Interview with Yepina Matuan – Head of Health Program in Yasumat
(Pictured centre above)
Explaining the impact Papua Partners has had in Yasumat
Yasumat was started by the elders in our communities. There were many needs and the government was too far away to help. They had heard that working with a charity could help them with their needs but there was none so they decided to set up an organization themselves. They called it Yasumat, which stands for Social Foundation for Isolated Peoples. However, once they set it up they had the organization but didn’t know how to make it work so that they could help their people.
Since Papua Partners came to work with us we have seen a lot of change in Yasumat. It is impossible for me to describe everything we have been able to achieve in the 6 years since we have been working together. They have helped us improve our management and all our activities. Because of Papua Partners working with us we can make real improvements in the lives of our people.
We have been able to work better in areas of village management, health, education, economic development, and forestry. We have also started to prioritise women in our work as if we don’t change the lives of women then it is difficult to change a community for the better.
I graduated from a village health program as a midwife and never went to university. I never thought that I would be leading a health program which would be able to reach so many people. The Papua Partners facilitator, Naomi Sosa that works with us is able to see the potential that we have and then help us to work out how to reach our dream for our area. Last year I was even able to present our work in front of government officials from the province of Papua and also from our district. They want to use what we do as an example to other areas.
Before we imagined that we would have economic groups and that women’s lives could be improved and that they would believe in themselves more…but we got stuck in how to do it. Now, I am involved in doing this work – we are confident to work in our communities and share our knowledge.
The Papua Partners trainer has worked with us every day in our activities and has had patience while we learn. Others would have been bored after the second or third or even fourth time helping us with the same thing. Papua Partners have stayed with us and now we can do the project management and administration by ourselves. Personally, one of the main things I have learnt is self confidence, belief that I can do amazing things with God’s help. I am proud of how we have grown.
Papua Partners has also opened our eyes to other ways to work to achieve change and start to solve the problems around us. I used to only understand how to work with women and children’s health by directly helping women in a clinic. Now in the health program we have started to work with over 2000 youth that are in our town studying. We are working with TB, HIV and AIDS patients and have even been able to set up our own TB shelter. We also know how to use drama, how to train others and also importantly how to advocate the health needs of the people to the government.
We are currently training health workers in the villages in 9 church dioceses to better serve their communities. This covers a population of over 50,000 people. Due to this we have been able to reduce the incidence of TB and Malaria as well as improve the number of women having emergencies in birth in remote areas.
There are still many challenges that we face, including the increasing incidence of AIDS, poor coverage of immunization and poor nutrition. But we are now able to look at these challenges and know that we can do something…this is what Papua Partners have done.
They have understood us, walked with us, suffered with us and seen our hearts…and helped us to achieve impossible things.