I made it! After all these years, I finally made it to Philip’s village!
I first met Philip in 2013 during my first visit to Oro Province. A trained Community Health Worker (CHW), Philip is also a Village Health Volunteer (VHV) Trainer for the Kokoda Development Program. Although he doesn’t have extensive formal education, he has extensive field experience and has been rubbing shoulders with various professionals and specialist that contributed to shaping him into one of the health workers I trust the most in the province.
Philip is not strictly a good health worker, he’s also an amazing man who will always fight for what is right and has an incredibly heart of compassion for his patients, coworkers and a strong faith that is contagious.
Much of the beginning of my passion for TB streamed out of conversations with Philip. Dreaming out loud of what could be and how we could tangibly make a difference, influence others to advocate and change the trend! No idea or dream is too big or too hard for Philip he inspires me and many to do better and serve selflessly.
Philip often spoke of his village with pride. How welcoming, how peaceful and how beautiful it was; a true corner of heaven he would say. I was expecting a nice village, but I wasn’t expecting it to be that nice! We arrived in Barevoturu in the morning, and the whole village (we counted ~400+) was waiting for us, ready to welcome us with the traditional dances and singing typical of Oro Province! Philip in his typical cleverness had planned for the whole village to welcome us to ensure they’d all receive the health eduction sessions we usually conduct prior to clinic! We had amazing feasts prepared by the mothers and also a pretty cool dance party before leaving the village.
Some of the things that were dramatically different in this village was the Clinic & the Aid Worker’s house! They were massive, new, solid and very high tech by PNG standards! Solar electricity and water tank (running with a pump inside the house) for drinking water & flushing toilet! That in itself is a feat, but the health of the community is an even greater testimony for the work of Philip and his wife Sandy (also a CHW)!
Our two days in Barevoturu were the calmest we’ve had all outreach! The health of the community was off the charts!!! Pretty much every one was immunised; most kids that came for immunisations weren’t due yet, and were only weighed to be found in the right weight bracket! Well done mamas! All mothers were registered for antenatal care, and the sick people we saw were already on treatment! We had patients trickle in from surrounding communities… some a bit sicker but overall, they had a great understanding of the concept of active care and seeking treatment rather than the common fatalistic approach of “well it’s normal to get sick, that won’t ever change…”
Patrols are a very common thing..! Philip goes out monthly to the surrounding communities to bring essential medical advise and treatment! He hikes over mountains to cover his “catchment area”! And Sandy is a saint! She keep the fort along with their 5 children!
We need more Philips & Sandys in the world!
History of Barevoturu
This is the story I was told in Philip’s village regarding some of their past… specifically in regard to the 1951 eruption of Mount Lamington.
Barevoturu is pretty much sitting at the base of Mt. Lamington; located in the northern f0othills just a mere 8 kilometres away from the crater, smack middle in the 14km radius called the “avalanche valley” of the volcano. During the eruption, ~3,500 people lost their lives due to lava, rocks, ash, smoke, or the shear heat that caused fires to start throughout the area bringing extreme devastation on its path. One of the most devastating eruptions of the 20th century!
The people of Barevoturu took us on a tour of the village and stopped in the middle of what is now a village open air gathering place. The chief pointed at the line carved in the ground and explained how this area is the most significant of the their history.
Barevoturu had been a mission station for many years before the war, but despite the efforts of the priest, the village hadn’t adopted the christian faith as their own. When the Japanese reached the coast of Oro Province, the Barevotureans, afraid of losing their lives protecting their priest (whom they believed the Japanese would want to kill), exiled their missionary to its death in the jungle. The war finished and peace returned, the people in the village although not necessarily christian didn’t forget the teachings of their priest.
In 1951 when Lamington erupted and the lava was raging down the mountain, one of the elder in the community, out of the energy of despair decided to literally “test the Word of God” and put his Bile in the middle of the path. He asked all the villagers to grab their bibles and they lined them up in the middle of the path (what is now a carved out line in the ground) and prayed that God would push the lava back.
The elder of the village claims that their village was saved by God that day! As they watched the lava recede, they knew beyond shadow of a doubt that their priest had been telling them the truth. To this day, the community still has a strong faith testifying of their saving God that rescued them from disaster. Barevoturu became a place of refuge for many of their surrounding communities and a relocation centre for the people of Isivita!
Wow! The stories we hear from the “Land of the Unexpected”… Hard to fathom! But like Uncle Hub says in Secondhand Lions:
“Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love… true love never dies. You remember that, boy. You remember that. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in”