Friday, November 12, 2010

They are assets, not liablities

Where the ocean meets the sky... Rod Stewart

Our children are assets, not liabilities.

The moment they know the way that leads them to their destiny.

That is what Rylene Potuku Gubag believed in and made sure of during the last 27 years of her life as a secretary of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at UPNG. During those years she had watched thousands of young Papua New Guineans enrol, strive through their courses and graduate at the Waigani campus. To her, all this traffic of young generations, year after year, became a thrilling experience and this she shared with her colleagues, her husband and children.

As her husband, Kevin, explained as part of the family’s eulogy at the funeral service on Tuesday: “To Rylene, life was made up of enrolment forms, school fee receipts, exams, GPAs and university degrees, plus going out to the world to get jobs.”

The very life that Rylene led deserves more than commendation, more than praise and words of gratitude. It is a story about commitment to work, seeing things through despite difficulties. Even on crutches she took time out to catch buses to Able Computing, Daltron or Theodist to get quotations for staff and various stationary items for the school. She did not depend on the University’s transport system to do all that. Whenever a typing needed to be done before deadlines, she looked as if she were taking her time about it, but comes 4.06pm and she’s knocking on your door to deliver the finished work. Even in great pain from the effects of her diabetes a smile never left her face when she delivered a lecturer’s finished work while supporting herself on crutches.

Her colleagues, mainly those at the main office of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences referred to her as Ray, Mama Ray or “Sugar Babe”. She was inspirational, according Ali Vele. She had a passion for hard work and was a lovable person. But above all she lived and worked for her children. They were her assets.

She was very professional in her approach to work, Ali Vele maintains as a fellow typist and secretary. And she was very Manus in how she tackled each job. If things got into a snag she eased a tensed situation through a joke and everyone was back to work, smiling or laughing.

Ali Vele continued at Tuesday’s funeral service, in the presence of university administrative and academic staff: “an unforgettable thing about Rylene was her motherly and loving nature. She loved bringing cooked food from her house to share with everyone. Her favourite was boiled bananas (with skin) and tinned fish or meat. She made sure all had a share of that food. Rose, Hipak, Idau, Jenny, Natalie, Fa’afo Pat and I never missed out on what she brought. She treated us more like her younger sisters and children than colleagues.

“Besides, her concern was for all to share. Not only with us but also with those she considered as important – our cleaners. Nipo, our cleaner, was always invited. Eh lusim sampela bilo Nipo or Tokim Nipo kam yumi kaikai wantaem. She indeed had a big heart that extended out from her favourite corner where the photocopy machine is and further out to the lecturers’ rooms in the other buildings. She invited all – whoever happened to be around where we were at lunch time.

“Her straightforwardness and serious attitude to work was something we admired. This speaks volumes. When things were not done in time as expected, she would openly and bluntly tell us what we needed to know. Many times we would not agree with her approach but come the given time when the work would be delivered and it was done... You all have witnessed her on crutches limping to and fro, trying as much as possible, to perform her duties as expected. This is when I stopped and reflected on her life and learnt that she had commitment and love for her work and her children. She really loved her children so much she would not let her disability prevent her from seeing her children become successful and excel in life. Even without transport she staggered to work every day hiring a taxi to work and back or sometimes hitch a ride with Sophie Naime. Sophie will appreciate this. Who would do that just to make ends meet satisfactorily? Rylene taught us this commitment and perseverance. We live here at the UPNG and are not disabled and are able to work every day but Rylene showed us – real commitment even without a vehicle and without strong legs to continue on with life.

“She also had a love for spiritual discussion especially during times when she was down. She had asked me for prayer support and a Bible. I shared with her on several occasions and gave her a Bible which I believe she cherished and depended upon during hard times...

“Her last words to me kept echoing in my ears as I wrote this tribute. As I read her last words to you all I feel a thorn in my throat and heart. I commented that she should go on leave (on medical grounds) and take a break from work until she felt a lot better and could adjust her life again from family and work commitments. Her last and honest response to me humbled my pride and brought me a new perspective I was blind to see. ‘Sugar Babe, I should have gone on leave a long time ago, but see, I have children who still need my support and I want to give them the best even when I am on crutches.’”

Those words from Ali Vele.

Rylene Potuku Gubag originally came from Mbuke Island, the titan south west area, about 3 hours by dinghy from Lorengau town, of the Manus Province. She passed away last Friday and is survived by husband Kevin and five children, one of whom will be graduating with flying colours in Environmental Science at UPNG next year.

Rylene’s body was scheduled to be taken home by a family member and the paramount chief of her tribe and clan, Luke Polangou, this morning (Friday 12th November 2010). She was a fine woman. Whether academics, members of the administrative staff or renowned professors and lecturers, she taught us three great things with her life:

                             Believing in ourselves
                             And knowing that God cares

The School of Humanities and Social Sciences now joins Ali Vele in saying thank you to Rylene in the manner of John 10:27-28 and with these words: aioni, bamahuta, emau, raramani-ekila.