TOUGH LIFE IN CHIMBU FOR PNG ‘CARGO BOY’

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Aug. 5, 2010) – He is tough. He is seven. Arnold Kukame is a Prep student at Mondia, his village in Chimbu Province.

But he, like many from his village, find life hard without a proper road linking them to urban Chimbu.

So he offers his services to cart cargo from his village to Bundi in Madang so he can make some money for himself. The journey is 100 kilometers [60 miles] long...one way. He is one of thousands of Papua New Guineans who face this daily because there are no roads into their remote parts of the country.

HE HAD a carton of biscuits on one tender shoulder and a bilum slung across his little frame from the other.

He smiled shyly at me as I approached. Arnold Kukame is his name and he is a prep student in Mondia village at the foothills of the country’s highest mountain, Mt Wilhelm in Chimbu Province. This seven-year-old boy had walked from his village through rugged terrain over to Yandera in the Bundi area, Madang Province – all 100 km on foot with his cargo.

Little Arnold was among others who made the long and tiring trek on weekends or during school holidays, helping their parents to carry cargo for the Yandera villagers living near the Marengo mining area.

He was calm, his smile displaying a healthy set of white teeth. I sat beside him and watched him as he used the back of his palm to wipe away the sweat collected on his forehead.

"Mi kago boy (I am a cargo boy)," he whispered. I did not want to accept this statement from an innocent boy but it is true. Arnold is a little cargo boy.

It was a Friday afternoon at the Marengo exploration site in the Yandera mountains. Standing outside the mess at the campsite, my eyes caught sight of a little figure coming down the other side of the mountain, like a leaf fluttering in the wind.

I enquired and one of the workers nearby said it was one of the carriers from Chimbu who brought cargo including roofing iron sheets and groceries, even generators and fuel over to Yandera on their shoulders or backs.

The women also had huge bilums loaded with cartons or bales of store goods and fresh garden produce from their gardens slung over their weather beaten backs.

I stood watching as the figure came closer, down Snow Pass as they call it because it is always covered in fog all day. I waited for almost 30 minutes , then went down to meet them.

I met Bob Banda Awai, 20, a Grade 11 student from Yandera, attending Rosary Secondary School, Kondiu in Chimbu. He was carrying four roofing iron ridge caps for his uncle’s house. I also met Onguglo Yainde, 10 and Anna Nok from Toromabuno Catholic Station in Mondia and many others with their cargo.

The little angels were paid PGK15 to PGK20 [US$5.60 to US$7.50] depending on the load they carried to buy clothes, books pencils and other things they needed.

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