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Manus Island 2013 – my experiences, pt 11

In 2013, myself and 5 other cadets from Catherine Booth College, along with three staff, went to Manus Island, PNG, as part of our training, to work as part of The Salvation Army’s Humanitarian team working in the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre. Four years on, I’ve decided to share my diary from that experience. Names have been changed, and I acknowledge that the centre has changed a lot since then, but it is my hope that this will share a bit of light into how our government is treating Asylum Seekers.
16 February 2013.

Quiet day today. I spent most of it in the internet room. While it can be very stressful at change over time, for the most part it is pretty cruisy, so I don’t mind it too much.

I also played some volleyball today. Turns out I’m a pretty good server, and I’m forming some good bonds with the Tamil guys because of this and monopoly. I need to be careful that I don’t restrict myself to these groups – there are still some people that I haven’t really talked with. Over my next few shifts, I should look to sit in the breeze ways a bit more.

Mentally, I’m doing pretty well. I have a day off tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to relaxing, going to church, and then getting back on the day shifts. Also, facetiming Liesl and Annabelle – always a highlight, any day that it happens.

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Manus Island 2013 – my experiences, pt 10

In 2013, myself and 5 other cadets from Catherine Booth College, along with three staff, went to Manus Island, PNG, as part of our training, to work as part of The Salvation Army’s Humanitarian team working in the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre. Four years on, I’ve decided to share my diary from that experience. Names have been changed, and I acknowledge that the centre has changed a lot since then, but it is my hope that this will share a bit of light into how our government is treating Asylum Seekers.
15 February 2013.

My first night shift. Started my day with a long facebook chat with Liesl, before chilling out for the rest of the morning.

When shift started, it was straight into ministry with S and I sitting with a group of Tamil ladies. After a while, I got to hear how a lot of them feel like it would be better had they stayed in Sri Lanka and died, or died in the boat on the way to Australia, than have come to Manus Island. She complained how the staff have better living quarters than them (it’s true), and how Eurest (the catering company) can never get the food right – either it’s too spicy for the Iranians, or lacking flavour for the Tamils. I think one of their biggest complaints is that they don’t know why they were chosen to come here. There were others on their boat, but in some cases only two from that boat were transferred to Manus. There seems to be no logic or reasoning to it. She did complain that us Salvation Army people are only here for a month and then we forget about them. I told her that I had talked to people who had come to both Manus and Nauru, and while they did go back to Australia, they never forgot about the people. I said that I know already that I won’t forget the people here and that when I get home, I will be fighting for the rights and proper, prompt treatment of those on Manus Island and Nauru.

The rest of the shift was pretty quiet – I helped out in cantee, then played volleyball, before looking after the Internet room all night.

Mental state – Good. My heart broke, hearing the stories of the Tamil ladies, but it strengthened my resolve to be here, and to continue the fight when I get home.

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Manus Island 2013 – my experiences, pt 9

In 2013, myself and 5 other cadets from Catherine Booth College, along with three staff, went to Manus Island, PNG, as part of our training, to work as part of The Salvation Army’s Humanitarian team working in the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre. Four years on, I’ve decided to share my diary from that experience. Names have been changed, and I acknowledge that the centre has changed a lot since then, but it is my hope that this will share a bit of light into how our government is treating Asylum Seekers.
14 February 2013.

Valentine’s Day, and a day off. Started off great – went for a run with S, then after a shower, I Facetimed Liesl and Annabelle. It’s so wonderful to be able to see them. Annabelle is growing up so much, and it’s only been a week. She’s now clapping, and walking with only one hand held. I know I’m missing it, but I’m so proud of her.

After our chat, I started writing some music. I’ve got in my head a march for commissioning, and it was great to be able to start putting notes down and to exercise those skills again.

In the afternoon, there was an incident where some community members in SAMs (Single Adult Males camp) escaped and went down to IHMS (International Health and Medical Services – the provider of medical services to the camp). We were told to congregate in the mess area and stay there until told it was safe. We were there for an hour and a half or so. After dinner, there were more escapes, and the staff going back into SAMs didn’t get in until 9pm.

All through this, I was feeling slightly nervous, but overall, I was ok. I felt safe in the way that it was handled once the situation had arisen, however I don’t think enough was done to avoid the situation.

I stayed up late to help me adjust to the night shift. Played Mafia and Jungle Speed with some of the other Salvos here, which was lots of fun.

Mental state – OK, but apprehensive about heading into SAMs. I still have a week before that happens, and things will change dramatically by then – hopefully for the better.

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Manus Island 2013 – my experiences, pt 8

In 2013, myself and 5 other cadets from Catherine Booth College, along with three staff, went to Manus Island, PNG, as part of our training, to work as part of The Salvation Army’s Humanitarian team working in the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre. Four years on, I’ve decided to share my diary from that experience. Names have been changed, and I acknowledge that the centre has changed a lot since then, but it is my hope that this will share a bit of light into how our government is treating Asylum Seekers.

13 February 2013

Last day on day shift before a day off tomorrow. It’s been a long five days, but from here, it’s two days on, one day off.

The morning again was quiet, and I helped out in the Canteen. In the afternoon, I started playing monopoly, before being pulled away to run the Internet room.

The internet room is easy, except for the 10 minutes of change over. When the times change to include a 15 minute break between sessions, that will be better.

Towards the end of the shift, I had a really good chat with one of the Tamil guys, where we discussed the differences between the Australian and Sri Lankan education systems.

I sat with P and R [Salvation Army Program directors] over diner, and got an insight into their roles. It would be interesting to be able to shadow them for a day. I think that would be quite a learning experience.

Mental state – Great. I’ve been looking forward to my day off, particularly facetiming Liesl and Annabelle. I should be nice and relaxed by the end of it.

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Manus Island 2013 – my experiences, pt 7

In 2013, myself and 5 other cadets from Catherine Booth College, along with three staff, went to Manus Island, PNG, as part of our training, to work as part of The Salvation Army’s Humanitarian team working in the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre. Four years on, I’ve decided to share my diary from that experience. Names have been changed, and I acknowledge that the centre has changed a lot since then, but it is my hope that this will share a bit of light into how our government is treating Asylum Seekers.

12 February 2013

Today started off simple, then got complicated. The mornings are always quiet, as many sleep until later in the day. So it’s often a case of hanging out in one of the meeting places until people start to show up. I’ve also been helping out in the canteen, so that fills up a bit of time.

This afternoon, while I wanted to catch up with X about his poem, I ended up spending most of the afternoon in the internet room. Not hard work, but the changeovers are tough. It would be interesting to see how it could develop into more of a ministry opportunity, than just assigning computers. It’s one of the few times community members come to you.

There was an incident towards the end of my shift. It made my adrenaline levels raised, but I think that for my part, I acted as best I could, did my role, and as such am OK now.

There was also a foreshadowing of things to come with news of the PNG Supreme Court case happening. If they announce that it is illegal and must be shut down, there will be rejoicing, followed by uncertainty about what happens next, and possibly anger over any statement from the Australian Government, and perhaps over them remaining locked up If the court declares it legal, then there could well be fights, protests, and increased levels of despair. Either way, the community will be a very different place over the next few days.

I had a chance to chat with Liesl tonight, and she said how Annabelle was growing up so much. She’s now saying Dadda and Nanna, as well as Mama. She’s now almost a size 3 in shoes. Every day, something new is developing. I’m missing her, and can’t wait to see her in person.

Mental state – OK. I’m doing fine, but I am cautious about my shift tomorrow, and about the community over the next few days.

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Manus Island 2013 – my experiences, pt 6

In 2013, myself and 5 other cadets from Catherine Booth College, along with three staff, went to Manus Island, PNG, as part of our training, to work as part of The Salvation Army’s Humanitarian team working in the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre. Four years on, I’ve decided to share my diary from that experience. Names have been changed, and I acknowledge that the centre has changed a lot since then, but it is my hope that this will share a bit of light into how our government is treating Asylum Seekers.

11 February 2013

I’m really loving it in families. This morning, I filled in where needed, including in the canteen, then in the last 15 minutes helped pull rocks from an area to create a new volleyball court, as the old one was being lost to make a new mess hall. It was mindless work, but I loved it, as the community members pitched in as well, which was fantastic. Instead of getting upset about the loss of their volleyball court, they saw a solution, and worked at getting it ready.

In the afternoon, after shadowing a care worker, I sat and played Monopoly for three hours, with a group of Tamils. I twas the fastest paced Monopoly game I’d ever seen, and I often had trouble keeping up.

Tomorrow, I need to track down X. He’s an Iranian who was fleeing because he played Heavy Metal, and he’s written a poem in Farsi that he wants to turn into a song in English. It will be tricky, but I’d love to spend some time working on it with him.

Annabelle is sick, and will have to stay home all week. Thankfully, Liesl can still finish the unit by finishing the assignments, and will have the remaining sessions recorded so she can still get the info. Mental state – good.

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Manus Island 2013 – my experiences, pt 5

In 2013, myself and 5 other cadets from Catherine Booth College, along with three staff, went to Manus Island, PNG, as part of our training, to work as part of The Salvation Army’s Humanitarian team working in the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre. Four years on, I’ve decided to share my diary from that experience. Names have been changed, and I acknowledge that the centre has changed a lot since then, but it is my hope that this will share a bit of light into how our government is treating Asylum Seekers.

10 February 2013. Today was a good day. I started off the canteen, and spent the morning in there. Nice and cool, and out of the sun, however it gives me little opportunity to interact with the community members. I think if I am in there again, I will try and use their names as much as I can, and try and engage them when tehy are not busy.

In the afternoon, I was again in the canteen, but I had some time off afterwards to “loiter with intent.” It’s something I am getting better at, though I still feel slightly uncomfortable. I might need to start asking more questions, instead of just answering and answer more fully – look for opportunities to share my story.

Tonight, P [The Salvation Army program director] ran into me outside using the internet, and asked me to share in a service with the Persian Christians by playing Guitar. It was a great time, to worship freely with these people, who were persecuted for doing to in Iran.

Mood – Good, but sad that Annabelle is sick with conjunctivitis, and that it will affect Liesl’s intensive.

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Manus Island 2013 – my experiences, pt 4

In 2013, myself and 5 other cadets from Catherine Booth College, along with three staff, went to Manus Island, PNG, as part of our training, to work as part of The Salvation Army’s Humanitarian team working in the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre. Four years on, I’ve decided to share my diary from that experience. Names have been changed, and I acknowledge that the centre has changed a lot since then, but it is my hope that this will share a bit of light into how our government is treating Asylum Seekers.

9 February 2013. First shift today. Working in Families from 9am – 7pm. However, I was first thrown into the intake of SAMs (Single Adult Males), where I was collecting their shoes to be cleaned, then returned. They were afraid that this new lot would be angry, however, it doesn’t seem like they have caused any commotion yet.

When I got to the Families, I was able to sit and chat with a couple of families, first a Sri Lankan family, then an Iranian. They were both wonderful, but the Iranians really tried to make me feel welcome. They even tried to teach me some Farsi, but all I remember is “Biya” – come.

In the afternoon, I helped out in the canteen, then the Internet room. Nice and chilled, nice and relaxed. [The canteen and Internet room were the two areas inside the camp that I could access that were air conditioned. The education room was also air conditioned, but I didn’t have need to go in there]

In the evening, I got to Facetime Liesl and Annabelle. It was so good to see their faces and to see that Annabelle still recognised me [She was six months at the time – this was a real concern of mine when leaving for a month. Also, that I’d miss her first steps]. I really do hope that she will walk/run to me when I first see her.

Mood – Good. I’m feeling settled both in the camp, and in my work.

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Manus Island 2013 – my experiences, pt 3

In 2013, myself and 5 other cadets from Catherine Booth College, along with three staff, went to Manus Island, PNG, as part of our training, to work as part of The Salvation Army’s Humanitarian team working in the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre. Four years on, I’ve decided to share my diary from that experience. Names have been changed, and I acknowledge that the centre has changed a lot since then, but it is my hope that this will share a bit of light into how our government is treating Asylum Seekers.
8 February 2013. RDO Today. Had a lazy morning, before waiting to head into town. Bus was supposed ot leave at 11 – didn’t end up going until 12.

Lorengau Market Place (Credit: Kings Note)
Lorengau Market Place (Credit: Kings Note)

Lorengau is tiny. It is focused around its market, and there are a number of supermarket type shops that sell mostly the same products. What struck me most was the items available for single purchase that we wouldn’t expect in Australia, such as a single roll of toilet paper, or a single nappie. Looking back, I’m also suprised how little fresh fruit I saw. There was some at the markets – mostly coconut, but little in the supermarkets.
This afternoon, I rested, I watched a couple of Star Trek episodes, played Subway Surfers, and read my book.

I have my first shift tomorrow – 9am to 7pm, with the Families. I’m apprehensive about what I’ll see, but excited to finally get into ministry.

Mood – Great. Moving in with N and S (Session mates from College) really helped, and I’ve been having good contact with Liesl.

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Manus Island 2013 – my experiences, pt 2

In 2013, myself and 5 other cadets from Catherine Booth College, along with three staff, went to Manus Island, PNG, as part of our training, to work as part of The Salvation Army’s Humanitarian team working in the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre. Four years on, I’ve decided to share my diary from that experience. Names have been changed, and I acknowledge that the centre has changed a lot since then, but it is my hope that this will share a bit of light into how our government is treating Asylum Seekers.

7 February 2013. Flew from Cairns to Port Moresby, then on to Manus Island. Travelled to the compound.

Coming in, I was quite amazed. The old army base is completely overgrown and rusted, however the design of buildings hasn’t changed much. The main buildings are still half-cylinders, and our accommodation is shipping containers.

We had induction today, basically getting to know the campsite and the work. We go on roster from tomorrow, and I have an RDO.

I need to find ways to keep myself busy. I found that when I kept to myself, and in my own thoughts, I would focus on how much I was missing Liesl and Annabelle. It didn’t help that I couldn’t get into my room because I don’t have a key, and my roommates have got into the habit of locking the door. That compounded things because I didn’t have a link home. As soon as I could get in and send a message home, I was ok.

Learning to live with a couple of other guys, on different shifts, will be tough, but I’m sure it will be ok.

Mentally – ok. Missing Liesl and Annabelle. Happy my communication channels aren’t as bad as first thought.