Charitable effort

Hospital officials in Madang, Papua New Guinea, welcome the arrival of medical supplies from Montrose’s PNG Tribal Foundation and local Rotary clubs. (Courtesy photo)

A hospital in Madang, Papua New Guinea, recently accepted a gift of $400,000 worth of medical supplies from an unexpected source: Montrose, Colorado — a town that’s 7,319 miles away on the other side of the Equator. 

A joint effort between the PNG Tribal Foundation and the Rotary clubs of Montrose, Telluride and Carbondale delivered Modilon Hospital a 40-foot shipping container full of boxes marked “Medisend Biomedical Equipment” because the nation of Papua New Guinea — located north of Australia in the Melanesia region of the southwestern Pacific Ocean — is suffering a budget crisis that caused its hospitals to run perilously low on supplies. 

Modilon Hospital’s CEO, Dr. Vincent Atua, thanked the various Rotary clubs and PNG Tribal Foundation for the late January delivery and said: “This assistance is very timely, especially given the harsh economic climate the country is in.”

Describing itself as an “NGO that bridges hope and opportunity to everyday Papua New Guineans by developing strategic partnerships and models that have lasting impact on their lives,” PNG Tribal Foundation maintains three global offices: one in Papua New Guinea, one in Melbourne, Australia, and one on Hawk Parkway in Montrose.

Why Montrose? The foundation’s president, Gary Bustin, is not from here. In fact, he was born in Papua New Guinea after his grandparents and parents served as missionaries there. The family moved to Florida for Bustin’s high school years, though, and started then to travel to Montrose to visit his uncle’s ranch. Bustin eventually met a Montrose woman, married her, moved here, and in 2009 dedicated the foundation. 

Its partnership development director, Geof Ila, is a native of Papua New Guinea who also fell in love with a Montrose woman, but on his soil when his future wife was doing missionary work. Ila said the Montrose office “makes it easier to source partners in the States.” He noted the foundation works often with Project C.U.R.E., a humanitarian relief foundation based in Denver. 

Ila said the January shipment contained all kinds of equipment, including EKG monitors, glucose pens, stethoscopes, laryngoscopes, CPAP supplies, lab coats, oxygen tank regulators, gloves, protective masks and more. 

Project C.U.R.E. sourced the supplies, said Ila, while the local Rotary clubs worked with Rotary International and the Madang Rotary Club on logistics and mapping. 

According to Ila, Modilon is a government hospital that serves a population of 500,000 New Guineans — most of whom don’t live in Madang, but rather in the rugged interior, some of which is accessible only by air or by foot. 

Two doctors who belong to Telluride Rotary Club, Mark Hauswald and Nancy Kerr, visited the hospital in 2017 to conduct an assessment of its needs. In Madang —  located on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea — they found the most popular spot for expatriates in the country, a place where the average daily high temperature vacillates from 86.4 to 88.2 degrees. 

Papua New Guinea occupies the eastern half of New Guinea — the world’s second largest island after Greenland — while Indonesian provinces make up the western half. Papua New Guinea has more languages than any other country, with over 820 indigenous languages, representing 12 percent of the world’s total, but most have fewer than 1,000 speakers. 

The island is infamous for its history of headhunting and cannibalism, which were practiced as part of warfare rituals meant to take in enemy spirits and assume their powers. Headhunting and cannibalism there were not eradicated until the late 20th century.