First published in the Post-Courier - a national daily newspaper in Papua New Guinea.
Annie Dori always kept journals, but never for a moment thought of herself as a writer.
As a graduate nursing officer she travelled through the remote districts of Western Province and her journal pages began to fill with the voices of people she met.
They were the stories of everyday Papua New Guineans.
“We were going from village to village,” Annie said, “they were quite far apart – it can take days for people to get to the nearest health centre.”
“Mothers’ would tell their stories of giving birth with no access to a health post and disabled men described their struggles to get around.
“The young girls talked about dealing with the challenge of reaching the age of menstruation with no access to sanitary pads – these are the tough realities of life.”
Today, Annie is based in Port Moresby and continues to improve health care for Papua New Guineans, now as a project officer on a malaria program.
Her enthusiasm is palpable and her smile contagious when she talks about her work. Writing provides a foil for this energy – an outlet for processing the dark and difficult side of the health sector.
“Creative writing is a way of expressing myself,” Annie said.
“It’s not about me or what I’m facing – it’s about other people.
“I do it because I feel there’s a need, but I’m very private and don’t like sharing what I write.”
A few years ago Annie was asked to speak at a funeral service for her aunt, so she wrote a poem.
“A Fijian development expert was there,” she said, “he walked up to me afterwards and asked for my piece and I said: ‘I don’t share my poems with people.’”
But in 2017, Annie was finally convinced to share and she entered a poem – ‘We Need Change’ in the Crocodile Prize, the national literary awards of Papua New Guinea.
“I was encouraged to participate and sent in just one poem,” she said.
“It focused on the challenges I saw around Western Province – how the people didn’t have access basic health services – they inspired me.”
The poem is a cacophony of the voices she heard on her travels. It is sombre and grounded in reality – and for it she was awarded the Poetry Award.
“I was shocked,” she said.
“When I was awarded with the Crocodile Prize I realised people feel something from my writing.
“It is an opportunity for people to have an outlet for their passion. While I keep hiding my writing, some people want to share theirs and they need that platform.”
Annie has continued to write, mostly for herself, but said she may find a piece to submit if the Poetry Award is sponsored to run again in 2019.
“I’m always leaning towards anything to do with health in PNG – I’m really passionate about that,” she said.
“It’s something that can be lacking and the reality of that is evident through the stories in my poem.”
It turns out Annie was a writer all along.
We Need Change
By Annie Dori
Winner of the 2017 Crocodile Prize Poetry Award
The voice of a child begs for a touch,
The voice of a mother in hopelessness,
The voice of a youth searching for direction,
While the old weeps in pain.
The world seems to have lost its humanity,
Portraying injustice, hatred and jealousy,
Nature seems to agree,
Allowing disaster to conquer harmony
Where has the heart of a leader gone?
The kind that stands for justice,
And brings hope to the downhearted.
The child is still begging,
There is no medicine.
The mother is still hopeless
Her child is dying.
The youth is still searching,
Schooling seems only for the rich.
The old is still weeping,
How much more do we have to cry?