Story by Samuel Mori, photos by Simon Ganal & video by Glenys Watson
Indagen is an easy-to-miss, hidden community of 6 hamlets nestled within the peaks of the Saruwaged Range accessible by air and foot. A chilly mountain breeze greets you with the scent of fresh shrubbery as soon as the pilot opens the cabin door. The landing strip is already crowded with village curiosity. A few minutes to explain your purpose and the sights of smiling faces and excited children running ahead of you into the village tell you you’re welcome.
The villagers eagerly pick your bags and equipment and lead you to the health center. A senior colleague in the team tells you the last patrol was 20 years ago. Health services have since been effectively non-existent to these people. We arrive at the health center and are impressed at the remarkably good state it was in. The building was well kept and clean. A pretty flower garden with berry laden shrubs welcomed you at the front. Inspection inside showed empty shelves – no drugs, bandages, IV fluids, drip lines and basic consumables.
The local health workers sadly tell you ‘Planti marasin nogat. Planti manmeri sawe sik na dai tasol lo haus’. Word of our arrival was quickly sent by running messengers to all the nearby villages that a health patrol was finally there.
In the 3 days of clinics, health awareness and minor surgeries approximately over 400 people were attended to. Each person happy to wait all day in line just for a chance to be seen. By Day 2 our supplies were running out. It was heartbreaking attending to people who walked for 4-5hours over 3 mountain ranges just to receive basic medical advice and 6 tablets of Panadol to take home.
The relativity of value became clear: to sit for 2 hours in POMGEN and receive only Panadol would result in a tantrum – but to these people, after 20 years of waiting and 5hours of walking it meant receiving service. I had never known how severely marginalized people could be that they would accept less than the minimum with a grateful heart.
Our mission was to give but we received more in return. We received a lesson in humanity from forgotten people who appreciated the little they had and never acted victimized by the harshness of their circumstances. Each day saw abundant fresh garden produce and beautiful bouquets on our tables, warm smiles and exceptional hospitality.
We were blessed to meet this vibrant community of people with a true preservation of ‘pasin PNG’ thriving in remote Morobe. On our return our entourage comprised nearly the entire village to the airstrip. The same curiosity filled the air as our plane taxied down the runway, wondering what their next visitor will bring. With heavy hearts we left them waiting patiently in the mountains for the next time a glimmer of service will arrive at their doorstep.