Crossing the Torobau River nearly claimed her life, as well as her sister’s.
“We were already in the river making our way slowly to the other side when we arrived mid-stream,” Katu said. “The rapid rise in the flood washed us downstream.
“My sister and I were holding hands so when we were washed downstream, she fortuitously grabbed hold of a bamboo branch growing at the edge of the river, which saved our lives.”
The footbridge at Poma is one of a series of new footbridges in Bougainville’s Kieta District that will improve the lives of more than 4,000 people who can now safely reach health facilities, schools, markets and work.
The K110,000 project was initiated by the people of Poma village, which is over an hour from Arawa, including a drive and hike through steep terrain.
The local community raised more than K8,000, which was then supplemented with support from an Australian government community grant.
Women, men and school children from the local ward and inland communities of Darutuei, Kongara and Sipuru regularly access the footbridges along the “bush highway”.
The footbridge project has led to other positive changes in the area. Local communities were united behind the project, setting aside past differences to work together to ensure the project came to fruition.
Paramount Chief John Katu said the project also engaged local youths in construction and gave them valuable skills and knowledge – including welding and carpentry – which will continue to benefit nearby communities.
“We are happy that this project has produced young skilled men who are able to apply the skills and knowledge learnt through their involvement with the construction of the footbridges,” he stated.
The Poma footbridge project crosses over the Torobau and Ku’unang rivers, and its construction was supported by the Australian government under the Bougainville Partnership Program.
There have been more than 60 community projects supported by the Australia government through the PNG-Australia Partnership to improve the livelihoods of Bougainvilleans through high-quality infrastructure, economic participation and improved health and wellbeing.
(The Torobau footbridge is one of three bridges constructed. When the river floods, the large rocks are covered with fast flowing water)