SEAM works in partnership with remote communities actively engaged in the fundamental challenge of remaining rooted in the ground of their culture while benefiting from, and contributing to, new opportunities.


DRUSILLA MODJESKA, FOUNDER & MANAGER, MAKING BOOKS

© Photo Peter Bennetts  

© Photo Peter Bennetts  

Drusilla Modjeska is a writer, reviewer and essayist. Her books include Poppy, The Orchard, Stravinsky’s Lunch, The Mountain and Second Half First. She first went to PNG in 1968. In 2004 she visited the barkcloth artists of Ömie, about whom she has written, including in the catalogue to the 2009 NGV catalogue, Wisdom of the Mountain. Since 2004 she has to PNG returned regularly.

I was visiting PNG a lot while I was writing The Mountain, so got to know a few communities well. I saw the dismay and confusion that followed the death of a man who’d been sponsoring some of their children through school. I managed to rustle up another year’s fees for a couple of communities, but it was a stop-gap measure, and a lot of children dropped out, especially those who’d gone to town for High School. It became clear that, for all this man’s generosity, individual sponsorship is not the way to ‘help’. Not only is the funding insecure, it benefits only a few, can lead to jealousies; he didn’t always ‘pick the right kid’, I was told. SEAM emerged over many visits and long consultations with the communities and literacy projects in other parts of the country. It’s principle is one of community partnership and access.
— Drusilla Modjeska

VIRGINIA HEYWOOD, CO-FOUNDER

Virginia Heywood has worked as an advisor to a British Labour politician, as a garden designer and  a community broadcaster.

I was in the fjords of Cape Nelson in 2005 with Drusilla and my daughter Sylvie, who was then 14. She had a great time with the children in the villages. I saw, through her eyes as well as mine, how creative their play was, how much they made of what we would consider very little. I want children like these, living in well functioning but remote communities, to have the opportunities for schooling that my daughter has. That’s why we founded SEAM.
— Virginia Heywood

DR STEPHEN COLLIER, DESIGN

© Photo Zoe Reynolds

© Photo Zoe Reynolds

Dr Stephen Collier is a registered architect and urban designer with over 25 years experience in interiors, architecture and urban design. He joined SEAM in 2014, bringing an architectural eye and philosophy to the design of School-in-a-Box.

In the 1990s, he spent four years working for the internationally renowned Spanish architect Manuel de Solá-Morales.  Several major residential and commercial projects on which he has worked have received the highest professional awards for design excellence in Australia and Europe. He has a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University and a Masters of Large Scale Architecture from the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya (UPC).

Stephen Collier Architects is a vibrant design-focussed office based in Sydney Australia. The office has won numerous awards including the 2012 Sydney Design Award for Residential Architecture and two Commendations at 2013 NSW Architecture Awards.

I was born in PNG, when it was still an Australian territory, and it was there that I spent the first ten years of my life. The 15 years up to independence in 1975 was a period of momentous change for the country both socially and politically. My father was an engineer. He built bridges, buildings and roads; the things we commonly associate with progress and development. My mother, a regular church goer and nurse, often talked with passion about the suffering brought about by tuberculosis and malaria, diseases long since eradicated in Australia. This was how my white expatriate boyhood was framed, made up of all the entangled elements which still characterise the difficulties and challenges in the country; including the struggle to improve health and education, and to provide a prosperous future for all of its people. But whilst the feel, colour and smell of the tropics became an enduring part of my identity I never felt I could honestly say that I belonged to PNG. It seemed too phony a claim to make. When the opportunity offered itself to work with SEAM, and to return to the country after an absence of 30 years, I realised it was a kind of second chance. Not only to re-establish a connection with a home of sorts but to reconnect with its extraordinary sense of place, landscape and people. A place not without problems, but a place also where the connections between tradition (what makes us who we are) and modernity (what we aspire to have and be) are so indelibly revealed. I am proud to be a part of SEAM and I hope that over the coming years we will be able to see remote communities prosper through the educational facilities we offer. And to gain the necessary skills and confidence that makes them proud of their own identity as well as the tools to sustainably profit from it.
— Stephen Collier

TARA RYAN, COMMUNICATIONS VOLUNTEER

Tara is a Project and Talent Manager at learning and development consultancy, Be Learning. Her working life requires agile project management for integrated solutions for variety of blue chip organisations throughout Australia, Europe and Asia. She is passionate about offering her skills and knowledge as an administrator and project manager volunteering for SEAM.

The heart and sincerity that drives SEAM really echoes the people it’s been created to support. Visiting the communities in Oro Province absolutely solidified for me the importance of this work. There is so much that can be achieved in supporting the preservation of these communities whilst empowering them through easier access to education and health care.
— Tara Ryan

Martha Bentley, Education & Development

Martha Bentley is a Drama teacher currently working in Singapore at the Australian International School. After a decade of teaching in the North of England, including with the National Theatre Schools Programme, she decided to widen her understanding of education, which took her on a journey to Papua New Guinea.

Martha Bentley is a Drama teacher currently working in Singapore at the Australian International School. After a decade of teaching in the North of England, including with the National Theatre Schools Programme, she decided to widen her understanding of education, which took her on a journey to Papua New Guinea.

Going to the fjords of Cape Nelson in 2012 was a turning point for me to understand how many forms education can take. Travelling through the villages, meeting the students and children allowed me a window onto a completely different form of educational structure. Working with the children, talking with school teachers and principals about all that was in the way of educational growth, woke me up to the problems and inequalities, not just within the village but in the context of its place in PNG and the rest of the world. The children’s sense of enquiry and curiosity was a joy to be in the presence of, not just as a teacher but fundamentally to see how very human and natural the drive to learn is, no matter what obstacles lie in your path.
— Martha Bentley

Sebangaz Siming, PROJECT CoORDINATOR

Sebangaz Siming is a young Papua New Guinean passionate sustainable development, entrepreneurship and considers herself a global citizen. She studied Banking & Finance at the University of Papua, has been involved with The Voice Inc., a PNG youth development organisation, PNG Cancer Foundation, Oaktree Australia and was a recipient of the Archers Leadership Scholarship in 2015 - a leadership project of the Kokoda Track Foundation.

 

In contrast to a pursuit of a Bachelor in Business Management (Banking & Finance), I have always been humbled by the simplicity and heart-warming gesture of giving back. In whatever form that gesture may take. I’ve known poverty and have lived the struggles that one goes through daily. My early childhood memories and lessons coupled with my experience of being involved with the few NGOs and charities (while at Uni) have definitely shaped my personal values and landed me a job as a Projects Coordinator with the SEAM Fund and Kokoda Track Foundation - far from a finance company. The trips I have been on - to Tufi and Kokoda - have absolutely educated me on the real challenges that children in remote villages face and I see how privileged I was to get an education in the urban centres. The children, teachers, parents and elders in the villages have inspired and challenged me, a young PNG millennial to be grounded by faith and cultural values whilst being innovative and reaching to smash glass ceilings, pave new paths and set higher standards. My siblings, family and people push me to be better and do better. Whatever I do, wherever I go, ultimately I hope my work builds a bridge, a platform, a stage, a balcony or even a skyscraper for a promising young Papua New Guinean to stand on and be brave to lead social change for a better PNG.
— Sebangaz Siming