An interview with peacebuilder Willie Kerenga from Papua New Guinea, one of the winners of our Tomorrow’s Peacebuilders awards 2014. The 2015 awards are now open for entries.
Our community have been fighting for all these years, and as a result of us making peace and coming together as one people, we have managed to act with a common purpose, which is to maintain peace and change the lifestyle of our people. We want them to feel that fighting is wrong and we are now looking to bring prosperity and success, a new life, to our people. The people have changed over the years through the programmes that we conduct.
We also implement reforestation and conservation projects. A lot of trees were cut down during the fighting, including our coffee trees, because warring clans came to destroy them. We are now trying to revive and bring back the environment to what it used to be.
Caritas Australia is our long term partner, and funds us so that we can educate our people on different aspects such as economic issues, education for our kids and the building of schools.
It was a boost for us as a local community in Papua New Guinea. Peace Direct has recognised our efforts, through their annual Tomorrow’s Peacebuilders competition. We have won, out of the many applications they received from all over the world, and we are very privileged to have become a winner. Of course, this prize has enabled us to go one step forward and amalgamate and strengthen our foundations to pursue our interest and common purpose, to build peace.
We used this money to conduct a Refresher Course targeted at changing the mindset of our community police officers. We call them community protection officers or community law enforcers. At the inauguration of our group, we also laid down 22 community laws and these are enforced and monitored by our own officers on the ground. So we have used this money to train them, so that they can be on the ground making sure our 22 community-based laws are being followed.
Our police officers are excited, they are all volunteers like me. They have received funding from Peace Direct and this has changed their mindset, and made them work extra hard. It is such a great opportunity to be connected with a reputable peacebuilding organisation.
Being recognised by Peace Direct has extended, promoted and supported our work in the community. Our people are motivated, they are excited because of the support that we get from this.
We want to look at our natural environment now – we are planting trees and contributing to conservation efforts. For example, we have penalties for people who start bush fires, which we enforce through our community protection officers. With the help of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), we are trying to improve the environmental conditions and to educate our people to look at the environment alongside building peace. We also have connections with UNDP and our national Department of the Environment and Conservation. Also, with the support of our local member of parliament we are building a local training centre for our community police officers, which we will use to train new officers.
Willie Kerenga co-ordinates United Nauro-Gor, a grassroots organisation that promotes peace between previously warring tribal groups in Papua New Guinea.
To enter the 2015 awards, or sponsor them, see here visit www.peacedirect.org/tp . Entries are open until 15 September 2015.