Porgera: Hope in a challenging environment

By Carlo Demaio, TDi Senior Consultant

October 2019

As we drive to the office complex to begin our final day’s work, I reflect on the beauty, challenges and hospitality that we have observed over our previous four days in Porgera, PNG.

The day is cool, crisp and there is a stunning mist blanketing the valley. Our drive is not long; approximately 15 minutes takes us from our razor-fenced sleeping compound, through Porgera township, past the bustling illegal market and black-market gold dealers, along a series of winding, corrugated dirt tracks to the office.

We take the Highlands Highway, passing numerous large-scale infrastructure projects (including a police barracks, school, church and state-of-the-art general hospital) paid for by Porgera’s gold mine as part of a national tax credit scheme. There is an eclectic mix of new multi-storey residences, aging commercial infrastructure and traditional settlement homesteads dispersed throughout the landscape. Poverty levels in the area are staggering and illegal mining is becoming increasingly common and violent. We hear of 30-40,000 illegal miners living beyond the horizon in extreme conditions.

As we continue our journey in the armoured vehicle, Mount Paiam stands tall, beautiful, elusive and with an air of danger. It has a commanding presence throughout a valley that I liken to memories of Jurassic Park. As a hiker I am longing to explore it, but we are told it is unsafe to venture outside of the gated compounds for risk of tribal conflict and in-migrant violence. For now, I will admire its beauty through the bars over my windows and hope that one day the valley finds peace.

As we arrive at the office compound we are greeted by a warmth, generosity and positivity, that contrasts the challenges facing Porgera. We are meeting with the Directors of an incredible not-for-profit charged with building empowerment for local women in the region. The association represents the interests of 6500 women, and within this challenging environment develops and delivers local programs and activities that provide economic empowerment and employment pathways, health and wellbeing and education.

The Directors are powerful women, strong community leaders and respected champions for women of Porgera District. They are grounded by their history and current context but look to the future with an impressive sense of optimism, enthusiasm and urgency. They are genuinely living their mission to impact the lives of their members and do so with complete understanding of the challenges they face.

We have been invited to help them build out a viable model for an existing social enterprise that they run; to ensure that it is both sustainable and impactful and can fund a broad range of local community programs. We will also help to explore and commercialise alternative micro-business ideas, to deliver greater value across the Highlands. The opportunity to create value in Porgera is real and significant. We are excited about the potential for this project to drive sustainable change for generations to come.

For me personally, Porgera is one of the most challenging environments I have worked in and at the same time one of the most welcoming and rewarding. I feel privileged to have been invited into this world and look forward to a lasting relationship with our new “family”.

Spread the love

Meet Difference Maker, Ruth

Ruth has worked closely with us on several projects including the Laikim Sister program, as well as our ongoing work with bilum.

Holiday Recommendations – 21/22

Looking for some reading, listening or watching recommendations for the holiday season?Throughout the year, in our Newsletter, we have shared various recommendations for reading, listening and watching. We share some of these below that you might like to enjoy over...

Meet our WOW participants

We introduce you to some of the participants of the Women of the World program, due to begin in early 2022.

PNG Local Business Coach focus: Mari Ellingson

Empowering women in business is something we’re very passionate about. So when we get to build local capacity in our women-led business coaching program it’s even more exciting, as the potential impact is so much greater. Mari is one of our Local Business Coach...

Women of the World

Women of the World – a cohort business program offering economic independence and health literacy programs for migrant and refugee women.

PNG Local Business Coach focus: Mary Handen

We are excited to be partnering and building local capacity in our women-led business coaching program in PNG. Mary is one of our Local Business Coach (LBC) participants and we have loved working with her over these past few months. We caught up recently and want to...

Business and mindset coaching offers key to covid recovery for women-led businesses in PNG

TDi are working with PNG Women’s Business Resource Centre to recruit and coach a total of 100 women-led SMEs (or deliver 800 hours of coaching) over four rounds of coaching from May through to December, with an average of 200 hours of coaching per round. Alongside, 4 Local Business Coaches are being trained in TDi’s method to continue to support women-led SMEs in PNG. Here are the results for the first of the four rounds of coaching.

What 10 years and deep curiosity has taught us

Last year TDi celebrated 10 years, and over that time we’ve had the opportunity to travel with a number of organisations and often get a bird’s eye view of what’s going on. Recently, TDi’s CEO Anthea Smits, had the opportunity to reflect on what the past 10 years and deep curiosity has taught us. This article is a reflection on our top 6 learnings.

Meaningful Conversations about Reconciliation

This month’s Meaningful Conversation coincided with the start of National Reconciliation Week so we took the opportunity to explore the notion of reconciliation, and particularly this year’s theme which invites brave action.

Using the Business Model Canvas

When it comes to creating a new business, one question looms larger than all others: “Does this have potential?” The Business Model Canvas is a great starting point. This blog by TDi’s Isaac Jeffries describes how to fill out it out.