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Caritas program supporting families

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Dominic, 47 is a former teacher and father of six from Papua New Guinea. In 2016, he became involved with the Caritas Australia’s Safe House and Family Anonymous programs and turned a difficult life and an unhappy relationship around.

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Now a community trainer, he works with other men to help them to change their behaviour and build more harmonious family lives.

Dominic lives in Madang province on the north coast of mainland Papua New Guinea with his wife and four of his children. His other two children live on the campus of their high school. The costs are high, and Dominic struggles to afford their expenses.

He faced enormous challenges getting an education himself. Unable to afford his diploma in primary teaching, he quit his studies to go to Port Moresby to work. Unable to find a job, he had to find other ways to raise money to continue his education. He became a primary school teacher, then with further study, a high school teacher.

Domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse and limited employment opportunities mean that many in PNG struggle to meet their basic family needs. Forty percent of its population live below the poverty line.

Gender inequality is also a huge issue, with around 67 per cent of women experiencing gender-based violence.

“Dominic was a violent man and most times used verbal and physical abuse in the presence of his children,” says Sister Thecla, Centre of Hope’s Director.

In 2016, Caritas Australia and its PNG partner, Centre of Hope, invited Dominic to join its Safe House program. It provides gender-based violence prevention training, counselling services and safe accommodation for women and children survivors of violence. It also provides support for income-generating projects and life skills for young people.

Dominic and his wife, Christophylda, also took part in the ‘Family Anonymous’ program which helps people to tell their stories confidentially, supporting them to transform their behaviour. It also helps women and families to open savings accounts, to fund income-generating projects. They can then support their children with school fees and other basic needs. Over 20,000 people have benefited from these programs so far.

Dominic and Christophylda say that their relationship has been transformed – and their family life is now harmonious, happy and safe.

“After entering the Caritas program, I have actually changed some of my bad attitudes. It has really opened my mind and heart to see where my weaknesses are and I’m trying to improve,” Dominic says.

“It has made our relationship closer, with greater respect for one another,” Christophylda says. “Good family, sharing and caring attitudes and respect for each family member and in the community.”

Dominic undertook training as a Safe House community volunteer because he wanted to help other people like him. He soon became a valuable member of the support network.

“Having people talking from their experience of violent backgrounds into becoming a changed person is worth more than person talking from theoretical knowledge,” Sister Thecla says. “This can challenge other men to believe in changes or to admit their own situation and work towards change.”

Dominic’s male advocacy and training work brings in a good income, helping him to afford his children’s school fees – as well as increasing tolerance and unity amongst different ethnic groups.

“I would like to thank people of Australia for your tremendous support. Without your assistance the Safe House program would not reach out to the poor and marginalized of our communities to help minimize social issues affecting families and communities.” Sister Thecla says.

“But Safe House is a long-term project and its services are slowly spreading, we hope you will continue your support in the future.”

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