Paper Runway Photographer, Katie Waddell (nee Preece – she just got hitched), went to visit her brother, Matt, in Papua New Guniea recently. Katie shares her story of her trip and her stunning images with us…
“Why would you go there?” was the question I got when I told people where I was travelling. My brother Matt has worked and lived in PNG for three years and was getting married. He works as an aircraft engineer for a not for profit organisation called MAF.
MAF provide flights to over 250 remote bush communities with essentials like medical evacuations and community development. Because of the harsh terrain many villages are only accessible by either plane or foot. Over 80% of Papuans live a traditional life off the land with little or no money, so this service is life saving.
While at work he managed to get a piece of wire through his finger. Being a third world country the local hospital doesn’t have the best medical facilities. So he travelled to Kudjip Nazarene Hospital, a not for profit hospital which has a reputation for being the best hospital in PNG. Once there he was treated by Dr Becky, a volunteer from America, and that’s how two very important people to me met.
Matt and Becky are perfect for each other, in so many ways, but especially because they both love what they do and they do it well. They even help when they can at the local orphanage.
Living in PNG isn’t easy. Mining has changed the culture of some people in the cities. They no longer see each other in the traditional ways as brothers and sisters, but as opponents with only the fittest to survive. This has resulted in high crime rates in the cities; it is like living in a war zone, razor wire and poverty everywhere. The challenges of living in a remote non-western country also make living hard. Necessities like water and electricity can be cut off for days and things that are the norm in Australia are rare here; a block of chocolate will cost you AU$20.
Before I visited Matt & Becky I didn’t completely understand why they loved being in PNG in such hard circumstances. It wasn’t until I saw them in their element; the work they do and the lovely people they help, that I completely appreciated why they loved it there.
The people are so happy and friendly; everyone waves and smiles to each other calling ‘gut moning’ (good morning) or ‘apinu’n (afternoon). Children laugh and giggle when you show them their photos. The food was so good that when I came home everything tasted bland. The scenery was so beautiful it was dream-like. From the air I saw massive mountains and waterfalls, and on our approach to landing in Mt Hagen I saw countless shades of greens in all of the patches of little gardens and farms. In many ways it is paradise but unfortunately that is not always the case.
I am so proud of Matt & Becky and I hope this story will raise much needed awareness and support for the amazing organisations they work so hard for.