Last week I was woken up at 4.30 in the morning by the phone ringing. It was Vivien. In a desperate voice she told me quickly that the flood was really bad, up to the roof of her haus (and the houses are built on stilts!) and please can I call her back because her credit is out. I felt bewildered. When I tried to call her back the number was incorrect. I felt I was letting her down. It was like I was her lifeline to the outside world, she was asking for help, and I couldn’t do a thing. Except pray.
I did contact a friend and ask him what I should do and whether the floods could be verified. I confess I was thinking that perhaps she was calling me to get sympathy and help into Australia. Terrible scepticism, but you do hear stories of people doing that – taking advantage of your support and care. Rather quickly my friend sent through a link to the Oxfam website http://www.oxfam.org.nz/blogs/2013/05/06/floods-png which certainly verified the situation. The photos show exactly the place where Viviein’s village of Kumbarumba is located. I also came across an ABC radio interview with an Oxfam representative and what he described is just as the area is – no support, no infrastructure, little governance etc. It’s worth a listen if you want to understand a bit more about the area Living Child is working in. http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/radio/program/pacific-beat/sepik-flood-in-png-a-slow-burn-disaster-oxfam/1126918
All day I felt really ‘heavy’ with emotion as I struggled with feeling hopeless and so far away from giving help. I went through the facts in my head: bad flood, Oxfam there and helping, Australian Defence Force going to Wewak next month as part of Pacific Partnership Program, already planned months in advance. This is a joint venture between Australian and American forces to provide humanitarian support and assistance. They take engineers, doctors, health people etc to assist the communities in whatever way they can, highlighting issues and introducing Non Government Organisations (NGO) to each other and significant stake holders. By the end of the day I was starting to feel a bit better as I realised that it seems as if God already knew what was going to happen and had planned for all the humanitarian help to be going in at the right time!
Anyway, I had a call from Vivien again last night. This time I managed to track her number and return her call (Cost a fortune!! But worth talking with her). Flood waters subsiding since Sunday. They’re ok, but a baby drowned in floodwaters because women didn’t know how to do CPR. I encouraged her to teach the other women how to do it so that they can help themselves even when she’s not around.
She delivered a baby on Sunday. Mother alive, baby died. Baby had terrible deformities: one eye and no nose. I think she just wanted some reassurance that she had done everything she could and wanted some support which I gave her, telling her that there was nothing more she could have done for this baby and to just make sure the mother stays well. We talked about whether the placenta had been delivered ‘whole’ and she told me everything had gone well. She had used a birthing kit again.
She asked for some canvas to catch rainwater for drinking. I told her to use the plastic from the birthing kits to catch water for drinking and told her to teach the villagers not to drink the river water as they’ll get sick after the floods. She’s going to do that. I’ll post her some extra kits in the meantime.
I really feel I want to do all I can to get there in July. I can squeeze a trip in while kids on school holidays and they can stay with my Mum while my husband, Richard, is in QLd for work. I feel it’s important to encourage these women and reassure them, as well as reiterate what we taught last year and assist them with questions or problems that have arisen since our last visit.
Vivien says the flood waters will be down in a month’s time.
She also told me she’s pregnant again and the baby is due in 3 monthsJ. She’s hoping I’ll be there for the birth!! And if it’s a girl, she’ll name her Sara.
As we said our goodbyes, she said rather wistfully, “It was so good to talk to you Sara”. As I reflected on our conversation I felt that I was really growing to love Vivien and see her as a special friend.