Everyday People PNG : Mama Ellis

At one point in time, I was homeless and used to live on the streets of Lae with my teenaged daughter, who was around 13 years old at that time.

I used to live in Port Moresby with my husband and children until he died in 1989.

We went home to the highlands region but there was no opportunity there for me so I came to the city, looking to make a living.

My daughter would spend the day at random places or with friends while at night, I would leave her with security guards. They would keep an eye on her and ensure her safety within the premises whilst my group and I would get empty cartons and place them on the pavement to sleep.

Whenever I get money, I would use it to buy her food as well as pay the guards. As long as I have K5 or K10, that is enough to buy my daughter’s flour balls.

I eventually found a job with an NGO where we would carry condoms around and conduct awareness on HIV/AIDS.

It was a challenging job at that time as we would meet a lot of resistance whilst police officers would tell us to swallow the condoms. All that eventually stopped when our organisation hired a lawyer.

We would also assist HIV/AIDS patients, especially those who have been abandoned. We would organise vehicles to transport them to the hospital.

After the NGO wrapped up in PNG, I was left with no way of accessing information on job opportunities.

Days turned into months until one day, it so happened that a brother heard something and advised me. I brought my papers and before I knew it, I started working the same day. It was a blessing for me.

I have been with the company for a good number of years now. They helped me get a block of land and I now have two grandkids.

I still see some of my peers walking the streets. My heart breaks every time.

Carmella Gware