Supporting Kokoda Track Foundation
Published: April 2014
As a key player in Papua New Guinea, International SOS Australasia is committed to giving back to the local community. Through its new partnership with the Kokoda Track Foundation, the organisation is meeting its corporate social responsibility commitments in health and education.
Having operated in Papua New Guinea for 20 years, International SOS Australasia has become an important part of the community. It is in a unique position to understand and support Papua New Guinea nationals, who make up nearly 90 per cent of the 400-strong International SOS PNG workforce.
Michael Gardner, regional managing director of International SOS Australasia, explains how the company has been a key driver of healthcare developments in Papua New Guinea:
“Over two decades working in-country, we’ve directly trained and employed more than 500 Papua New Guinean medical professionals. We have also delivered community health education and established the logistics of health delivery, such as clinical referral pathways, supply chain and human resources capabilities.”
International SOS Australasia’s commitment to working with the local community has made it the largest employer of medical professionals outside the Papua New Guinean government. So when it sought to identify a preferred charity with resonance in the region, International SOS Australasia could clearly relate to the Kokoda Track Foundation’s mission:
“To work to improve the well-being and futures of the people of Papua New Guinea by assisting with education and healthcare, by respecting customs and environment, by improving livelihoods and by fostering the next generation of leaders.”
THE KOKODA TRACK IMPACT
The Kokoda Track Foundation is an Australian organisation named after the arduous 96km single-file thoroughfare along which the ANZACS and Japanese troops engaged in major battles during World War II. The charity aims to repay the generous assistance the Papua New Guinean ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels’ offered soldiers from Australia and New Zealand in their lowest moments. Its support comprises education, healthcare, community development and microbusiness programmes.
With health and education central to International SOS Australasia’s corporate social responsibility agenda, cooperating with the Kokoda Track Foundation enables the company and its employees to make a positive contribution to the communities it has come to know and love.
The impact of the partnership is holistic, with International SOS Australasia offering financial, physical and intellectual backing for the established charity. To kick-start the relationship, International SOS Australasia donated $6,000 toward funding a community health worker for one year. And employees are getting on board, too. “So far, our employees have kindly donated more than $9,400 through monthly payroll donations and this has been matched up to a certain amount by International SOS Australasia,” says Gardner. “More than $4,000 has also been donated through staff fundraising events and money we saved simply by sending e-cards instead of traditional Christmas cards to clients. This puts us in good stead to achieve our target of $30,000 for the year – a sum that will enable us to build a fully-equipped International SOS First Aid Post.”
“With the assistance of our Social Committee, we will be organising further fundraising events across the region such as trivia nights and morning teas. A group of employees are also going to walk the Kokoda Track and there will be additional donations of money and time,” adds Gardner.
It is exactly this kind of ambition that makes International SOS Australasia employees so beneficial to the Kokoda Track Foundation. “We love the passion and drive of International SOS Australasia’s staff,” says Genevieve Nelson, the charity’s executive director. “With the support we’ve received so far we’ve already made a difference in the lives of the Papua New Guinean families and children living along The Track.”
LOCALLY INFORMED OPERATIONS
Of course, the organisation’s wider understanding of the local community also strengthens its commercial capabilities. Several corporate, energy, mining and infrastructure companies working in Papua New Guinea have benefited from the unique integrated service offering of International SOS Australasia. Gardner highlights the importance of local knowledge for effective safety solutions:
“International SOS Australasia was the first provider of medical and evacuation services in Papua New Guinea and we are intimately familiar with the medical and security environment. In a country where the health infrastructure and standards of healthcare are still developing, companies need to know their employees will have access to quality medical care when they need it. No other assistance company has comparable resources or expertise in the country.”
In addition to providing medical care and occupational medicine training, International SOS Australasia organises evacuation procedures and arranges security and immigration clearances should a patient be taken outside the country. There is centralised management over these procedures from the 24/7 Sydney Assistance Centre, where experienced professionals oversee live cases and instruct aeromedical support teams operating International SOS air ambulances.
“The Assistance Centre team provides a continuity of care, which means they manage the evacuation, the receiving care and the follow-up care until a patient is ready to return to work,” explains Gardner.
A NATURAL NEXT STEP
With its strong local presence and unrivalled resources, International SOS Australasia has become the go-to firm for comprehensive health impact assessments and baseline health surveys in the region – vital services that help to inform companies’ operations ahead of their arrival in Papua New Guinea.
Before expanding into the Gulf Province, the InterOil Corporation engaged International SOS Australasia to perform surveys and studies across more than eight villages in the area. Field researchers ascertained detailed information about local health services, sanitation infrastructure, education and employment opportunities. It was important to InterOil that it had the support of Papua New Guinea nationals and the necessary understanding to help make a positive impact on the region.
“Local knowledge and community sensitisation is vital to building strong relationships on the ground,” says InterOil’s HSE Manager Michael Martin. “This whole process, developed in conjunction with local health authorities and community representatives, means we have been able to work effectively together and gain their trust.”
A partnership with Kokoda Track Foundation was the natural next step for International SOS Australasia. By working closely with the charity, it will have greater access to critical local information it can then relay to clients operating in Papua New Guinea. In this way, International SOS Australasia and the Kokoda Track Foundation will continue working together to create a brighter future for the Papua New Guineans of today and tomorrow.