A woman in Papua New Guinea driven to desperation by the lack of means to provide for her children after her husband left her for another woman is just one of many such people Sr Maryanne Kolkia of Mercy Works helps.
The woman heard of Mercy Works from a neighbour and sought their help. Mercy Works accompanied her to the child welfare office, and she obtained a court order requiring her husband to pay financial support for the children.
‘She was so pleased,’ says Sr Maryanne. ‘She said “If I am not helped … then I had no idea where to go – I would have murdered the [second] wife”.’
Many women in similar situations in Papua New Guinea have killed—either women their husbands have taken up with or their husbands—in desperation or anger.
Mercy Works in the highlands of Papua New Guinea expresses this year’s Caritas Lenten theme of ‘our commitment to others’. Sister Maryanne, visiting New Zealand as a guest of Caritas, is co-leader of Mercy Works in Goroka, the capital of Papua New Guinea’s Eastern Highlands Province.
Mercy Works, Goroka, is a new venture for the Sisters of Mercy in Papua New Guinea, supported by Mercy Works Inc (Australia). Established in September 2006, Caritas began funding them last year. One Australian and four Papua New Guinean sisters operate a drop-in and training centre, referring people to other agencies for specialised help and accompanying them where necessary to make sure they get the help they need.
Mercy Works also reaches out to women at Goroka’s Bihute women’s prison. Here they provide human rights and skills training, and support for women when they are released.
So successful has Mercy Works been that the acting provincial prison commander has asked them to extend their work to the men’s prison, resulting in a priest joining the Mercy Works team.
However, the sisters’ main target group are young people aged 15-25 in Goroka’s informal settlements. Many of these are unemployed. The sisters offer training in human rights, budgeting, parenting skills, domestic violence prevention, drug addiction awareness, and men’s and women’s health.
With encouragement to set some goals in life, Sr Maryanne has seen six young people go on to trades school and two are already in employment.
Rather than duplicating the services of other agencies, Mercy Works prefers to refer people to them. ‘We are trying to enhance,’ says Sr Maryanne, ‘so that those who benefit from the services that the agencies are providing, will have the best.
‘We believe in referral, partnership and networking,’ she says.
Mercy Works has now established a similar centre with two staff in Mt Hagen, about six hours drive away in the Western Highlands province.
Image: Sr Maryanne Kolkia greets Rebecca Moriarty at St Bernards School, Brooklyn.