Meet our new Papua New Guinea Country Manager

We are so pleased to welcome Eileen Tugum to our team.

Eileen took a few moments out of her day to tell us about herself and what inspires her.

What would a typical day in your role involve?
A typical day involves responding to emails, virtual meetings with our team in Madang and Auckland and stakeholders. The COVID-19 pandemic occupies a good portion of my day as I manage risks, staff concerns and safety.

Where in PNG are you from? What was it like to grow/up live there?
I am proud of my Madang and East Sepik heritage. I grew up in my mother’s home in the Ramu in Madang Province. Life was carefree and fun. We swam in the muddy rivers and played on the sandbanks. We helped our parents to fish and make sago.

We’d love to know how you got to The Foundation, what were you doing before you joined us?
I first heard about Fred Hollows when I joined PNG Eye Care in 2014. I then worked for the UN, campaigning for the Millennium Development Goals then moved to WaterAid as Country Director working to promote and deliver safe water, sanitation and hygiene services.

Most recently I worked with Oil Search Foundation, which involved strengthening frontline health service delivery systems and delivering integrated health services to remote, hard-to-reach places. It was here I reconnected with The Foundation when we supported an outreach to Kikori in the Gulf Province.

What motivated you to work for The Foundation?
Three things: the joy and satisfaction of giving people the gift of sight, the inspiration of The Foundation to reach all regardless of who and where they were, and the ongoing lack of priority to eye care services.

What do you like to do for fun/in your spare time?
Taking my grandkids to the beach or park, enjoying a good coffee with friends, and my latest passion is creating fun moments for kids and families with cerebral palsy and looking for ways to give them a fair go at life.

What makes you proud to be from Papua New Guinea?
There is no country like ours – steeped in culture and mystery with breath-taking landscapes and scenery. Who else has over 800 languages which represent a quarter of the world’s languages, and hosts over 5% of the world’s biodiversity in less than 1% of the world’s total land area? And most of our people still live sustainable lives off the land and are generally generous, loving, kind and sincere.

Why are you passionate about the work of Fred Hollows and The Foundation?
I see so many people lose their jobs and become dependent because they cannot see. Yet they could so easily be helped through a pair of glasses, or simple surgery, all at very low cost. At The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ, we are working to restore sight, people’s dignity and restore lives through simple low-cost solutions such as a pair of glasses, or surgery. We are helping to build the country’s eye care workforce and strengthen PNG’s health systems for sustainable quality eye care services.

What would you like to achieve during your time at The Foundation?
Help more people see, train more eye doctors and eye care workers, and strengthen the government’s health system and ownership for eye care in the country including provision and maintenance of essential eye care equipment.

How will improved eye care impact individuals and communities in PNG?
It will give individuals the ability to work and do things for themselves and their families. This can mean being able to drive, sew, bake, make gardens or build a house. And where insecurity is high, it can mean one’s very safety, especially for girls and women. When individuals are engaged in productive activity they will contribute to the national economy and everyone is happier.

What would you like to say to our donors in New Zealand?
Thank you for your generosity, helping The Foundation help so many people restore their sight and their life.

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