PNG TRIBAL FOUNDATION PROMOTES, MODELS HUMAN RIGHTS
MONTROSE-(July 14, 2014) The office is colorful but quiet, seemingly no different from any other well-appointed corporate nerve center. Look again, and listen closely–because you just might hear the heartbeat of a worldwide revolution. This is a place where money is thought of mainly in terms of what it can do to empower human beings.
The office in Montrose’s Milestone Building belongs to Gary Bustin, who is 41, and a longtime local resident. Bustin is already known worldwide as founder of Samaritan Aviation, an organization he “bootstrapped” into a powerhouse. Samaritan Aviation operates the only floatplane in Papua, New Guinea and has provided humanitarian aid to that nation for more than a decade. Though created to be of service in New Guinea, Samaritan Aviation eventually expanded its role far beyond that nation’s borders.
“We set out to do float planes in Papua, but we started flying people–300 a year–to help Mexican migrant farm workers see doctors and dentists,” Bustin said. “This was an opportunity to serve people, and to give Americans who had not experienced life in a developing country a chance to see what the rest of the world looks like. Over a weekend, we would typically see 80 to 100 people, and help them with any medical issues they had that were being overlooked.”
Samaritan Aviation also began a Mercy Flights program to help patients get to and from hospitals, he said. Though he is pleased with the success of the non-profit he started while in college, Bustin stepped away from his leadership role with Samaritan Aviation in 2012 to focus on a project even dearer to his heart–creating a model, through his work in New Guinea, for improving the lives of people in developing countries around the globe. Bustin had originally started the PNG Tribal Foundation in 2009, at a time when Exxon was completing a $19 million natural gas project in Papua New Guinea. He met with Exxon officials in Washington DC, and today the corporation is one of many high-profile partners in the work of the PNG Tribal Foundation, which also has offices in Papua New Guinea.
“I was born in New Guinea,” Bustin said. “The country got its name two centuries ago, but it really doesn’t fit-Papua is just a name that the Portugese explorers gave to the people because they had fuzzy hair. Spanish explorers named the island New Guinea, though it is nothing at all like Africa. My own grandfather went there in the 1940’s, after World War II, and did mission work. My father and his siblings all lived there for many years; they started clinics and schools. My mother was a nurse practitioner.
“And I grew up in the jungle.”
While many of the children of New Guinea “expats” spent their time in mission stations or international schools, Bustin found friends among the native children.
“I was the only one who wore clothes,” he said. “My friends wore loin cloths.”
It was not until his high school years that Bustin moved with his family to the states, and his early years in Papua New Guinea have shaped the person he is today.
“My formative years had such an impact, it set me on a track to make a difference for the whole country,” he said. “To invest in someone’s life is one of the most meaningful things we can do. Having grown up there, I developed a love and passion for the people that keeps me up late at night and gets me up early.
“We can do a few things, and impact thousands of lives,” he said.
Among Bustin’s projects this past week has been writing a proposal to provide care and shelter for 50 street children found living in a drain.
“We have a number of partners on the ground,” Bustin said, noting that a program called Life PNG Care, headed by Papua New Guinea resident Collin Pake, has been operating a small, established orphanage.
“Collin is passionate, he has a track record, and he can help us get these 50 kids off the street,” Bustin said. “He needs capital and operating funds, so I am working with Super Value, the largest supermarket chain in New Guinea. I am asking for $200,000 and help in setting up a Kina (coin) for Kindness program at the stores, where people can drop their spare change to help grow and sustain the orphanage.”
PNG Tribal Foundation encompasses a variety of innovative programs and strategies–and is proving very effective. The Foundation itself is based on the tribal concept that by banding together, a group of like-minded individuals can have a more profound impact.
Violence against women is one of the challenges that Bustin and the PNG Tribal Foundation are now working to eliminate through efforts on the individual, community, provincial and national levels.
“As a developing country, New Guinea does not quite have everything figured out,” Bustin said. “Last year a group of women got together to do something about violence against women, and we helped them with funding. We helped to change a federal law–now a woman can take her abuser to court, which is huge. But it’s one thing to change a law and another to change people’s hearts and minds. So we are shining a light on this issue of gender based violence.
“Seven out of ten women in New Guinea have suffered abuse,” he said. “We are doing a documentary, about Senesim Pasin-‘change your ways,’ and we are making a short film too. The message is, don’t beat women.”
The film is widely anticipated in New Guinea, and a short version will be released on YouTube as well.
“It took our film crews five weeks,” Bustin said. “We found amazing women who are making an impact on their homes, their provinces, and their nation–and we found men who get it.
“The new way is to respect the women.”
Bustin, who finds himself working 50 or more hours a week to keep pace with the Foundation’s rapid growth, has a wife and three children as well. And it was family that first brought him to Montrose many years ago.
“My uncle had a ranch here,” he said. “We lived in Florida while I was in high school, which was a surfer scene, so it was fun to come here and play cowboy in the Rocky Mountains, with hay and tractors. I met my wife’s family, and we got to be friends. I didn’t even know they had an oldest daughter. Then, I met their oldest daughter. And after college, we moved back here.”
The people of Montrose can join Bustin and PNG Tribal Foundation in bringing change to Papua New Guinea and creating a model of humanitarian work that elevates and respects native people.
“You can join the tribe,” Bustin said. “We are building a blue chip foundation, something everybody can be a part of. I would hope that people can see the significance of what we are doing, and sign up to take part.”