Adventist Record, with Adventist Review staff, South Pacific
Queen Elizabeth II has presented a Seventh-day Adventist law student with the Commonwealth Pacific Young Person of the Year award for his efforts to provide scholarships to teens in remote villages in Papua New Guinea.
Bal Kama, a doctoral student at the Australian National University College of Law and a member of the Canberra National Adventist Church, was announced as the regional winner of the 2016 Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work at a ceremony in London last month.
“It’s a great privilege to receive this award from the Commonwealth Secretariat,” Kama said in a university statement. “I also want to acknowledge the many other young people in the Pacific who also initiate positive change in disadvantaged but resilient communities.”
The annual awards recognize people under the age of 30 who have contributed significantly to the development of society, and it attracted some 300 nominations from across the Commonwealth, an association of 53 mostly former British colonies that are home to 2.2 billion people.
Bal, one of four finalists from the Pacific region, was nominated for establishing the Kama Scholars Foundation, a nongovernmental organization that has provided 57 scholarships to disadvantaged high school students in Papua New Guinea’s Simbu Province over the past three years.
“We ourselves, myself, and the foundation members, faced similar challenges growing up in remote areas,” Kama told South Pacific Adventist Record. “These scholarships enable and empower the recipients and make them feel they are valued.”
The scholarships go to teens deemed to excel in three areas: leadership, academics, and discipline. Kama said 75 percent to 80 percent of scholarships are awarded to girls.
“There is a change in motivation and values, as families are now pushing girls as well as sons,” he said.
The foundation also provides resources to schools and has helped some teach computer classes for the first time.
The foundation also conducts health awareness on hygiene and lifestyle and empowers disadvantaged young people to leave drugs, crime, and other social challenges, the university said.
Australian medical students have paid their own way to travel to remote villages for the Kama Scholars Foundation and to partner with local village medical workers in providing medical aid and advice, especially in the area of women’s health, which is a taboo topic in some areas of the country.
A long-term goal of the foundation is to build a disabled learning center in Simbu Province.
The province also has received assistance from Kama’s National church together with Canberra’s other Adventist congregation, the South church. The two churches funded the recent construction of a children’s Sabbath School building in Simbu Province’s Gumine District. The Adventist Church’s Papua New Guinea Union Mission hopes to use the building as an elementary school one day.