An Adventist law student has been named Commonwealth Pacific Young Person of the Year for 2016 during an awards ceremony where he met Queen Elizabeth II.
Bal Kama is an Australian National University College of Law PhD candidate and a member of the Canberra National church. Out of the four nominees from the Pacific region, he collected the award for his work in setting up the Kama Scholars Foundation in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The Queen attended the awards ceremony, held in London on March 17.
“I am very happy that I was able to get [the award],” Mr Kama said. “It helps provide recognition that what we are doing is worth it.”
The foundation focuses on two main areas: health and education. In the past three years it has provided 57 scholarships to disadvantaged children from remote villages in PNG’s Simbu Province to enable them to attend provincial high schools. Many of the families struggle with money for school fees and uniforms.
“We ourselves, myself and the foundation members, faced similar challenges growing up in remote areas,” Mr Kama said. “These scholarships enable and empower the recipients and make them feel they are valued.”
The scholarships go to children who perform well in three categories: leadership, academic and discipline.
Some of the scholarships are especially for girls and disabled children, and are designed to change the mindset in the villages and ensure that marginalised groups are given recognition.
Mr Kama reports that 75-80 per cent of scholarships are awarded to females. “There is a change in motivation and values, as families are now pushing girls as well as sons.”
The foundation provides resources and has helped some of PNG’s remote schools to teach computing for the first time.
Canberra’s two Adventist churches—National and South—have been instrumental in providing funding and support to build a children’s Sabbath School hall in the Gumine District of Simbu Province. The hall’s opening was attended by Yoba Dame, associate education director for Papua New Guinea Union Mission, and there are hopes that it can be used to set up an elementary school.
Australian medical students have paid their own way to travel to remote villages for the foundation and to partner with local village medical workers in providing medical aid and advice, especially in the area of women’s health, which is still a taboo topic in some areas of PNG.
A long-term goal of the foundation is to build a disability learning centre in the region.