The description ‘remote’ somehow seems like an understatement for the community at Maramuni. Perched on the top of a mountain in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, the small community, scattered around the grass airstrip, seems so far from the rest of the world.
They are completely cut off up here. There is no electricity, so no TV, no telephone and no radio. There are no connecting roads either. As Pilot Martin Koehler explains, many of the people here have not even seen a car.
Teacher Michael Kaupa is a relatively new addition to Maramuni. Arriving in early 2014, he and another teacher were tasked with establishing a new school for the community. It was not easy to build a school here. The place was covered in long grass. Using spades and bush knives, they cleared the area by hand to allow for a building.
Michael loves MAF. He smiles widely when he talks about his new school building, “Everything you see here, from the roofing iron down to the smallest nail came in on an MAF plane”.
He goes on to explain that in fact everything that cannot be grown in the village, is flown in – everything. Their medicines, their manufactured foods (like rice and tinned fish), the school desks, chairs, books, pencils, you get the point.
Right now, the community is thriving. Michael explains that this village has had a very violent history, one of infighting and tribal conflict. But this new school, situated on a hill above the airstrip, has brought great hope and peace to the area. They have plans to make it a boarding school – where students from outskirts can come and learn too.
The transformation brought about through the partnership with MAF is one greatly treasured by the community. They have come to love Pilot Martin Koehler. Michael jokes, “If he does die out here, we want to have his graveyard here – we don’t want to send him home!… He has been very helpful to the people of Maramuni, not just this school, but for the whole community.”