This is a picture of Wanpis taken with Tribal Foundations Gary Bustin in December last year at the Jacksons international Airport.
He was a trolley pusher, who offered his services to Gary, who was on his way back to the United States of America.
In a facebook post Gary recalls Wanpis stating in perfect English, “May I help you with these bags.”
When Gary learnt his name was Wanpis, he momentarily became emotional.
“My foreign guests, including an executive from a top children’s hospital, and I followed as he pushed our bags down the ramp, and I remember thinking to myself that he looked to be about my own son’s age. When we went through security, I asked his name in Tok Pisin and his reply, “Wanpis, “which means “all alone,” took me so off guard that I got choked up and had to turn away momentarily.”
“He took pride in his work and talked with international travellers in line as if he too was off on some big adventure. The more I watched him, the more my heart ached for this little boy who obviously had the courage of a lion, but with no one to care for him. When I enquired, he told me his parents were both gone and that he lived on the streets with his friends.”
“I took him upstairs to the airport café and’Ordered a meat pie and drink of his choosing. When I started to pay, he asked, “What about your friends, are they not hungry? It was about that time I emptied all the kina in my pockets and stuffed them into his. We took a picture together and it was time to board the plane.
If there were no immigration laws I would have booked him on the flight and taken him home to live with my children. I remember how sad the flight was as I wondered what Wanpis’s life must be like and what abuses he must endure. I also wondered about the slight wheeze I heard when he spoke.” Said Gary.
Little did Wanpis know that he was speaking with a Good Samaritan, who would later email this photograph to a friend, Collin Pake of Life PNG care.
“PNG has a growing problem with street children as urbanization increases and family units continue to fall apart.
The Tribal Foundation has been working in this area and has provided funding to Life PNG Care, a home that provides love and opportunity to as many children as their budget allows. Collin Pake has been the Champion of this cause and as soon as I had access to email, I sent the picture of Wanpis and asked Collin to find him and look after him,” said Gary.
Wanpis was enrolled at Erima Primary, to do grade 5. He enjoyed the new lease on life that he was given, but unfortunately this month, he lost his battle with Tuberculosis on the 15th of July 2014.
Today’s funeral service was attended by friends and extended family of Wanpis along with Gary Bustin who flew in this morning from the states.
Wanpis was from Chimbu, his mother deserted him, after her husband remarried. Wanpis was left in the hands of his big sister who was married. Wanpis often took to the streets to fend for himself. His inlaw was at the funeral service.
Wanpis’s story is not an isolated case; there are many children like him. The Street kid syndrome is now becoming an epidemic, and organisations like Life PNG care are trying to solve the problem in the little way they can.
It’s not yet decided where Wanpis will be buried, but he’s expected to be given a decent burial in the coming days.
“Before he died, the Children’s Hospital executive who was travelling with me told his story to her team and got their attention. Now one of the best Children’s Hospitals in the United States is considering how it can assist in improving healthcare for children in Papua New Guinea,” Gary explains.
Collin and the team at the Tribal Foundation have determined that Wanpis will be remembered and that his life must bring awareness for other street children in Papua New Guinea.
Those who are interested can also donate online at this address: https://pngtribe.org/all-alone/.
Proceeds will go to life PNG Care to help provide opportunity for more street kids like Wanpis.
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