DANNY LANNEN | Geelong Advertiser
The big-smiling teen is home on Ali Island in remote Papua New Guinea after having undergone surgery at St John of God Hospital, which has saved and improved dwindling hearing in his one functioning ear.
Belden is one of about 800 people who live on the island, about 12 km off Aitape on PNG's north coast.
He and his plight won the hearts of volunteers behind Geelong's Ali Island Project, founded by Belmont physiotherapist Travis McCombe to help build economic sustainability and standard of living for the community.
Project leaders resolved to bring Belden to a cure in Geelong. Surgeon Russell Calder, anaesthetist Rob Solly and nurses Lisa McGrath, Virginia Thompson and Deb Lawrence donated their time to perform his miracle.
"It doesn't always work, but it worked in him," Dr Calder said with a smile at the hospital yesterday.
George Ramia, of The Sphinx hotel, covered Belden's travel expenses.
Mr McCombe is familiar with health challenges facing small PNG communities, having grown up in the northern Sandaun province where his father Daryl worked as a government patrol officer during the 1970s.
Daryl and wife Moyne helped negotiate Belden's trip and have been his guardians during six months in Australia.
Belden also stayed with Travis and his family in Geelong, made mates attending Clairveaux Primary School and developed a passion for football and the Geelong Cats - Steven Motlop is his favourite player.
Travis McCombe said the Ali Island Project volunteers felt fulfilled to have been able to help change a life.
"At least now he can hear, he will be able to go back home and go back to school, be able to hear his teachers and his classmates and it will have a significant impact on his life," Mr McCombe said.