by Alexandra Wiebe, IDS practicum in Papau, New Guinea
For the past two months I have had the opportunity to lead a Community Engagement Clinic team with YWAM Medical Ships. YWAM Medical Ships is an international NGO that partners with the government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) to deliver healthcare services to remote communities and build the capacity of the local healthcare workers. Onboard, over half of the volunteers are from PNG and they work alongside medical, marine and general volunteers from over 30 other countries to operate the ship and clinics. Clinical teams go into the villages to set up optometry, TB lab testing, and primary healthcare clinics. Patients are also transported back to the ship for the dental and surgical clinics.
A huge emphasis is placed on community-led development where the village leaders activate their communities to envision and implement development within their village. That is why YWAM Medical Ships also send a Community Engagement Clinic team into each village to meet with village leaders, teach educational health lessons, facilitate discussions on gender-based violence, engage with disabled persons, and teach villagers how to fix water tanks, build water filters, and drill wells. In certain villages, my team also runs a Community Action and Participation (CAP) course for the village leaders. The CAP training provides tools for village leaders to identify needs in the community, brainstorm solutions, and implement those solutions without waiting for the help of the government or NGOs.
I recently had a meeting with some village leaders who received CAP training in 2016 and discovered that the village continues to meet weekly to discuss the CAP teachings and envision future development. When we sat down, they explained their one, two, and five-year plan for community development and presented proposals of how they wanted to partner with YWAM in the future. Their one and two-year plan included the construction of a clinic and primary school with running water. They requested training from YWAM engineers on how to install pipes from their rainwater tanks to provide running water in the clinic and school. They also recognized that imported clothing does not contribute to PNG's economy so they are planning to buy mechanical sewing machines and start a women's resource center to sew and trade clothing with other villages. They requested another YWAM team to teach them how to use and repair sewing machines and provide sewing patterns so they could continue a sustainable business in the future.
After hearing about their current investments in Port Moresby, seeing the four community buildings they built and the six new water tanks installed by YWAM, I have no doubt that this village will continue to steward their education and resources as they take ownership of their development.