Mercy Works Goroka/Mt Hagen (PNG) is a program of the Sisters of Mercy and is supported by Caritas Australia and Mercy Works (Australia). It offers support to all who are vulnerable, with a special focus on young people aged 15 to 25. Sister Maryanne Kolkia RSM, Director of Mercy Works, met Rollen in 2008.
“Mercy Works is a place for people to come and share their life journey in different circumstances, and if one person can see the goodness in herself or himself why not others?” asks Sister Maryanne. “I encourage young women and men to see themselves as they are – special and unique."
“We all have the freedom and power within ourselves to make a difference in our lives. And while Rollen’s life journey has been filled with challenges, she now believes in herself. All she needed was someone to empower her so she could make good decisions.”
Rollen grew up in Kerenga, a small village in the Bena district, Eastern Highlands Province. Her father left to remarry, so Rollen, her mother and two brothers moved in with her mum’s family. Every day, Rollen would look after the goats, care for the vegetable garden and do the housework. But she felt “useless and hopeless”, and desperately wanted more from life.
“In 2005, one Tuesday morning, my mother and I were removing pitpit roots [a type of wild cane used to build houses] from the garden. My hands were covered in painful blisters, so I went home,” said Rollen.
On her way back to the village, while looking down at her swollen hands, Rollen felt there had to be more to life. Then and there, at the age of 17, she made a life-changing decision – tomorrow she was going to start school.
The next morning, she headed to Siokiei Primary School (for children aged 10 to 17). Shaking off her nerves, Rollen visited the headmaster and told him that learning was one of her greatest desires and she really wanted to start school. The headmaster told her to join Year 7 where she took a seat alongside the younger students.
After completing Years 7 and 8, Rollen then completed Year 9 at Rintebe Lutheran High School. The following year, on World Environment Day, she volunteered to plant trees for Mercy Works. This was Rollen’s first contact with the organisation and the following day, she sat down with the Sisters.
Together, they spoke about problems affecting PNG youth such as poverty, unemployment, HIV/AIDS, addiction, high child and maternal mortality rates, law and order issues, and low rates of children accessing education. They also discussed Rollen’s life and what she wanted for the future.
“It was through Mercy Works that I’ve become a mature woman and able to make good decisions. When they asked about my future, I told them that my greatest desire was to complete Year 10. They told me about the Flexible Open and Distance Education (FODE) Centre run by the Holy Spirit Sisters. I sat the entry test and was accepted to continue my studies – which I completed.”
Mercy Works also identified opportunities for Rollen to learn budget skills so her family could earn an income. This training provided the confidence to sell their home-grown pineapples at the local market. Her mother has since expanded the vegetable garden and cares for poultry too – providing income and food for the family.
After graduating from Year 10, Rollen attended St. Ann’s Vocational Centre in Simbu and completed a tourism and hospitality course. She also studied subjects such as computing, agriculture, HIV/AIDS and health, and after completing work experience now works in a hotel in Port Moresby.
“With a humble heart I would like to acknowledge Mercy Works for their support, encouragement and advice. Thank you to the Australian people for supporting Caritas Australia and Mercy Works.”
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