Just six months into CUFA’s Pathways For Youth program, country manager Yaman Kutlu is already seeing progress in this beautiful land once ripped apart by civil war.
Yaman, 29, who took over as Bougainville Country Program Manager in June 2015, said: It has been a major motivation for me seeing the impact of the work – the positive response that everyone has given to the program so far, and knowing that after we leave there will be some great outcomes.”
He is struck by the effort the young people are making to participate in the program. “People are dispersed over a wide area,” he explained, “so they may have to walk two or three hours just to get to training. But once they hear about it, there is no problem getting them to come along.”
Bougainville’s bloody civil war which resulted in being granted a degree of political autonomy from PNG in 1997, broke the education system completely. As a result, a whole generation – the parents of the youth now being helped by CUFA’s programs – did not go to school. Communities have been ravaged by high levels of drug and alcohol abuse: they are aptly called ‘the lost generation’.
Now Pathways For Youth is building from the ground up: from teaching important basic life skills like how to communicate and how to be on time for appointments, through to transformational financial literacy.
“No-one saves or thinks about the future at present,” explained Yaman. “The financial literacy education will really help them to move into their own income-generating roles, and to start rebuilding.”
“Development can now occur”
When Yaman landed in Bougainville last year he was immediately struck by the beauty of the land, as well as the people. “They are incredible,” he said. “From coming out of such conflict and trauma they are very friendly and are very proud of their country.
All the remnants of the civil war are still there – the decay and left over damage. It must be hard to move on when that’s in your face. But now with these programs in place, we know that development can occur.”
For Yaman, who has a Masters in Development Studies from Sydney University and worked on water projects in Tanzania before joining CUFA, the everyday challenges in Bougainville are more than outweighed by the outcomes.
“I was amazed by how remote it is. Even getting around is difficult: if you use a vehicle, it has to be 4WD, because roads are not very good. We may have to travel three to six hours to reach the villages: it’s amazing mountainous terrain, with jungles and huge rivers … and it rains daily – it really pours. There are no proper bridges, so people often have to wait until the waters subside to continue their journeys.”
Yaman’s village visits with International Program Manager, Kundi Lay, have laid important foundations throughout the island: “When we first started visiting villages, we needed to be welcomed by the chief,” Yaman explained. “We had to make it clear why we were there – to help them – because they are suspicious of outsiders.” An added complication was the fact that everyone speaks pidgin English, which Yaman is now quickly learning.
The next phase, to run in parallel with the village youth program, is a schools program which starts in February. By the end of the two-year program, the aim is to reach 10,000 beneficiaries and bring about a sustainable future for Australia’s next door neighbours.
How are you?
Yu stap gut? (yoo stahp goot?)
My name is ______ .
Nem bilong mi emi ______ . (naym bee-LONG mee em ee _____ .)
Do you speak English?
Yu save long tok Inglis, a? (yoo SAH-veh long tohk ING-glis ah?)