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Craig offers helping hand

WRITE STUFF: Holly Whitelaw and her Goonellabah Public School classmates present Craig Hand with books for bush schools in Papua New Guinea’s remote Western Province.
WRITE STUFF: Holly Whitelaw and her Goonellabah Public School classmates present Craig Hand with books for bush schools in Papua New Guinea’s remote Western Province. Doug Eaton

BREAKING down near the Mai Kussa river in the remote western province of Papua New Guinea in 2008 opened Craig "Crackers" Hand's eyes to the primitive existence of the Sibidiri tribe.

The Lismore adventurer was only the sixth white person to make contact with the tribe since the 1960s, and he quickly fell in love with the people.

"On the way back I thought nobody is ever going to help these people ... I had a good time there and enjoyed sharing tales so I decided to set up a charity to help them out," Mr Hand said.

"Some kids there have got ringworm from head to toe and I asked myself 'why should they have to live like that?'"

After that life-changing first solo journey in his 4.5 m fibreglass boat, Mr Hand was determined to improve the lives of the tribes people so he founded the charity Friends of Papua New Guinea in 2009.

"When I went back for the second time to the Sibidiri tribe in 2010 with donations they couldn't believe it; I think it took them two days to get over the shock," he said.

Since then donations have flowed, with the charity donating thousands of dollars worth of medicine, hand tools, mosquito nets, clothes and communications equipment to tribes in the region.

An inspection of a school made from bark and bamboo on his recent trip motivated Mr Hand to approach Lismore and Goonellabah Public Schools, who donated hundreds of books for the students.

Mr Hand will set off this week, towing his boat laden with donations, for Cairns where the goods will be shipped to PNG.

"I'll be picking up tools from Brisbane, first aid supplies from Gladstone and some more clothes in Cairns," he said.

After this journey, Mr Hand is taking time out to produce a book and a documentary about his travels.

Anyone with clothes or goods to donate can visit friendsofpapuanewguinea.org.

Topics:  papua new guinea



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