

“We would chop down the trees and roll the huge logs about 2 kilometers downstream to where the village is located,” he said.

“Then about 30 men would carry these logs by hand from the river to where the sawmill was to have them sliced into the preferred sizes.

“The timbers would then be carried to the building sites where construction would take place.”

The logs transported from the forest to the village are between 15 to 18 centimeters in diameter and are chopped three times to about 3 meters in length to make it easier for the carriers.

The funds from the North Fly MPs office were used to purchase building materials such as nails, roofing irons, hammers, saws and other necessary materials for the construction of the houses as well as meals for the workers.

“Even though the workload is huge, helping my community build the houses has given me a sense of accomplishment in serving my purpose as a member of this community,” he said.

Garum is also a volunteer under the National Volunteer Services (NVS) who was recognized for his selfless contributions to his people.

And he is also a part of the volunteer counselling committee for 15 years from 1992 to 2007 and expressed that serving others through volunteering has given him satisfaction especially in seeing that he has made an impact in people’s lives.

Garum has also proposed another project to venture into after the Southern Region PSO, which is a plan for a Land Use Project.

“It is a first of its kind for the people of Western and the good news to the Drimskai people of North Fly to turn this central location to a house station,” Garum said.

“Due to our success, Drimskai was scoped as the central location for Economical and Business House Station for both the Government and Private sector for the people of North Fly and Western as a whole,” he said.

“Basic services were decentralized and remote people are in need of basic services

and I feel that this project will greatly help them.

“Scoping and surveying has already been done so far for the remaining houses and we

are waiting for the Government to intervene and assist with funding for the other
projects to start.”

Garum said that Drimskai was scoped and surveyed to be developed into a station with a primary and secondary school, an Agriculture College, a Health Centre, Aid-post, a mini-hydro plant and the sealing of streets.

He recently attended the NVS Southern Region Batch 19 volunteers Pre-Service Orientation (PSO) program which was held at the Goldie River Training Depot (GRTD) and is now a supervisor leading five (5) volunteers who are tasked to complete their project in Drimskai and will be moving forward to see where their skills are needed in other communities.

Garum added that he is looking forward to working with other likeminded volunteers around the country who are passionate about making an impact in their communities and is grateful for the opportunity given by the NVS.

Words and Pictures supplied by the NATIONAL VOLUNTEER SERVICES