You might have heard of Bougainville, an island in Papua New Guinea. You might also have decided to participate in the 40 hour famine again this year. Indeed, the culture of charity prevails at Macleans College: we raised $28,000 last year, a very large donation by any means.
But why is Bougainville in such dire straits now? Bougainville has always been a place of abundance – of food and natural resources. The island, however, is underdeveloped, and the people malnourished and undereducated. Why?
Bougainville has been clouded in misfortune in its history. Changing colonial influences meant that there has never been an effective government. Recently, there has also been a crippling civil war in the region.
The civil war was sparked by the pollution massive mining corporations were causing to their rivers. The Bougainville people, disgusted at what was being done to their local environment, decided to rise up against the mining corporations and Papua New Guinea. They nobly fought for their home to be pure and free of pollution.
After the local militia repelled the Papua New Guinean Defence force, Papua New Guinea and Australia enacted an almost decade-long blockade of Bougainville and its populace.
The islanders had to scrounge for food and relied solely on starch crops like sweet potato and taro. The civil war ended with a whole generation uneducated yet accustomed to fighting.
Despite the ceasefire, the underdeveloped island is still in abject poverty. Many still rely on the starch crops that they were forced to eat to survive leading to malnourishment.
The region has reached a point of peace and has become an autonomous region, but after 10 years of civil war, they need your help.
So please give generously in this year’s 40 hour famine to give the people of Bougainville a second chance.
Article by Chris Yang, with help from Olivia Montgomery and Abhinav Swarup. Edited by Frank Zhou.