THE YOUNG MAN WATCHED at his mother’s hospital bedside as she succumbed to the nefarious disease tuberculosis before his eyes.
The woman that bore him, nurtured him and worked so hard as he grew up and was educated to be able to live an affluent modern lifestyle had died without fully realising the benefits of all she had invested in him.
The man was devastated. He was mentally torn to shreds. Worst of all, his mother had died of a disease that, according to medical science, is curable. Why?
The young man pondered. As he stood there, anguished and perplexed, his tearful eyes caught sight of many other souls, young and old, lying motionless in their beds waiting for their time to come or recuperation.
His heart went out to them. And he promised, ‘I will never leave this hospital’.
The organisation carries the motto, ‘Simbus helping Simbus – people helping people’.
Jimmy Drekore, son of Barbina and Raphael Drekore of the Dinga number two tribe in the Sinasina Yongomugl District of the Simbu Province, Papua New Guinea, was born on 15 September 1976. He was the eldest in a family of six, with one brother and two sisters.
Jimmy grew to school age under the watchful eyes of Barbina and Raphael. He attended Koge Primary School at the age of five, and was in Grades 1-6 from 1982-87. He completed Grade 10 in 1991at Kondiu Rosary High School.
In 1992, Jimmy went to Downlands College in Toowoomba on the plateau west of Brisbane, Australia, on a three-year scholarship courtesy of AIDAB (the Australian International Development Assistant Bureau).
At the end of his schooling, Jimmy returned to PNG and studied applied science at the Lae University of Technology from 1995-98. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in applied chemistry.
The following year he got a job as an analytical chemist with Newcrest’s gold mine at Lihir Island in the New Ireland Province. It’s the position he still holds today.
In 2004, Jimmy’s mother Barbina passed on at the Sir Joseph Nombri Memorial Hospital Kundiawa. Jimmy was devastated. It was very painful. Standing at the bedside of his dead mother, Jimmy promised to never leave the hospital.
Two years later, the promise was manifested in the establishment of a humanitarian organisation that has grown from strength to strength. Its members comprise Simbus of all creed and walks of life across the globe. It is Simbu Children Foundation (SCF).
Simbu Province in the central highlands of PNG is mountainous. Economic resources and opportunities are limited. The annual income for an average village family is less than K1,000. That kind of money is insufficient to meet all the financial needs of the family including medical expenses.
For a child with a heart problem is to travel to Port Moresby with guardian or parent for the visiting specialist overseas doctors to operate on costs around K1,500 to K2,000 depending on the age of the child.
Most parents cannot afford this kind of money, so the child has to die.
There are many such cases. The idea of SCF fills this vacuum of addressing the social welfare needs of the poor. And Simbus in all works of life enthusiastically volunteered when the idea of forming SCFwas floated.
It initially started as family charity work. After his mother’s demise, Jimmy and his young wife Merrilyn embarked on a monthly protein diet supplement program by supplying milk, Milo, eggs and chicken liver to sick children in the pediatric ward which SCF has now taken over.
At the same time, Jimmy floated the idea of forming a charity to support the sick and disadvantaged children of Simbu with the aim of developing a healthy future for Simbu men and women. The response was heartening. Simbus in all walks of life joined SCF.
Merrilyn, a secondary school teacher and a very understanding and cooperative wife, worked hard alongside Jimmy to ensure the idea became a reality. Merrilyn remains a force behind the successes of SCF.
By 2006 all the formalities were in place and in 2008, then Governor General Sir Paulias Matane officially launched the Foundation at a glittering occasion at the Crowne Plaza in Port Moresby.
Since then the organisation has grown from strength to strength in achieving its aim of helping the sick and disadvantaged children of Simbu.
Among its achievements are the purchase and delivery of a life-saving electric infant incubator from the United States, the monthly supply of proteins for malnourished children in the Paediatric Ward, sponsoring airline tickets and other logistics for open heart patients and their guardians from Simbu to Port Moresby through the annual Brave Hearts program and an annual Christmas barbecue and presents program for sick children in the hospital.
The pinnacle of all the achievements has been the funding of research into osteomyelitis that I wrote about recently in PNG Attitude.
The research is accredited by Professor Peter Siba, director of the PNG Medical Research Institute in Goroka. As such it is worthy of being published in any international medical journal.
The executives, members and benefactors of SCF are very happy that the organisation in its short history has gone into funding a scientific research project.
SCF is currently embarking on the construction of a mini-hydro power generation for Irugl Care Centre at the foot of PNG’s highest peak, Mount Wilhelm.
The care centre, now known as Mother of Life Centre, is a self-help organisation for orphans and disadvantaged children. The parents have either broken up or died of HIV/AIDS, accidents or as a result of other calamities.
The centre was started by a Netherland national, Martin Van der Palen, in 2002. Martin came to Simbu as a lay missionary and married Agatha from Irugl. They lived and worked as lay missionaries in Simbu for 15 years before moving to the Netherlands.
While in Europe, Agatha died. Her death wish was to build a charity home in her village, Irugl, where youths could be empowered by providing them the necessary support to attain some education and engage in self-sustenance activities.
Martin has been raising funds in his home country and visiting Irugl once each year on a tourist visa because the PNG government will not grant him citizenship for health reasons. But the level of support has been diminishing because of Martin’s ill health.
The first product from the centre to enter higher education is Komba Bundo, who is in first year university at the University of Technology in Lae.
Although Martin and Agatha established a noble institution helping Papua New Guinean children, the centre gets little support from state agencies.
So SCF has been supporting the centre with food and second hand clothes. SCF identified electricity as one of the important needs of the centre. Hence it has stepped in to help.
SCF volunteer engineers have already carried out site assessments and they are into the planning stage. Once this is complete and the exact cost established, the next task is to find money to fund it.
The unique virtue of SCF is that it has been relying on its own fundraising and benevolent donations from Simbu elites - members, volunteers and Simbu men and women in business - to execute its aims.
It has never knocked on the doors of donors, government agencies and politicians since its inception.
SCF stands on the principle that, if someone sees and believes in what it is doing, let them step forward with their support.
The principle came of age this year when a number of Simbu members of parliament stepped forward of their own accord with pledges of various amounts to support the work of SCF.
Simbu Governor Noah Kool and Tobias Kulang, member for Kundiawa Gembogl, topped the list with a K100, 000 pledge each. It is obvious that our MPs have faith and trust in the kind of work that SCF has being doing.
The Irugl hydro power project will likely cost close to K500,000 and SCFdoes not have that kind of money. Nonetheless, as the old adage goes, ‘where there is a will there is a way’. No mountain is insurmountable. No valley is so deep as to defeat the Simbu spirit.
Jimmy Drekore, SCF president and founder, is a man of strong will and a workaholic. He is an excellent results-oriented organiser and, with the full backing of like-willed and talented Simbu elites, the hydro power generation project is achievable if not this year, definitely next year.
‘Even if it means to knock on doors, it shall be done’, says Jimmy Drekore.
If you want to know more about the Irugl hydro power project or Simbu Children Foundation, contact the writer on firstname.lastname@example.org