THIS IS THE STORY of Joe Yagama, 38, whose mother and father are from Sinasina and Bundi respectively. He lives in his mother’s village and is happily married with a son who was born recently.
Many a tale of success pops up now and then. This one strikes a chord I am familiar with and to a certain extent I feel I should claim it. Anyway, here’s the story.
In 1991, while still in Grade 8, Joe dropped out of Kundiawa’s Catholic run Kondiu Rosary High School. Like many young and vulnerable people in the harsh world outside of school, he roamed the streets until 2005, when he got a job as a kitchen hand at the Airways Hotel in Port Moresby.
After nine months and numerous secret lessons from other kitchen staff, he managed to grace his boss’s radar and was promoted to trainee pizza chef.
His success at Airways enabled him in 2008 to apply for and secure a new job at the Shady Rest Hotel in Moresby. But after only a few months he found himself on the streets again – thanks to workplace lies, deceit and jealousy.
But fate wasn’t finished with Joe yet. In 2009 he was working for minerals explorer Marengo Gold at its Yandera exploration camps in Bundi. This experience in the extractive industry was to prove crucial.
He applied for and was offered a position with Kutubu Catering Limited – the company that feeds the entire Oil Search Limited (OSL) operations in the Kutubu and surrounding project areas. He was posted to OSL’s drilling rig 103 where I’m stationed and the rest is history.
Currently he is night chef – a position that requires him to manage the Rig 103 camp at night apart from his kitchen duties. He has handled things well despite the camp’s mix of international inhabitants and their demands for peculiar dishes.
What interests me about Joe is his recent revelation during a casual chat. He is sponsoring a literature competition at Giu Primary School this school year.
I, upon hearing about his project, at once lit up and pestered him to tell me more.
The school is located in Dinga No 2 in the Suai LLG area of Sina Sina-Yongomugl district of Simbu Province.
Joe stated that through the competition he aims to “motivate and spark passion in students from this rural school to focus on achieving and aim high”.
What really intrigues me is the question of why would Joe, given his education background, sponsor a competition that could potentially alleviate the level of spoken and written English in this part of Simbu, let alone the other positive effects it may generally have over students from Giu?
It appears Joe is an educated and intelligent man, albeit without formal qualifications. He is aware of the positive impact the English language can have on students of Giu Primary School and is actually doing something to enable students to learn to write and speak in English better.
Like Joe there are thousands of Grade 8 dropouts in villages, towns and cities across the country. Grade 10 and 12 dropouts are also plentiful. If all can think and do something to help themselves and their respective communities without doubt there wouldn’t be anyone left to cultivate and nurture the cargo cult mentality.
If only we all could do our bit, however little it may be for the country, we will all be meaningful participants in the development of this country and may turn this country around from its path to self destruction over night – if overnight is too fast than in matter of a decade.
I am referring to people-driven change and not government driven change as many a time changes or proposed changes sponsored by the government is always hijacked by a member of, to use Martyn Namorong’s words, the predatory elite class.
I think Joe is doing something noble and have contemplated supporting him in his endeavour. He is aware of and has tried to view and read PNG Attitude but poor network reception at our workplace has denied him access.
More on Joe and his literature competition will be published here in PNG Attitude.