Eyeglass Assist

Solomon Islands Project


Title: The One Legged Gardener

Location : Louisiade archipelago, PNG

Year : 2010

During our voyage to Papua New Guinea in 2010 to assist in building the new primary school we had a few days up our sleeve before the official opening ceremony so we heading over to Panatania Island where there were celebrations taking place for PNG Independence Day (Independence was in 1975). Outside the village there was a cleared area that's main function was as a sports ground. There were food stalls scattered around the perimeter and at the time we arrived there was a soccer game taking place. They did have an old soccer ball but all of the players were in bare feet as you would imagine. The field itself was no graded pitch. It did have a reasonable cover of grass but it was full of undulations and was distinctly uneven.

 As we were watching the young men display their athletic prowess on the field I turned and saw that the young man (in his mid 20's) next to me was using a crutch as he only had one leg. I started up a conversation with him and we eventually got around to the subject of how he lost his leg. He told me that a number of years previously he himself had been playing soccer on this very field. When engaging in an energetic phase of the play he fractured his leg.

 He needed medical attention and was no doubt in a great deal of pain, and the nearest medical facility was the hospital at Misima around 60 miles away over the open ocean. No power boats were available so he was taken to the hospital via sailing canoe. Misima hospital was built when the gold mine was active (and was funded by the gold mine) but since the mine had ceased to operate 5 years previously the facilities, staffing and funding were steadily going downhill. When the young man arrived there there was no doctors so he was taken, via sailing canoe, another 150 miles to the west to the mainland port of Alotau in Milne Bay. All in all it had taken 5 days to get him to hospital and by the time he saw a doctor, it was too late and gangrene had set in so they we forced to amputate his leg.

 A devastating loss of capability for any person but especially for someone living a subsistence life in a country that has no social security. Everyone has fruit and vegetable and often it is some distance from the village, often up in the hills and in order for him to tend his garden even getting there was an issue, let alone tending the garden and carting food back to him home. Still, with the support of his extended family he was managing to make end meet. A life that was not easy to begin with had become substantially more difficult, but he had little choice but to carry on as best he could.

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