Perseverance Pays off for Young Papua New Guinea Health Advocator


By Tati’s Journal

“You gain strength, courage and confidence through every experience you come across in life. These 

experiences cause you to stop and face your worst fears head on. In the end, you are able to say to 

yourself, I lived through that horror. Inaction breeds doubt and fear but action breeds confidence and 

Issac James Tikindi (Jnr) Young Man Of Honour  Papua New Guinea

courage.” These were some of the first words uttered by Isaac James when asked to give an account of his  challenging yet rewarding life journey so far.

23-year-old Isaac James Tikindi (Jnr) of a mixed parentage of Eastern Highlands, Southern Highlands and  Madang Provinces respectively was recognized for his efforts towards community service by the Digicel PNG Foundation when he was bestowed with a Men of Honor Award back in 2018.

The journey culminating to this award however was not a smooth sailing one as Isaac had to struggle with his personal fears whilst also holding onto the desperate desire to save his fellow youths who were also going through the same struggles he was facing at the time.

When Isaac was doing his Grade 11 at Asaroka Lutheran Secondary School, he started to notice that there was an increase in the number of young people dropping out from school. These young people then started to end up in unfortunate situations which in turn jeopardized their future. Isaac realized that as a result of this, there was a prevalence of increasing cases in drug and alcohol abuse and other petty criminal activities that in turn contributed to more problems in the society.

All these situations prompted Isaac to do something for the youth within his community however at the 

time, Isaac lacked the confidence and the ability of public speaking. Isaac grew up in Seigu village in the Goroka District of Eastern Highlands Province and having grown up in  a Christian family, his parents and elder siblings instilled in him the importance of doing good deeds in the  society.

“I was taught to always put myself in others shoes and try to help work out solutions for them as my 

Christian duty and I am ever so grateful for this principle as it helped ignite the passion in me for my 

community project.”

“I am also thankful that the school I was attending at the time was promoting Christian values and ethics  which were an integral part of everyday learning within the school,” Isaac said. The Lutheran Church run school was located between Goroka and Daulo districts and was only about a 20  minutes-drive from Goroka Town. Being so close to the town, the Asaro community was slowly yet surely  facing the bitter impacts of urban sprawling as people continued to grow fonder of some town goodness and interestingly, the drop-outs were the most hard hit by these bitter impacts as Isaac put it.

With the growing threat of community disturbance and chaos within the community on a daily basis, Isaac  wondered how much of an impact he could be able to make within his community if only he had the confidence to speak to people.

Growing up, Isaac was a very shy and timid person. Being an introvert, Isaac’s soft spoken nature had 

greatly affected his confidence at school as well. He would shy away from his classmates and especially  his teachers. This made it difficult for him to discuss his doubts and mistakes in his classwork which further   resulted in him being placed at the bottom of the class.

“At home, my siblings would try to help me study but I always pretended that everything was fine and 

that I was doing well in school,” he said.  As he continued to struggle with identifying his potential for leadership due to lack of self-confidence,   Isaac began to realize that the more he remained in his comfort zone, the bleaker his future looked.

Then one day, straight after completing his Grade Ten, Isaac reached a purely convincing turning point

which urged him to take quick action as the number of school drop outs resorting to criminal activities 

started to increase rapidly. “Among these groups were some of my best mates whom I grew up with and  it bothered me so much that I was not doing anything to save them from the bad life that they were 

indulging in,” Isaac regretfully added. “It was as though there were no other opportunities for them to resort to other than drinking beer,  smoking, partying, stealing and fighting just to name a few,” he said.

This fact added more fuel to the small spark of determination he had in him to do something to save the 

young people within his community. It was now time for Isaac to execute his duties as a young Christian  and the sooner he did the quicker he could save his friends from a life of despair and trouble. This decision  left him no choice but to overcome his shyness and fear of public speaking for the sake of saving his fellow  young people.

“I knew that my only way out was to be truthful and dedicated in my studies and not to be fearful of 

making mistakes in order to learn and grow. As part of my Christian beliefs, I had learned that in order to  save others, we must first save ourselves.”  Isaac had set his goal in life to become a Health Advocator in the future and so began doing his best and   putting in the work required in school and also started involving himself in church activities to build and   grow his confidence and self-esteem.

By the end of 2015, Isaac had completed his Grade Twelve and also he had already started carrying out 

his longtime dream and passion of doing advocacy work within the youth space. He helped organize 

sporting activities, craft-making activities, community awareness and one-on-one counselling. His efforts   on advocacy work had stretched out to other small communities around Eastern Highlands Province such   as Goroka Town, Daulo, Okapa and Lufa Districts just to name a few.

“I was doing all these advocacy work and meeting all expenses out of my own pocket because of the 

passion I had to work with young people in order to save them from the toxic lifestyles they were living,”   Isaac said.

In 2016, Isaac was selected to study Rural Medicine at Divine Word University. Throughout the tenure of   his studies especially on the semester breaks, Isaac would go back to his community and educate them   about the opportunities in the university and share his experiences about life at university.

Gradually, Isaac began to notice a growth in the number of young people who were interested in joining   in on the awareness and advocacy work and the result was truly satisfying according to Isaac.

“As a result of the work I was carrying out in the youth space, a few young people were influenced to 

make some changes and adjust their lifestyles in order to lead better and productive lives. Slowly but 

surely, these few young people started to influence their peers as well and it became a ripple effect as 

change started to take place within communities.”

As more people got involved in the awareness programs initiated by Isaac, he started receiving praises 

from his community for his work. Eventually in 2018 while in his third year of university studies, his hard  work paid off when he was recognized by the Digicel PNG Foundation. He had been shortlisted for the  Young Men of Honor Award by the foundation. Isaac did go on to qualify and receive the award for his  efforts as a Young Advocator for youths not only in the Eastern Highlands Province but the country as a  whole.

Through this award, Isaac continues to build his awareness network throughout all parts of Eastern 

Highlands Province and finally achieve his life goal of saving youths from the horrors of petty criminal 

involvement.  Isaac’s university education has helped him to develop interesting and rewarding life survival skills and  also helped him develop the ability to learn without fear of mistakes. Most of all, he has developed a great  deal of confidence, something which he thought he would never be able to possess.

“I see that perseverance produces confidence and there is nothing more impressive than wearing a great  attitude on one’s sleeve. However, there is a great big difference between being rude and being confident so one must watch this when it comes to displaying high levels of confidence,” Isaac advised.

Isaac is currently doing his Residential Program at Alotau General Hospital and says that he hopes by sharing his story about his journey so far, young people will be inspired to become better leaders for their  communities and impact change wherever they can. He further adds that young people only one chance  of living life as a youth and so it is up to them to lead meaning producing lives by spreading positive  influences only for the betterment of their communities and the country as a whole.

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