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scholar stories: Joel Koitaka Mano
Thank you YSD for giving me the best opportunity to learn not only engineering but about life as well.
No matter how hard things get, a positive attitude and resilience will always get you through.
Today, my mission is to break that chain of giving and helping people who supposedly mean something to you.
I grew up poor but my extended family is not poor. My grandpa was a politician, he was among the first few Papua New Guineans to have entered the PNG House of Assembly in 1964. He had money, he did send his kids to school. My grandpa had five wives of those my grandma was the first wife. Unfortunately, none of my uncles were educated. My other uncles from grandpa’s other wives were educated. My dad was adopted, that was the other problem. We were just a burden to the big extended family. To make things worse, both my parents never attained any form of formal education. They cannot read or write.

We grew up very poor. However, we were content being poor because everyone around us was just as poor as we were. When it came to school fees we did struggle. My grandpa gave me PGK500 when I was in 8th grade. My mom has very sharp reasoning and judgment abilities. She knew we had to invest that K500. She went to the nearest agricultural research center and bought potato seeds, fertilizer, and other necessary pesticides. She walked about 12-13 km in total. When she came back, we worked the soil. I helped mom a lot that I knew everything about growing our basic staple food - sweet potato - and other root crops. I could get up at 6 a.m. and work until 4-6 p.m. without taking rest. She taught me how to work hard which is something I brought into my studies as well. This is how I paid for my high school years.
Being a potato farmer is labor-intensive. I had to wake up at 6 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, every week for 2-3 months when the potatoes started to sprout. The worst thing is that the temperature in my area goes below 10 degrees every morning until the sun comes up at 7 a.m. I cried one day when I could not lift a 16 liters sprayer I used for my potatoes. It sent me diving into the mud haha aha. 

Did I give up? No, I did not. I knew the sprayer was heavy but I was willing to work that hard. I can vividly recall those days, the emotions, the anger, the determination to get even with my uncles. I hated all my uncles because they could not give me the same treatments as the others in our extended family. I knew I was the son of an outcast and I had to work hard. My dad is not in the picture because he always tried to work for other people just for few Kinas (PNG currency) but he would always get unlucky. My mom would always get on him but I did not mind him not helping me because I knew he was trying his best for his family.

Working on my small potato and sweet potato plots became my holiday activities. I remember some students from the other community asking themselves, why does he always work with his mom in sweet potato plots? That was in 2015, first-year at PNG University of Technology and second-semester break. Am I still going to help my mom with her sweet potato gardens when I get home after my studies here? Sure I will.

I learned this from my mom “Your eyes cannot contain your destination” she said, your eyes trick you into believing any task is huge. If you put your head down and start doing it, you would realize that in no time you have completed the task. She wanted to inspire me to work with her in the garden when I was small but the message got stuck with me. Even to this day, I use that simple principle from my mother.

Today, my mission is to break that chain of giving and helping people who supposedly mean something to you. Even if I have to pay school fees for my cousins, I am willing to do it because forgiveness is what I have learned here after seeing what YSD is doing for other people. After I attended the last Scholarship Awards ceremony, my whole perception has changed. Besides, I have not done anything to deserve all the things I enjoyed while being a YSD scholar. I think the simple truth is, “No one should work for our love and attention. It is something we owe to others as human beings”. I forgave them a long time ago when I received the scholarship when I felt free from financial burden but again I need to show that I forgave them of their selfishness.

Thank you YSD for giving me the best opportunity to learn not only engineering but about life as well.

I have learned a lot of stuff from my books, which I would not be able to afford if I had not received
the scholarship. I have learned a lot about working with other people, people of different color, culture, religion, and gender.

I will forever be indebted to YSD, NBPOL, Sime Darby Plantation, and Sime Darby as a whole.
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Last Updated:
25 Sep 2020
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