Eyeglass Assist

Solomon Islands Project



Title: The one-armed teacher and Aussie Rules Player

Location : New Ireland, PNG

Year : 2009

We were anchored in a remote bay on the south west coast of New Ireland on board our previous yacht "Sea Spray" when we had a visit from a lovely couple who paddled up in their dugout canoe (the lady was doing the paddling). We invited them to come on board for a cup of tea and a biscuit which they quickly accepted. The guy struggled to climb up over the side of Sea Spray as one of his arms was missing. We sat down and drank tea and chatted for a while and then after we raised the subject he said that yes, he couldn't see properly and needed glasses. After spending some time without any success in finding any glasses we asked him about any medical issues he might have, which he confirmed was in fact the case.

He said that he had been trained as a teacher and even though he wanted to teach in his own community he was posted to a remote location in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. In a country where tribalism is still a prominent aspect of their social structure, this would not have been an easy undertaking .


While he was there some of his friends decided to distill some alcohol, which they did and which they all drank. Distillation without the correct equipment and knowledge can be very dangerous as the wrong fraction of alcohol can be distilled which is what happened in this case. As a result all the men who drank the alcohol were either fully or partially blinded, which is what happened to our friend. This is not an isolated occurrence and drinking such alcohol can be fatal. We did hear of one instance a few years ago in the highlands where 36 people died as a result of drinking home-distilled alcohol like this.

Further along in the conversation, we asked him how he lost his arm and he said that he had moved back to near his village and had been given a piece of land to cultivate. When he was chopping down a tree it fell the wrong way and pinned his arm. His wife had run for help and finally freed him whereupon he took 3 days to make his way to somewhere he could get medical help, by which time it was too late for his arm, which had become gangrenous and it had to be amputated. Still as he was no longer working and therefore living a subsistence life he still had to tend to his gardens as best he could. Lucky he was married!


This lovely gentleman told many stories. He told us that in 1966 prior to his accidents, the VFL (Victorian Football League) now known as AFL selected the top 8 football players from PNG and flew them to Melbourne to watch the grandfinal at the MCG. I thought ummm 1966, I asked who was playing - Collingwood and St Kilda,  I asked who he was barracking for - Collingwood. Luckily for him he had the right answer, me having one black eye and one white..... Can you imagine going from the highlands of PNG to the Melbourne Cricket Ground with 100,000 screaming fans.  He said it was the best time of his life. By the way Collingwood lost I think by 1 point, this was the last grandfinal win for St Kilda.


Unfortunately we were unable to fit him with spectacles howerer the R4S program also supplies us with sunglasses of which he gladly accecpted a pair.

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