Australia Transport company helps Whitsunday locals send vital supplies to PNG

08:50  29 april  2021
08:50  29 april  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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The plight of a group of Whitsunday locals who collect education and health materials for communities across Papua New Guinea was made easier this week after they took to local radio to call for help.

Mark Harris is one of several in the community who collects items for schools and hospitals in Australia's northern neighbour.

He was inspired to lend a hand when he visited a tuberculosis ward in rural PNG in the early 2000s.

"That led me to looking to help the people in PNG," he said.

"It's pretty horrific when you see the TB ward and the kids ward and all that sort of stuff."

From classroom basics to crutches

In his day-to-day life, Mr Harris is the CEO of a company that makes ingredients for biscuit factories across the world, including Papua New Guinea.

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In 2006, he sent a pallet of soup over to the country and since then has sent several more community-collected shipments over.

His friend, PNG-born Proserpine local Natalie Lock, also helps out.

"She was born over in a town called WeWak," Mr Harris said.

"About four years ago she went back to WeWak with her partner Stuart and they took some medical supplies."

He said Ms Lock now used Facebook to contact community groups across the Whitsundays to ask for donations.

"She's been collecting schoolbooks and crutches and wheelchairs," he said.

"She's got a network set up over there to distribute them to the far regions because when Australians send supplies over, they don't often get to the far regions."

Community effort

Over the past few weeks, the group has collected crutches and wheelchairs and has organised for the items to be shipped from Sydney to Papua New Guinea.

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Mr Harris said one of his company's customers in the country was helping at the other end.

"In their generosity, we're packing a container for them and they're going to allow me two pallet spaces to take it all the way to Lae," he said.

"Then they are going to transport them to WeeWak — to the really needy people up there for us."

Transport firm answers SOS

But Mr Harris's plan struck a hurdle when he was trying to organise transportation of the two pellets from Prosperine to Sydney.

He aired his plight on the radio, speaking with ABC Tropical North Breakfast presenter Meecham Philpott.

"These wheelchairs, they're in mint condition you know," Mr Harris said.

"They've all been donated by the people of the Whitsunday area.

"I know that they are going to go to the right people."

Within minutes of the interview going to air, Dan Pustkuchen from the Mackay branch of Centurion Transport phoned up and offered to transport the equipment for free.

"It's no problem at all, we're happy to help," Mr Pustkuchen said.

The two pallets of crutches and wheelchairs were collected this morning and are now on their way from Proserpine to Sydney, where they will be shipped to Papua New Guinea.

Mr Harris said he was incredibly thankful for the community support, especially from the transport company and those who made donations.

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