|Neles Tandamat 09/04/2015 graduated from UPNG.|
I sincerely thank the Administration of the Mercy works from its Head Quarters down in Australia to Papua New Guinea and all the hard working staff of Mercy Works throughout the length and breadth of this beautiful world in wherever the organization may establish in the world for their consistent support provided to the under privileged kids like myself throughout the world. May the Good Lord bless you and keep you safe and give you strength to continue to carry on the noble work left behind by Christ himself.
I especially thank Sister Moureen and her hardworking team in Kiunga –PNG for their consistent assistance towards my successful completion. May our Good Lord bless your work and may He watch over you always to continue to do His work of assisting the poor. It was a blessing for me and my family and I praise God for establishing such organizations. Your memorable work will always be in my heart and I will remember the noble work you are doing in whatever field I would be in, your work have instilled in me a heart of service to the poor and the hopeless people of God.
Attached hereunder is my brief history which I want to share with the Mercy Works in appreciation of what you have done for me.
Once again, thank you and God bless.
BRIEF BACK GROUND
I was the youngest of a family of eight children, three girls and five boys from the tribe of Kasipka in the Oksibil District of the Star Mountain Regency in the Papua province of Indonesia. I lost my parents when I was only a kid during the crisis between West Papuan Freedom Fighters and the Armed forces of the Republic of Indonesia. I started my early schooling in 1998 in Marangtikin border post around 30 kilo meters at the back of the giant Ok Tedi mine in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea.
My parents were both killed by the Indonesian soldiers during the long struggle for freedom from the bondage of Indonesian rule. As a result, our family was broken up, and all the brothers split up to look for survival with other relatives throughout the struggle period. I was still a kid at the time thus was passed on from family to family during the whole period of struggle. At last I was taken to Western Province. All my uncles helped me in one way or another to raise me up in the jungle. Of course, life was really hard for me as an orphaned child being adopted by my maternal uncles. It was not a time of peace and people had to prioritize on who or what is important in their lives for that matter. I had seen and heard many children of my age died in the jungle because of hunger, neglect or other problems but thanks to those people who helped me in one way or another I managed to survive through those darkest days.
Food is always in short supply and we had to move from one location to another looking for food, cover from our enemies or for shelter. Our main foods during the time were wild yams, ferns, games and other edible plants. Cooking is always done in the night due to continuous patrols by the Indonesian military forces. No permanent homes or even settlements were built during the time we only sleep in caves due to the circumstances at the time. My difficulties in the jungle ended in 1998 when I started attending Marangtikin Elementary School. I continue on to do my grade three in Finalbin Primary School that was from 2001 to 2005. I left for Sandaun in 2005 due to problems being encountered in Finalbin between my people and the landowners. I went to Tekin Primary School in the Telefomin District of Sandaun Province.
I went through the hardest time in my life here because of the fact that in here I was adopted into a family that I will never forget in my life and also faced the unacceptable rejection and criticism from the people around me. I felt during that moment until now like I was born into this family and I almost forgot my hardship in the jungle and in Tabubil. But that was not the only offer Sandaun had to offer me, I also experienced the worst rejection in my life here too. It was when Mrs. Diliawin announced in the assembly ground about me being a foreign who just went there to steal the knowledge from Oksapmin students. Even my grade eight class patron Mr. Simon Nimion often make unnecessary negative comments about me every day before his lessons. At the end of the year I was presented and empty envelop for a first prize in Science by Mr. Nimion. The worst of all was I was not given a grade eight certificate at the end of the year even though my school fee was fully paid.
I often feel out of place but when I see Christina Tandamat my adopted mother, I always find peace and joy in being with her and the family. I cannot understand now but one thing I learnt from that experience is saying, 'it is okay, I forgive you' in front of the person who reject you even he/she does not accept your forgiveness because he/she thinks he/she is always right. It was difficult for me to concentrate but I believe that there is a God who really hears the cry of anguish of an orphan being a foreigner in a foreign country. I don't see this Great God but I always see Him performing miracles for me every day.
I don't always have money to fly from Tekin to Tabubil for holidays and I often walk almost 150 kilo meters to go to Tabubil and back after holidays. I often cross huge rivers, and high mountains without food, all for the sake of educating myself. I went through those hard times in the name of education. I learnt what it means to be patient during this period. I completed my primary and high school education from mission-run institutions of which I am always a role player in every school that I have attended. I completed Grade eight in 2006 inTekin Primary School run by the Australian Baptist Mission. I continued on to do Grade ten in Oksapmin High School run by the Papua New Guinea Bible Church. In here school fees and other needs were met by my adopted parents.
went on to do Grades eleven and twelve in Don Bosco Vanimo run by the Catholic Mission particularly the Saleseans of Don Bosco. I had a bit of headache here for school fees but thanks to Ok Tedi Mining Limited, the half of my school fee was paid. My first born brother completed the other half for both grade eleven and twelve during 2009 and 2010. In 2011 I was selected to do Bachelor of Arts – Political Science at the University of Papua New Guinea. I faced a lot of challenges during my studies in UPNG especially in terms of finance. This time the Mercy Works of Australia came to my aid and paid K4, 000.00 each year for all the four years of my university study. I only thank God for His providence, and I believe Him because God provide for me when I am really in need.
I do not always have pocket allowance but I always appreciate that at least tuition fees are fully paid and I don’t often care if I go to lecture room with dirty clothes. I really appreciate the work of Mercy Sisters for they came to my aid when I needed help the most.
I am currently appointed as the General Secretary of the Human Rights for West Papua People Protection Association Incorporated in Papua New Guinea. The organization is a newly establish organization and we are at the moment negotiatng for establishing connections with partners for funding and other technical assistance to kick start our programs. Our main office is in Port Moresby and we planning to establish branches in Vanimo and Kiunga to address issues of importance to West Papuan communities in the area.
However, I will be ever ready to work with the Mercy Works if need be because I owe you four years of your scholarship. But I believe all you wanted is for me to complete my education and look back to where my feet stands and I appreciate that. I think what I am doing is what you would want me to do after all.
For more information about the association, go to http://www.protectwestpapua.org; you can also visit my blog on; http://letmespeakfreelyplease.blogspot.com/2015/04/neles-tandamat-brief-biography.html to read more about me and my poems.
At least these are the highlights of my life in Papua New Guinea. I only praise God for His help and Thank those individuals and organizations through whom He used to help me achieve this far and I know He will still lead me into the unknown future.