Meet my little hero Ralph Kataboi

I have never really had a close relationship with another human being deemed by society as ‘very disabled’ so I took for granted the physical ability to walk, run, dance, and speak. I also unconsciously took for granted my being ‘normal’ as deemed by society. In my defence, I have always thought of everyone including myself as disable in one aspect or another in terms of capabilities that I never really looked at the obvious disability in terms of physical ability. All that changed when I met Tessa Tuboda, her husband Isaac Kataboi and their one and only son Ralph Kataboi. Tessa is from Milne Bay Province and Isaac is from Sandaun Province. They live with Ralph in my hometown Alotau.

Ralph was born a healthy baby boy on the 13th of December in 2006 bringing much joy to his family. Three days later he developed *Jaundice which should have been a normal ‘mild’ condition for newborn babies where their skin and the white part of their eyes have this yellow tint. Jaundice occurs because the baby’s body has more bilirubin than it can get rid of. Bilirubin is a yellow substance that’s made when the body breaks down old red blood cells. It leaves the body through urine and stool. A pregnant woman’s body removes bilirubin from her baby through the placenta. After birth, the baby’s body must get rid of the bilirubin on its own.

In most cases, babies have what is called physiologic jaundice. It occurs because their organs aren’t yet able to get rid of excess bilirubin very well. This type of jaundice usually appears about 24 hours after birth. It gets worse until the third or fourth day, and then it goes away in about a week. However, Ralph’s condition was much more serious. His skin got more yellowish, he was sluggish, he could not breastfeed and he would arch his back and cry in a very high pitch. Ralph’s bilirubin level was even higher. This rare condition even with phototherapy treatment eventually led to brain damage called kernicterus resulting in *cerebral palsy – a neurological disorder.

Cerebral palsy causes physical impairment by affecting the muscles and the person’s ability to control them. Diagnosis is based on the child’s development over time. Today, nine year old Ralph’s cerebral palsy has made his limbs stiff and awkward. His balance, posture and coordination have been affected. His oral motor functioning has also been impacted. Tasks such as walking, running and speaking are difficult for him. However, he is one of the liveliest children I have ever met. His smile can light up anyone’s dull day accompanied by those happy shining eyes. He loves his ukulele, playing with his friends and his building blocks. He has a big appetite and truly has a larger-than-life persona seeing himself as anything but disable.

I believe he owes this bright outlook on life because of his loving, patient and understanding parents who would go to any length for their son. They decided to not have any more children after Ralph so they could give him all the attention he needed. As Tessa put it, “looking after one disabled child is equivalent to taking care of ten normal children”. But she adds that it has gotten easier the older he gets and with all the training and awareness carried out by Callan Services over the past two years. He loves attending school at Callan Services and enjoys rides in his stroller. He acts his age and prefers being treated his age which is fine by his parents who treat him as they would any normal child.

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Tessa with Ralph

His parents only concern begs the question of whether or not he would be able to take care of himself in the future should anything happen to them. So they are doing everything they can to help him be more independent. The exact cause of Ralph’s cerebral palsy is unknown or simply assumptions for now. To be able to diagnose the cause, Ralph has to have proper medical imaging (for example, a brain scan) and blood tests. Tessa and Isaac are now raising funds to take him to the nation’s capital for a proper brain scan which will help the doctors diagnose the cause.

A fundraising dance will be held for Ralph at Alotau’s local club Cameron Club on the 23rd of January, Saturday night. Please come along, have fun and support a good cause. Cerebral palsy may be permanent, chronic and incurable but it is manageable. Help Ralph get the treatment and therapy he needs to help manage the effects on his body.

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* To read more about what Jaundice is head to http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/tc/jaundice-in-newborns-hyperbilirubinemia-topic-overview.

* To read more about cerebral palsy, head to http://cerebralpalsy.org/about-cerebral-palsy/definition/

Beautify Your World

I personally believe that it is not only the responsibility of the human race to take care of the earth but to enhance its beauty by using our imagination, innovation and creativity. Regardless of who you are, where you come from, what talent you have or how much money you make, you have the ability to beautify your world.

Start with yourself. Take pride in your appearance; express yourself through fashion, eat healthier or start that new exercise regime. Continuously improve your skills, knowledge, attitude, character and lifestyle. In everything you do, do it wholeheartedly by giving your very best. Smile, laugh, dance, cook, bake, sing, paint, write, play, draw, design – Create! Be passionate about what you love. Emit love and positivity and share your soul with the people around you. Your life is a message to the world. Live it colorfully!

You have the power to create your surroundings and your surroundings also have the power to affect your outlook on life and eventually, your behavioral patterns. Let me give you an example. Imagine walking along a dull dusty street with old run-down buildings, dirt and garbage piled along the pavement, people with dirt-streaked faces dressed in rags hang around aimlessly staring at you with lifeless eyes as you walk past. Would such a surrounding make you want to smile, laugh, dance and feel inspired to live life to the fullest? Or would it give you a sense of hopelessness and the urge to run and escape from its ugly reality? Now let me give another example from the opposite side of the coin. I reckon we’ve all been in a hotel at one point in time, right? Recall that feeling when entering the hotel as a customer. Regardless of your social standing or how much money you actually have, you will suddenly feel an air of importance and own the social graces of a very “civilized” person. And all it took for that to happen was the pleasant smell and sophisticated atmosphere that greeted you, the sight of over-polished tiled floors, counters and table tops, air-condition, classic furniture and the bonus of excellent customer service. See what I mean?

Therefore, brighten your surroundings. Plant that flower garden you’ve been putting off, mow that lawn and weed those weeds. Scrub down or paint those walls again. Rearrange your furniture or buy some new furniture. Buy and install shelves that can keep your stuff organized as well as beautifully displayed. Redecorate your room with a new theme. Style your desktop or beautify that dull-looking classroom or office. Get your friends together and do a voluntary cleanathon for your street. There are so many ways to beautify your surroundings and it doesn’t necessarily have to be some major renovation. It’s the little things that we often overlook.

I sincerely hope this inspires you to start putting some color in your world. We may not know how long we have to live this life in this world but while we have the privilege to be creators of our universe, why not make it a beautiful, colorful and inspiring existence? Happy beautification, beautiful people!

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From the Pen of an Unemployed Uni Grad

Last year, I finally completed the required coursework for my Bachelor (degree) in Communication for Development at the Papua New Guinea University of Technology in Lae, Morobe Province. After my final semester ended I returned home to my mother in Alotau, Milne Bay Province. After sixteen years and a semester of being a student in the PNG education curriculum system – that is inclusive of the years at primary school through to university – I felt like I desperately needed a long break before taking on a full-time job. That led me to make one of those monumental life decisions. I decided that I was going to spend the year 2014 being an unemployed university graduate.

I have heard many of my peers complain about not being able to find ideal jobs after college/university, hating their unemployed status and therefore, left feeling worthless and useless inspite of their hard-earned certifications so I decided to share my reasons for gladly being an unemployed uni grad for this period in the hope of inspiring others in the similar situation to take on a more optimistic perspective and find ways to still be a productive member of society. The following were the main reasons I purposely opted for the temporary unemployed-uni-grad status:

1. Focus on myself. Getting an education is supposedly to benefit not just yourself but your sponsors, your family, the community and the country as a whole. So throughout the whole course of a Papua New Guinean’s pursuit in official education, we bear in mind to do our best not just for ourselves as individuals but for everyone involved in our journey. A graduation ceremony is celebrated by all your family and friends because in a way it is also everyone’s milestone. This time I wanted to be a bit selfish with my time. I was going to have a lot of ‘Me’ time to focus on myself. I needed the time alone to be able to seriously reflect on my personal development and progress in terms of my short-term goals, my long-term goals, my life principles, habits, character, personality, etc. I would read a lot of books on personal growth and make changes where necessary. I would clearly define who I want to be, how I want to live and how I would go about attaining my future goals. In other words, I was going to use that time to refine and rewrite my personal mission statement.
2. Develop and maintain productive hobbies. I wanted to develop productive and life-long hobbies that I never really had the time for. My interests varied greatly but I have always had a passion for art. There was something remarkably intriguing about creating something beautiful out of almost nothing and beautifying my world with fun and color. I was going to focus on reading, researching, gardening (flowers, vegetable and banana mushrooms – yes, you read the last part right 😉 ), photography, writing and blogging. I had so many project ideas in mind I could not wait to get started!
3. Honing my skills. Communication for Development is a wide field composed of many specialties. Most graduates consider themselves to be a jack-of-all-trades in social sciences because we have the options of specializing in Public Relations, Policy and Projects (Planning, Research, Development, Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation), Interpretation and Translation, Social Mapping, Social Work, Community and Business Development, Media and Communication Arts and so on. Therefore, I wanted to see which specialties my strength and interest centered around and hone my skills and knowledge accordingly. This ‘free’ time would be utilized to doing my own research and reading.
4. Learn to budget, save and run a small business. I would be an unemployed young adult living under my hard-working single mother’s roof with other younger dependents but that would not necessarily mean I’d be without an income. There was the option of doing work on a contract basis and although the statement is debatable most Papua New Guineans believe the informal sector is of the same importance to the country’s economy as the formal sector and I was determined to take advantage of it. The informal sector was my ideal money-making avenue to sustain my social life and hobbies. Furthermore, I would muster the skills of budgeting, saving and running a small business. I would be taking a risk but then again, I love a good challenge 🙂
5. Spend more time with family and friends. Being a people person, I wanted to strengthen the bond I had with my loved ones by catching up occasionally over beverages and good food, writing those long letters, making those occasional long-distance phone calls, texting and whatsapping, babysitting my niece or just simply being there for them and being with them given the amount of ‘free’ time I would have.
6. Travel locally. Last but not least, I wanted to travel around the beautiful Milne Bay Province. We first moved to the province’s capital Alotau in 2005 and although I’ve been to villages and islands close to town, including my mother’s home island Sariba, I haven’t had the chance to travel further to the outer islands or the further coastlands. I wanted to see new places, meet new people and experience different rural living conditions and cultures. Each of Papua New Guinea’s 22 provinces has more than a dozen tribes with different cultures, traditions and languages. Milne Bay Province in itself has over 80 languages and 16 Local Level Governments composed of many different tribes. I wanted to see them all or at least most of them while I had the time.

Today is the 3rd of May, 2014 and so far I have lived up to my goals as an unemployed uni grad. My mother occasionally gives me a ‘soft nudge’ in the direction of my field’s job market but as always, she remains patient and understanding of my spontaneity. However, that is most probably because she sees me enjoying and learning new things every day. I am looking forward to my graduation on the 16th of this month and plan to send out job applications afterwards. But until I eventually land myself a job and get to put my skills to work officially, I will continue appreciating and enjoying the luxury of this slow-paced lifestyle – i.e. being unemployed, generating an income informally, and having all the time in the world to do what I love.

Although my unemployed-uni-grad status was a conscious personal decision, I believe everything happens for a reason and for everything, there is a season. Be of good cheer and stay positive!

Signing out,

Unemployed Uni Grad 🙂

Another Love Quote

Just because two people are in love does not mean that they have to be together. And just because two people are together does not mean that they have to be in love. Love involves everyone in their lives, not just the two of them. For if love is to be described as anything, it is definitely not selfish.

– Kezziah Paliou

Look Beyond Your Little World

I posted a link on my facebook wall today about the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 that is still missing with its crew and 239 passengers. It totally amazed and shocked me when I realized that I got less than 5 Likes and comments compared to the 20+ Likes and comments I get on my usual status updates merely talking about my life and the music I love. It made me wonder if we are becoming more and more self-centered regardless of the latest advances in technology and the media that should be bringing us closer and more ‘connected’.

When it comes to tragic events such as 9/11, natural disasters and the current mysteriously missing flight MH370, it is the human tendency to feel to some extent a sense of compassion, alarm and genuine concern. Our lives are affected by events happening all over the world – whether we realize it or not. However, we are so caught up with what is going on in our own little worlds that we are losing the bigger picture – we are all connected.

Our little molehill of problems pale in comparison to the big mountains of problems out there. Maybe that is the first thing we need to realize in order to positively deal with our own personal daily dramas and trials. Look beyond what you see.

Take some time out today from your daily schedule to offer some positive vibrations towards the search for the missing Malaysian Arlines Boeing 777 and its crew and passengers. It is a big world out there and like it or not; you are a part of it.
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