The Bulldogs have made a return to the Papua New Guinea region of New Ireland Province where we have completed a number of community projects over the years.
Past players Reni Maitua, Corey Hughes, Daniel Holdsworth and Jarrad Hickey, along with Wellbeing and Education Managers Steve Pike (Bulldogs) and Paul Heptonstall (NRL) visited Kavieng over eight days.
The visit consisted of the completion of the re-construction of a school building on Enuk Island that the Bulldogs have been working on over the past 3 years. The frame and roof was assembled and built over a few days enabling the school community to access much needed classroom space. The group certainly experienced the tropical conditions with construction work done in humid and stifling heat without the luxury of conventional transport, power tools and standard working conditions.
This was the sixth Bulldogs visit to PNG with a number of programs conducted, namely visiting schools and spreading positive messages to complete their schooling, respect others, healthy living and assisting with the construction of the schools on Enuk Island and Nehemiah Christian School.
"I just love coming up here every year and helping the community, be it with the construction work which is my background, or visiting schools where the kids love our gifts of footy gear. These visits are real eye openers that us in Australia mostly take for granted, yet for the locals it’s their way of life done without a fuss or complaint" said Corey Hughes following his fourth visit to the region.
A highlight of the trip was a day spent with the volunteer doctors with Australian Doctors International visiting the Lemakot Health Centre and witnessing firsthand the provision of medical aid to rural villagers exposed to diseases rarely seen in Australia, such as malaria and tuberculosis but also respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases and births often performed in bush surroundings.
The players presented the ADI doctors with a 20 of head torches to assist with their integrated health patrols to outlying aid centres where electricity at night is not consistent.
NRL Wellbeing and Education Manager Paul Heptonstall saw great value in getting more players involved in this project.
“Experiencing firsthand the work that the Bulldogs have done was a personally satisfying. Seeing the gratitude from the local villagers that their school was now operational, seeing the smiling faces of kids when presented with a small gift brought a lot of pride knowing that a small difference for the better was made. I envisage other clubs becoming involved and maybe other projects identified in rugby league developing nations,” said Heptonstall.
For first timer Reni Maitua it was a trip that he will long remember.
“I’ve been to many places and on many trips overseas but this was undoubtedly one of the best. The work, the scenery and the hospitality of the people was phenomenal. The fact that as a surfer I could catch a few waves at the end of a hard day was a bonus and the diet of seafood and local fruits was exceptional,” added Maitua.
The group also had an opportunity to re-visit the Nehemiah Christian School where work in the early years was done and an official opening was conducted in 2015. The students were excited to see the Bulldogs return and each student was presented with a Bulldogs cap that co-incidently matched their blue and white uniform.
The trip concluded with a stopover in Port Moresby and an opportunity to watch the Rugby League World Cup clash between PNG and Wales. The sold out match saw Bulldogs player Rhyse Martin score two tries and kick five goals in a dominant PNG display.
Since 2012 a number of past and present players have participated including Moses Mbye, Adam Elliott, Marty Taupau, Leilani Latu, Tim Browne, Chris Heighington, Antonio Kaufusi, Luke Patten, Mark O’Meley, Steve Turner, Brad Morrin and Adam Peek.
“It’s a real humbling experience to get the opportunity to mix with this remote community of 300 people and see the way the live is amazing. To be able to physically help create something to help with kids education and way of life is so rewarding," said Daniel Holdsworth.
The project was supported by the Bulldogs with assistance from Apprenticeship Support Australia, who as part of the NSW Business Chamber, support apprenticeship recruitment and retention, Australian Vocational Training Academy and Bulldogs Corporate Partner Eddy Chahine Property Solutions.