Naomi, 55 years old, couldn't recall the exact year of her birth, but when recollecting some significant milestones in her life, she estimates she is in her mid-50’s. She has a son who now lives in Panguna with his wife.
Naomi adopted her niece, also named Naomi when she was three years old. Naomi (niece) is now a very bright teenager and will complete her Grade 8 this year and aspires to make something of herself. Both Naomis are from Tuarerukung village in Kieta, Central Bougainville.
Naomi was not born with a disability; rather, she acquired it in 2015 when the brakes of the vehicle she was travelling in failed and the vehicle reversed into a deep crevasse not far from her village. Her knee and thigh bones were fractured in several places, and she was crutch dependent for a number of years following the accident.
In a quiet voice, Naomi smiles, rubs her scars and says, “I have my days. Some days are good days, but when my knee joint locks up, I need the aide of my crutches. Lately, my injury has been okay so I have been able to walk unaided a lot.” Naomi can walk unaided but has a very pronounced limp.
Being born with full mobility, Naomi took for granted the ease of everyday chores, tasks and the use of all her limbs. She recalls that she never really appreciated the little things like being able to fetch water, or walking down to the river, or using the toilet located just outside her home.
Life took on a new twist when the accident happened almost 5 years ago now. “I was really unprepared for the unprecedented changes and adjustments I had to make to life and the way I did things. For a while, I could not wash, fetch water, or even go to the toilet unless someone assisted me.” Naomi recalls as she looks nonchalantly at the ground.
“Before World Vision’s WaSH team visited my village, we were openly defecating and our children were getting sick. For me and the other disabled female in the village, we did not have any toilets for disabled people. We remained at the mercy of family members who had to help us to use the toilet. This was embarrassing for me” Naomi sadly recalls.
Now Naomi is the proud owner of a toilet constructed and modified by WVPNG WaSH officers through the Klinpela Komuniti Projek (KKP) for disabled persons. Naomi is very grateful for her new lease on life. “I know it does not sound like it’s a big thing, but honestly, the disabled toilet helped me to restore my integrity and independence. It gave me a new lease on life.”
“World Vision’s Klinpela Komuniti Projek WaSH officers also taught all of us in Tuarerukung so much. We did not know about the hazards of openly defecating, or defecating in our rivers and contaminating them. We also did not know about proper water sanitation and hygiene for our health,” says Naomi.
Naomi’s new lease on life restored integrity and independence has given her motivation to fulfil her dreams of finishing construction of her own home. She understands that although her life will never be the same as it was before, she has come to terms with this. She has a natural talent for weaving mats, and handcraft sewing which she sells to earn her keep, help pay for Naomi.J’s school fees and is now slowly saving for building material to construct her own home in Tuarerukung.
Naomi feels so blessed in that World Vision recognized her disability and helped her and another disabled woman in the village when they were implementing the KKP project and building toilets in Tuarerukung.
On June 23rd of this year, Tuarerukung and nearby village Iaru were declared ‘Open Defecation Free’ (ODF) by World Vision’s KKP WaSH officers. To celebrate the occasion, guests from project partners in Bougainville Education and Health were present to witness the declaration in Tuarerukung village.
The ODF declaration confirmed that 32 households in Tuarerukung and Iaru villages had constructed one VIP toilet each for their households. The KKP project directly benefitted 92 people (in Tuarerukung and Iaru communities), 32 male, and 35 female and 25 children.
Naomi could hardly suppress her gratitude to World Vision and its WaSH project. Naomi also thanked the WaSH officers who worked in her community and acknowledged UNICEF and European Union for finding the KKP project in Tuarerukung and other villages in Central and South Bougainville.
Naomi was among the Tuarerukung community members on hand to witness the ODF celebration hosted by Tuarerukung village. As a direct beneficiary and empowered person living with disability in Central Bougainville, Naomi had a few parting words for other persons living with disabilities in Central Bougainville, “To other disabled persons, if World Vision and its Klinpela Komuniti Projek are working in your community, raise your hand for help. It might sound funny, or weird, but just having my own toilet has given a new sense of self-worth in life.”
The Klinpela Komuniti Projek is co-founded by EU, UNICEF and PNG Government and implemented by World Vision with technical guidance from UNICEF. World Vision is working closely with 3 Districts (Wakunai, Panguna & Kieta) in Central Bougainville, and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Regional WaSH committees, the Provincial Health, Education are Key WaSH partners who play a key role in the sustainability of the project in Central Bougainville Region to accomplish the Central Region WaSH Plan.
Story by Rozalia Dala-Boyd