All hands on deck: Opening the Ben Isikel e-library

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Bernadette Isikel, the Adventurers leader at Hoxton Park church, travelled from her home in Sydney to visit her siblings and attend the grand opening of the Ben Isikel e-library at Lemeris Primary School in October 2023.

In the heart of New Ireland, a province of Papua New Guinea, sits Lemeris Primary School. To reach this remote Primary School, one needs to take a 90-minute plane ride from Port Moresby to Kavieng before travelling a further four to five hours inland to the village of Lemeris. This village has no electricity and no water flowing through it, with the exception of a natural freshwater spring. The little primary school services children from 10 villages along the highway. Children as young as four years old wake at 4.30am to begin their long walk to school to arrive on time for assembly at 8.30am. 

Several months previously, Bernadette’s sister, Luanne, had a vision to install an e-library in the school but resources for this school were very limited. She shared her vision with her relatives and others within the village. There were many limitations, and anyone with a sceptical outlook would have thought her vision was an impossible dream. But Luanne pursued this vision in faith, saying, “We serve a powerful God. He will provide.”

Bernadette thought about what she could do to help with this project. Working in a school in Sydney, she requested donations from her school and was given six boxes full of books to send over to Lemeris.

Bernadette’s other sister, Kulynne, worked at the airport in Port Moresby and was able to donate chairs for the library and put them on a flight as cargo.

Luanne was able to secure funding of about $A10,000 (or K22,000) to set up an e-library. She ordered solar-panels, laptops, servers and everything else needed for the e-library to operate.

But this was not enough. 

There were still renovations to be carried out on the rundown, unused classroom. Luanne gathered all the boys in the village (some with only their highest levels of education being between Grades 6 and 8), who worked as gardeners and fishermen. They were able to offer their artistic talent and draw pictures on the walls, purchasing paint and brushes to paint the scenery.

The men in the village contributed to the renovation as carpenters. When they ran out of materials to renovate the classroom, they went from house to house in the village and found timber and nails in various places which everyone was more than happy to donate to the school. “Please take whatever you need,” they said. They didn’t have much to give, but they gave everything they had.

The women and children in the village also harvested their best produce from their gardens to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for the carpenters working on repairing the classroom. The young boys from the village also offered to help by bringing water in containers from the spring for the carpenters to drink from.

Once the renovations were complete, Luanne trained the teachers how to use the e-library, and by October 2023, the Ben Isikel e-library was completed. The library was named after their father who had been a student when the Lemeris Primary School had first opened.

With 20 laptops, 20 headphones, tables and chairs, the e-library was open for business!

The whole community came together to help wherever they could. What a marvellous God we serve, He saw the need and provided. Praise His Name.

Sandra Lehn attends Hoxton Park church, Sydney, NSW.

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