M·CAM Teams Up With Model Village To Create The First Private Water Utility in Papua New Guinea
CHARLOTTESVILLE,VA & FAREA MODEL VILLAGE, PAPUA NEW GUINEA- Two weeks ago a team from M•CAM Inc. returned back to Charlottesville, Virginia having launched another example of humanity’s untapped potential. They successfully helped a team in Papua New Guinea to create the first privately owned community water utility project in the country. The following is a recap of the project by team member, Katie Martin.
The story goes like this. One day it hits them, the perfect idea to fix [insert massive worldwide problem here]. They schedule meetings, talk to investors, draw up a strategy, and things start coming together; at least for now. One of them gets the flu, another gets a promotion at work, someone else decided to move and has to put their kids through private school. In all of the madness the idea gets lost. “There’s not enough funding!” “I just don’t have the time.” “They’ve got me working on this new project that requires my full attention.” “No one will take us seriously.” Alas, another great idea gets pushed aside to the chaos of life and a group of people goes hungry / without water / dies of curable disease. This is not that story. I don’t want to spoil the ending but, this is a story about aligning resources and empowering a community of people from all around the world to bring drinkable, cholera-free water to a community of 5,000 displaced peoples in Papua New Guinea.
“Why Papua New Guinea?” you may be asking yourself. The real question is, why not? When people talk about Papua New Guinea, most of them have no clue where it is or ask why you’re going to Africa. The few who actually have a glimmer of context immediately jump to the mid-twentieth century fables of Margaret Mead and her contorted representation of the country. They could not be more inaccurate. Papua New Guinea is a conglomerate of islands to the north of Australia. The “main island” and setting for our story is the Eastern half of the island Papua New Guinea shares with Indonesia. It is a tropical country with a climate and environment that looks like any postcard of paradise would. It is a place rich with resources, beautiful people, abundant agriculture, and Jurassic Park-like views. Unfortunately, most of the world only sees one of these things and, I’ll give you a hint, it’s not Jurassic Park. For years and years, Papua New Guinea has been disenfranchised and exploited for its natural resources. Gold, copper, silver, gas, oil, you name it, there is some one some where claiming it and contributing to the loss of this paradise. This is where our story begins
Aided by “development bank” misinformation and opaque business negotiations, Esso Highlands Limited, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil Corporation, received a license to be the latest addition to the legacy of the exploitation of Papua New Guinea and its resources. Bolstered by their off-take agreement with Sinopec Limited in November of 2009, Exxon agreed to sell millions of tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG), relocating millions of dollars to investors’ wallets and thousands of people from their homes. Thousands of highlands communities have become “Exxon refugees”, forced to move to coastal regions with different temperatures, food, air quality, and access (or lack thereof) to drinking water. Imagine being taken from your home and forced to live some where that is reversed in every way. Though it is possible to thrive for a short time in a new environment, over time these environmental changes become detrimental to the health and well-being of every displaced individual. While there are many displaced persons scattered throughout the country of Papua New Guinea, somewhere between ten and fifteen thousand have descended upon the capital of Port Moresby, many living in houses on the water because there isn’t enough land area to house them all. These encampments have no gardens, no potable water, no sanitation, and have no prospect of having these issues addressed.
Fast forward to 2011. Enter M•CAM, Inc., David Martin, and Clemence Kanau. For about six years, M•CAM and David Martin, Founder and Chairman, have been working on a broad spectrum of community engagement projects in Papua New Guinea. In May of 2011, Martin met with Clemence Kanau, who is planning to run for Parliament in an attempt to build a new sense of identity for Papua New Guinea by demonstrating a type of policy which would address the real needs of the communities. One way he has demonstrated his genuine care for the people of Papua New Guinea is through the creation of the Farea village (a model village just northeast of the Port Moresby airport). If everything went according to plan, Farea would be the new home of the five displaced communities: the Kafe, Okapa, Lufa, Asaro, and Marawaka; each with their own unique customs and culture.
"Most people see a place for what it lacks rather than what it has and, as a result of these preconditioned value judgments, we overlook the value inherent in every human community. –David Martin"
Keeping what the community had in abundance in mind, Kanau and Martin worked with the displaced elders and together came to the conclusion clean water was the critical building block upon which Farea could thrive.
So what exactly was their solution? Utilize Farea’s abundant wind currents and construct a windmill powered water pump. The deal would be structured so the windmill would be the basis for water utility. Income from the utility would be allotted to maintain operation of the current windmill, pay utility employees, invest in additional pump and windmill technologies, and begin a savings to fund the implementation of a future water pump in another community. By structuring the project this way, Farea would become the first private sector water utility in the country.
After reading a blog post detailing the project, David’s parents, Aaron and Ruth Martin, decided to answer the call to step up and helped by offering to financially support the windmill. “Our intention is to give back to the people what is theirs. Everybody should share the abundance equally,” says Aaron Martin. M•CAM then contacted and partnered with Aermotor, a company founded in 1888 based out of San Angelo, Texas, to shift this idea into a reality. Aermotor agreed to supply the windmill, which would convert wind energy to mechanical energy to pump water, for simply the cost of materials as their contribution to this story. Since Aermotor representatives could not be on the ground in Papua New Guinea, a small delegation from the Farea project traveled to Texas to learn how to construct a windmill. The team consisting of David Martin, Ken Dabkowski, Edward West, Kim Smith, and Ditrick Dunn all learned the details of constructing Aermotor’s 20 foot windmill, which is only slightly different from the actual 33 foot Farea windmill. After returning to Virginia, Ken Dabkowski compiled all the pictures, video, and audio from their time in Texas into a comprehensive instruction manual, and video. A Windmill Technology book was also compiled by Ken, Andrew Trabulsi, and the M•CAM analyst team. Now all the U.S. team could do was wait; wait until the PNG team confirmed the windmill had arrived, it had been unloaded from the ship, that it had made it to the work site, and water had been located.
In January of 2012, the U.S. team received word the time to head to Papua New Guinea had arrived. In early February, Aaron, Ruth, Colleen, and Katie Martin, Dylan Korelich, and Greg Smith left for Port Moresby with tools, instruction manuals, and videos in tow. They left the snow flurries of the East Coast for the sweltering heat and humidity of the South Pacific.
After a total travel time of 38 hours, the team arrived in Port Moresby. Upon their arrival, the team was greeted with a customary Eastern Highlands welcome and mumu (a traditional celebratory meal). Following the celebration, Clemence Kanau addressed the U.S. team, people from the Farea village, local police, and an elected representative of the district explaining the project and welcoming the group. Aaron Martin discussed his background and expressed his gratitude for the warm welcome and his excitement to begin construction. After much merriment and good food, the group settled into their host house and prepared for the next day.
The next day David Martin and Dustin DiPerna arrived and the team was now complete. They made their first trip out to the site. Luckily, the rain had held off the night before making it possible to maneuver down the dirt road and across the river. Upon their arrival to the site, David addressed the group (now consisting of five representatives from each village of Farea, the group from the States, and numerous onlookers), explaining the project and what was to come in the next week. He also explained the role of the unknown beneficiary, Ruth’s Uncle, John Parsons. Having no children of his own, Uncle John distributed his estate among his nephews and nieces. It was this inheritance which provided all the funding for the project. Uncle John had also been stationed on the battleship supporting U.S. troops stationed on Gunner’s Hill, the hill directly behind the windmill during World War II.
And so the manifestation of the windmill began. Fan blades were assembled, the tower constructed, the remaining parts carried to the site (including the 2,000 pound motor which was carried by eight men for roughly ¾ of a mile), the footer holes dug, leveled, and cemented; all in a matter of days. The team working on the windmill, utilized teamwork to repair the road to the windmill site, improvised on parts of the construction which were not covered in the instruction manual, and became a seamlessly integrated group of people working together towards a common goal and enduring the same hardships, if only for a week.
On day three, the group was faced with their toughest challenge: hoisting the tower without a crane. In a true test of strength, the group came together and manually erected the tower. Some pushed, others pulled, and some even lifted and stabilized using logs, but after a precarious half an hour, the tower was standing. As the group gathered around the tower in true astonishment and awe, a storm which had been hovering on the horizon unleashed a vivid rainbow across the sky.
But with each success came more hard work. The theme of the night was, “How do you raise a 14 foot fan weighing over 2,000 pounds 33 feet in the air, without a crane?” Luckily, all of the physics and mathematical equations never made it into practice because Clemence and Theresa Arek (aka “T”) found a crane which would brave the treacherous mud filled road to the site. As David and Tevien, the Chairman of Farea, climbed to the top of the tower to guide the fan onto the pump, everyone watching held their breath in anticipation for a suspense filled hour. Once the fan slid into place, the crowd erupted with joyful cheer! After a local merchant agreed to make a pump component which was lost en route, all of the final touches were complete and the village of Farea had water!
The following week, Farea celebrated with a Sing Sing (a traditional celebration of singing and dancing accompanied by a customary meal). Aaron and Ruth were honored by being carried into the site atop decorated chairs amongst a procession of approximately 2,000 men, women, and children. Following the beautiful celebration, the windmill was officially christened, and the ribbon was cut as David and Tevien climbed the tower, spun the fan, and water flowed!
“People who have not heard of this little struggle in a lonely grassy spot in the hills behind ATS settlement will one day benefit and its all thanks to this group of selfless people. God bless the Martins and the [M•CAM] team. May God also bless Clemence Kanau and a lady only known as ‘T’ for their love and compassion for the less fortunate within our communities. Our lives are better because such caring people never stand by and watch when help is needed.” -Eddie Moses, Sunday Chronicle