By KINGSTON NAMUN
MANUS has an area of about 2,100 square kilometers and among its vast open seas of 220,000 square kilometers are numerous islands, some inhabited and some not.
While some of these islands are large and can house several villagers like Lou, Rambutso, Pak and Baluan, others like Nyapio are so small that no one would think people live there.
Nyapio Island, better known as Johnston Island, today has 14 households and a population of just under 50 people who call this isolated island their home. The island, on the south coast of Manus, is part of Ward 6 of the Pobum Local Government Zone.
Nyapio is about a kilometer long, about 300 meters wide, and has sparse vegetation. These Titan-speaking people do not have a commercial store, school or first-aid post on the island.
Their livelihood and main source of income is fishing. They fish at sea and then sell their catch to villages along the Manus mainland or Lorengau for cash or trade fish with the islanders of Lou for fresh vegetables.
It doesn’t grow much on the island
On the island they have coconuts, bananas, taro and very few sago palm trees, but nothing grows here as the island is only three or four meters above sea level Even water is scarce on this island and when the seasonal trade winds get harsh, food from the sea becomes even harder to find, sometimes making hunger a problem.
The Nyapio sail on outrigger canoes to mainland Manus or the surrounding islands of M’buke, Lou or Baluan or sail to the nearest health service provider at Patu health center on the mainland of Manus about two four hours away.
One person I spoke to explained to me that once he had to take two children, most likely with malaria, with their mothers, and sail his canoe to the town of Lorengau. They started the journey in the middle of the night using the stars as a guide.
Throughout the journey, the mothers kept cold pressure on the children’s bodies just to keep their fever at bay during this three-hour voyage on the high seas. They arrived in Lorengau as day was breaking.
Although their story seems sad and difficult, this is what makes them resilient in the face of constant trials and lingering hardships.
I usually write on my blog lopoki.com about community initiatives at Manus, so I was pleasantly surprised when I was invited by the community in September to come and see a small project they had started at the beginning of. This year.
You see, being resilient means that when everything seems to be going bad or difficult, strong people emerge and stand up to provide solutions to the problems facing their communities. The Nyapio people are resilient. They sat down and thought long and hard about how they could solve some of their community issues. They knew that the island, in its simplest and most mundane form, would always provide the solution.
They decided to build some kind of community complex that would provide them with an income to support themselves on the island.
They understood that thanks to such an enterprise, much more would come and that eventually a school or a first aid post would become viable on their small island.
That way, they wouldn’t have to send their children to the mainland of Manus for months on end to get a basic education or sail the high seas just to get access to life-saving medicine.
The young elite of the village, who live in Port Moresby, supported this movement and started by making a contribution in cash and in kind.
About ten young men from the island eventually built two bungalows – one completed – using traditional materials like wood, sago leaves, bamboo thatch walls, etc., while the other, yet to be completed, has an iron roof. They are also building a septic toilet and a shower room. They sourced the raw materials from the Manus mainland and shipped the rest of the materials from Lorengau.
A community station
In November, through my small non-profit nongovernmental organization called Lopoki Inc, I organized a three-day basic housekeeping training for 10 of the locals. The community complex fully funded the three-day training on their island.
Lopoki worked in partnership with the trade division of the provincial government of Manus and the training center of Manus to carry out the training. The Trade Division, through its Business Development Officer Pius Kuweh, and Manus Training Center Tourism and Hospitality Instructor Albert Pih were both on the island to facilitate the sessions.
Pih focused his training on three main areas of housekeeping (store and inventory control), guest accommodation and laundry, and room maintenance.
The training enabled participants to acquire basic housekeeping skills and increase their knowledge and ability to manage guests.
I can already see that the community has taken the initiative to construct two semi-permanent buildings housing four rooms for about eight people when they visit the community complex.
The islanders of Nyapio have proven they want to make changes in their community and so they worked with Lopoki Inc. to make sure this training takes place.
The very fact that they do not have a first aid station or even a primary school says a lot about the suffering they have had to endure all these years. It’s inspiring to see Islanders stand on their own two feet and build something that will support them as a community.
If you would like to visit Nyapio Island Getaway Resort, please visit the website: https://nyapoislandgetawayresort.com for more information.
You will not regret your decision to visit. If you are visiting, please commit to giving something back to the island with a program or session while you are there through your passion, education and work so that better cultural learning is mutual.
- Kingston Namun is the founder of Lopoki Inc, a nonprofit NGO based in Manus.