At the age of 8, her parents sent her to do grade one at a boarding school. All packed was an old-fashioned suitcase with 3 overalls, 4 over-sized shirts and her school uniforms.
This is a true story of a young Papua New Guinean woman named Maggy Mase who, from humble beginnings relentlessly went on to graduate with a bachelors degree in Health Science from the Auckland University of Technology and, who now deservedly holds the position of Aerial Health Patrol Manager with the Papua New Guinea Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP) in PNG’s Western Province.
Maggy grew up in a missionary home where nothing in life seemed permanent. Almost every year Maggy and her family would move to a new place. A new house, a new school, making new friends and learning new cultures and languages were pretty much part of their life. Sometimes Maggy wondered if life could possibly get any more complicated.
As a full time missionary, Maggy’s dad often travelled to some of the most remote villages of PNG to spread the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) mission gospel. Maggy recalls her dad’s Yamaha motorcycle and his red helmet with the SDA Mission logo on the side which he proudly wore everywhere he went. Maggy’s dad would be gone for weeks. Maggy didn’t like the idea of her father being gone for too long, she would always ask to travel with him to which he’d say, “you are too small”. Eager to grow up faster so she could travel with her dad, Maggy would regularly run to her favourite guava tree outside her house to measure her height. She used the guava tree as her height chart growing up as a little girl.
For Maggy and her siblings, education started at home. Maggy’s father always said that in order to attend a ‘real’ school, they first had to learn the basics at home. Maggy didn’t know whether or not this was mandatory for all missionary kids, but whenever her dad mentioned ‘SDA Mission’ in a statement or a conversation, Maggy and her siblings took it seriously.
When Maggy was ready to attend grade one, her parents sent her to do boarding school at Rakamanda Adventist Primary School. After sucessfully completing primary school, Maggy went on to do high school at Wabag Secondary School, currently known as Sir Tei Abal Secondary School. After graduating, Maggy proceeded to Nursing school to become a registered nurse and worked for 5 years before pursuing one of her greatest dreams; to study in New Zealand (NZ).
According to Maggy, she wanted to do more than treat patients after they had already fallen ill. This fuelled her interest to further study in public health and minor psychology. She applied for the NZ Aid Scholarship Program and soon after was awarded a full scholarship to study in 2016 at the Auckland University of Technology. Off she flew to New Zealand to make one of her greatest dreams come true.
Making a difference in someone else’s life was Maggy’s biggest reason to pursue a career in Health Care. Her inspiration to study nursing came after seeing her dad pack medical supplies to take to a village called Yangis, located at the border of East Sepik and Enga provinces. Due to the lack of health services and distribution of resources, people there needed help. These basic medical supplies like bandages, paracetamol, amoxycillin and other common drugs were to be delivered to a retired Aid Post Orderly who would then administer to those in need. This was the turning point in Maggy’s life.
In New Zealand Maggy was faced with her own set of challenges. Culture shock was initially her biggest challenge. Settling in took about 6 months before she adjusted to her new life in New Zealand. Taking time seriously was another factor Maggy had to deal with; in NZ there is no ‘island time’ or ‘PNG time’. Once Maggy adapted to the “time is everything” culture, she found the real value of time.
Being pregnant while having to cope with her studies was another of Maggy’s challenges, especially when she had to wake up as early as 7am to catch buses, trains and uber to school in order to make class. Even though she sometimes wished she could sleep in – just like any pregnant mum – Maggy didn’t let that slide. Maggy became stressed that she developed hypertension in her third trimester of pregnancy. Thankfully, her medical insurance was covered allowing her to get the best medical support she needed. Maggy gave birth to a healthy baby girl in September 2016.
Being pregnant and having a baby didn’t stop her from completing her studies. Maggy pressed on, juggling motherhood and student life. Since she couldn’t afford a nanny, Maggy would bring her baby to lectures and tutorials. Sometimes, during tests or exams, her friends or her landlord would help babysit for her. Being strong was the only option she had in order to stay focused.
Maggy gives credit to her friends for being listed on the University’s Gold Student Award List. With this opportunity, Maggy applied for internship through the Pacific Cooperation Foundation (PCF) and was selected to do her internship with the Auckland District Health Board, Ministry of Health NZ in 2017.
Through sheer hard work, commitment and persistence, Maggy graduated with flying colours at the Auckland University of Technology in December 2018 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science, Major in Health Promotion and Minor Psychology. Maggy rejoices in the Lord for her achievements.
Currently based in Balimo in the Middle Fly District of Western Province, Maggy and her Aerial Health Patrol Team flies to some of the remotest villages in Western Province to support and strengthen the existing health care system. They provide health education, disease prevention which includes engaging ways to improve water, sanitation, hygiene, immunisation for children, provide family planning, antenatal care and other important health services.
Weather in Western Province is one of the biggest challenges Maggy and her team face. Flooding occurs when it rains and this makes it more difficult for people to access basic health services.
Maggy prays to see improvement and better health outcomes for this country. She would also like to see health sector reorientation towards factors that influence the health status of individuals or population (determinants of health) in PNG. Maggy believes this is the new way forward.
This inspirational young woman from Lenki village in Enga Province says passion keeps her going. She loves everything about her job. Papua New Guinea needs more examples of passion driven individuals like Maggy who is commited in her mission to help others and serving the people in her community.
“Life is all about finding your passion”, says Maggy. “And when you’re at it, reach out to help others”. Maggy would like to empower all women and girls to find their passions and never give up.