A passion for people, God and PNG

Maryanne Kolkia RSM

Mercy Sister Maryanne Kolkia is living out an uplifting and life-giving vocation assisting with Mercy Works in PNG, where the Sisters of Mercy are making a difference improving the lives of people in this poor Pacific nation.

Growing up in the village of Goglme in Papua New Guinea’s Highlands during the 1970s and 80s,  Sr Maryanne Kolkia was aware of people experiencing poverty but says “it wasn’t as evident” as it is now. “There has been a lot of change in a short amount of time,” she says.

Poverty levels have increased dramatically throughout the country, and according to Maryanne, the situation is getting worse. Currently, about 40 per cent of the population live on less than $1 a day; life expectancy and literacy rates are low, while maternal and infant mortality rates are excessively high. PNG also has the highest incidence of HIV in the Pacific region.

In large towns like Goroka and Mt Hagen in the Highlands, rapid urbanisation has contributed to an increase in unemployment, overcrowding, violence and crime. To combat some of these issues, the Sisters of Mercy of PNG, in partnership with Mercy Works Inc. – the relief and development agency of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia – launched a new project in 2006, known as Mercy Works PNG.

Sr Maryanne has been involved in the project since the outset and believes it is making an impact by empowering young people and their families in Goroka and Mt Hagen to address the serious problems of poverty, unemployment, domestic violence and HIV-AIDS.

The team of seven – which includes PNG Sisters of Mercy, Mariska Kua, Theresia Boyek and Claudia Apalenda – has established drop-in and referral centres at Goroka and Mt Hagen which offer skill development workshops, support groups and individual advocacy and referral services.

An outreach service is also available to villages beyond these towns. Services covered include human rights awareness, health education, violence prevention, parenting skills, and cooking, sewing, budgeting and income-generation activities.

“It’s amazing to see how much we’ve done,” says Sr Maryanne.

Maryanne is passionate about making a positive difference in her own country and bringing the mercy of God to the individuals she encounters. She believes it is vital “to let people know that someone is listening to them, to bring hope, to help people to believe in themselves, to uplift their lives”.

Read full article: Profile of Maryanne Kolkia RSM (Sisters of Mercy)

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Mercy Works (homepage)

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