Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: March 09, 2020

Education and Transformation in Papua New Guinea

Ten years ago in Papua New Guinea, young Xavier Loipio’s life was in a downward spiral. Having dropped out of school and sporting a self-described attitude problem, he sold the highly addictive betel nut on the streets in order to fund his developing drug habit. “I often wondered, ‘What will I do with my life?’” explains the now 33-year-old. Then, one day, Father Jess Escala appeared with the answer.

Fr. Jess was principal at Don Bosco Technical School in Gabutu at that time. He encouraged Xavier to enroll there, and Xavier’s decision to do just that completely transformed his life.

“At Don Bosco, I received what I needed to succeed including punctuality, counseling and time management,” Xavier says. “Don Bosco was the light at the end of my tunnel to become an outstanding citizen, a successful and professional skills person and a role model in my community.”

After graduating in 2009 with a degree in maintenance fitting and machinery, Xavier began working as a marine fitter at PNG Dockyard Ltd. in Port Moresby. In the years since, he has fostered a successful and rewarding career in the industry—one in which he has assumed increasing responsibility.

With the skills he acquired at Don Bosco, Xavier went on to obtain his tradesman’s certificate; a Certificate III in mechanical trade fitting; and an I.V.Q Level 3 advanced diploma in oil and gas maintenance. Now a mechanical technician team leader with Comlek Electrical Engineering Ltd., an Australian-based company, Xavier is profoundly grateful for the opportunities he received at Don Bosco—opportunities that have enabled him to beat the odds in a country where the deck is often stacked against youth.

Despite being rich in natural resources, Papua New Guinea is an extremely poor country: as many as 40 percent of people living there struggle to make ends meet on less than $1.25 per day.

“Education can provide a meaningful pathway out of poverty,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, “but as many as 25 percent of the country’s children are unable to go to school because their families can’t afford it. This is why our missionaries are so focused on helping youth like Xavier learn the skills they need to find stable employment and live as independent adults.”

“Without Don Bosco, I would not have been able to accomplish what I have,” Xavier says. “I am eternally grateful to Don Bosco for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself.”

“My encouragement to students at Don Bosco is to learn as much as you can because everything in this really technical world is right where you are studying now,” he continues. “Your dreams and goals in life are achieved through hard work. Do not go where the path may lead you; instead where there is no path, leave a trail. In that way, you will inspire others to follow you.”

Our mission provides a meaningful pathway out of poverty for youth like Xavier around the world. What’s your mission?

Learn more about our work in Papua New Guinea.

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