By David Feka, CRMF Technician
In April of 2015, there was a radio installation project in Tiri which is located in a remote part of Southern Highlands Province in the Erave District. After three previous attempts to go out there, finally, it took me six hours on the main road, eight hours off road, a one week wait, and then a thirty-minute chopper flight to arrive at the installation site. The villagers had waited all day to welcome me the previous three times I had tried to get there, but the day I actually arrived it took them by surprise, but still, they quickly called everyone together to give me a warm welcome.
The airstrip there was one of their first projects 2001 which took them almost nine years to complete by themselves using crowbars and spades. This airstrip is currently used by helicopters only because of a landslide that destroyed one-quarter of the airstrip making it hard for other aircrafts like MAF to use.
The first thing I noticed about that place was that money had no value there. Because of the remoteness of Tiri, goods, and services are really hard to get there, so there was not much in the way of economic activities going on. The Tiri people told me that they used to plant coffee as a cash crop to sell for money, but stopped when one of their tribesmen dropped dead by carrying a heavy coffee bag to sell for his medical bills at the nearest trading village which will take about 12 hours to get there.
Secondly, I noticed a primary school made out of bush materials which they said that it ran successfully for a few years but was shut down because teachers didn’t want to teach in such a remote place so they deserted the school and went to teach in urban areas where life was easy.
The villagers took the initiative to maintain their airstrip after the landslide took almost one-quarter of it away because they came to realized that without an airstrip as their only means of connection to basic services and goods delivery, they were missing out on opportunities.
The big Question is?
They can have a completed airstrip but what good is an airstrip without an HF radio to give weather updates, voice their needs for supplies or call for medical emergency evacuations, etc?
After completing the installation the people of Tiri realized that the missing puzzle was completed and I could see the excitement and most of them approached me just to tell me how happy they were and their appreciation for what CRMF is doing to serve remote places like Tiri and other parts of Papua New Guinea.
Personally, the most satisfying thing about my job is when I complete an HF radio installation or solar an installation and see the excitement in people’s faces knowing that their lives have been touched and transformed by what the CRMF team is doing.