By Joel Fitzpatrick, Games News Service
PORT MORESBY, July 18 – Not all the volunteers making the Port Moresby 2015 Pacific Games tick are from Papua New Guinea; some have travelled great distances to be a part of the Games.
Dr Lucy Lester (GBR) and Daniel Kirwin (USA) are not even from the region, but after these Games, the Pacific will always hold a fond place in their memory.
Lester, a trainee surgeon at Lister Hospital, Stevenage, is in her third year of practising medicine. She came to Port Moresby looking to help keep athletes healthy and performing well, but also to learn from her time in PNG.
“I thought [coming to the Games] would be an interesting way to use my medical skills in a entirely different context to what I’m used to back home, and to meet local doctors,” she told the Games News Service.
“I also wanted to learn some sports medicine because this is the first time I’ve been involved in a big event.”
Lester works in Great Britain’s huge National Health Service system, but not even that can compare to the intensity of a multi-sport festival like the Pacific Games.
“I think I’ve learned a lot about what is behind the structuring of a large-scale event like this, what you need to consider in terms of medical resources, staffing and transport issues – which has been our main challenge,” said the 27-year-old.
That someone with Lester’s skills feels she can learn at an event like Port Moresby 2015 is a testament to the Games, but she also felt it was a good chance to help PNG.
“The Pacific is quite close to my heart. When I was a medical student I worked for six weeks in Vanuatu in a hospital there. So I’d already experienced working within this kind of environment, but I knew that PNG had a lot of its own challenges.
“I’m working in team of over 40 medics from different clinical backgrounds. I’ve been looked on by some of the medical students here as a mentor for them. I think it’s shown me what I’ve learned from my years of practice.”
Kerwin, a journalist who hails from the USA, but lives in Tokyo, Japan teaching English, came to work at the Games through his father, who has been based in Port Moresby helping a local company set up services around the Games.
Kerwin’s father convinced him that Port Moresby 2015 would be a historic event for PNG, and his father’s enthusiasm for the Games quickly rubbed off on his son, enough for Kerwin to offer his services to the Games News Service – the people who produce the Games coverage on http://www.portmoresby2015.com.
“Every time I talked to my dad on the phone after he moved here, the first thing he mentioned on every phone call was the Games,” said Kerwin. “He really believed they would be a nation-changing experience for Papua New Guinea, similar to the way the 1964 Olympics were for Tokyo.”
Since arriving, Kerwin has realised that not only has it been a nation-changing experience for PNG; he believes it has brought the people here together like nothing else.
“The thing that really stands out is just how loud and emotional the fans have been in cheering on their heroes,” Kerwin said.
“Watching Steven Kari (PNG, weightlifting) win gold was one thing, but hearing and watching the crowd’s reaction took it to a whole new level. I was amazed that the crowd was even louder when Toea Wisil (PNG) was winning all of her golds on the track – I really don’t know if I’ll ever experience that same level of crowd noise again.”
One thing is for sure, both Lester and Kirwin will leave the Games wanting more experiences like this.
“I would definitely like to work on an event again,” said Lester. “It was one of the main reasons I got involved because it is a starting point to learn about the structure of a large-scale sporting event.
“I really like the teamwork, the hands-on aspect of it. I like being part of something so big, that is so important to the country.”
Kerwin says the thing he will miss most about PNG is the people.
“The local people I have been working with have really been the part of the experience I will miss the most,” said Kerwin. “Right from the first day, every place I went I would hear my co-workers calling out to me, as if I was an old friend, and these were people I’d only met once or twice before.
“People in Papua New Guinea are definitely very genuine and want to make you feel welcome, and I think having the chance to welcome people from around the world for the Games has really been a total pleasure for the people here.”
Surely the people of PNG would say the pleasure has been mutual.