Early Christmas for Erima children

Christmas arrived early for the students of the Mercy Care Community Learning Centre (CLC) at Erima, Port Moresby, this morning.

Laden with sweets, gifts and goodie bags, Digicel staff were greeted at the gate with hearty carols and beaming smiles from the more than 150 students, ranging from 3 to 12 years old.

Their smiles soon turned into earsplitting grins when Santa came swaggering in to join the party. Everyone rushed to shake hands with Santa as he let out a jovial “Ha ha ha!” instead of the traditional “ho ho ho” that we are all used to.

The initiative is part of Digicel PNG Foundation’s annual CLC Christmas program.

The Foundation’s community development officer, Hane Toua, says this is their eighth visit; they have 14 more to go.

Apart from acknowledging the teachers for their commitment, the other aim of the program is to give Digicel staff the opportunity to experience the work the Foundation is doing.

“They get a chance to come out and get an appreciation of the work that Digicel PNG Foundation does in our socially marginalised and rural communities,” says Toua.

“One of our focus areas is basic education and in our rural communities, that is a very big need. They need infrastructure, teacher training, they need support from our Government.

“As a responsible corporate body, Digicel PNG is assisting in a small but significant way.”

The CLC program has been running for seven years now, says Toua.

Meanwhile, Teacher Paulne Nelson thanked the WeCARe! and Digicel foundations for supporting their work.

“We have seen that when these children finish their early childhood learning and join the mainstream schools, their performance is outstanding. We get good reports!”

Mercy Care, which is the brainchild of Irish Catholic Priest Fr John Glynn, started in 2011.

“I volunteered to carry out the work of taking care of these marginalised children so with the help of WeCARe! Foundation, the school started.”

The Digicel Foundation will be in Aroma, Central Province, tomorrow and on Friday, to visit their other CLCs.

Carmella Gware