Voi Puana of Maopa Village is the Digicel Foundation 2017 Men of Honour.
Puana was one of 17 finalists nominated by an independent panel of judges made up of MoH inaugural winner Jimmy Drekore, Cassaundra Rangip, Dr Eric Kwa, David Terry, Sarah Haoda and new judges Betty Lovai and Dadi Toka Jnr.
After taking out the Ela Motors Education Champion Award category, Puana was voted by the judges as the most outstanding Man of Honour among other category winners because of his selfless pursuit of education for his people. The recognition was bestowed at the prestigious Gala Event that took place last weekend at the Stanley Hotel in Port Moresby.
Puana is a primary school teacher who resides at Maopa Village in the Abau District of Central Province. He is married to Kila Puana, whom he describes to be his rock. She too is a primary school teacher and they have three children.
The pair are dedicated to giving their children and others in the village, the best primary education, despite the challenges of a rural setting.
As a teacher, Puana identified the need for pre-school education for children between the ages of 4-9 in Maopa village and so began the journey. Over time, the numbers grew and he funded the establishment of the Rovarova Independent School.
“My vision was to establish a school to cater for the children of Maopa. Because English is a second language, these children needed to grasp it to improve their learning experience. They also needed extra tuition in subjects they found difficult so I began teaching on my veranda.
“Our little group started with 7 children and once word got around, I ended up with over 100 students, outgrowing my veranda and under my house so I set out to build a classroom to cater for them all,” Puana said.
With personal sacrifice of two years without salary, he was able to use the funds to build the Rovarova Independent School at Maopa.
Puana has also become a community Father, going beyond his village to take up and look after other children, raising them equal to his own and giving them education.
Puana employs 12 elementary school teachers who are also from the village. He and his wife combine their paid salaries to pay their teachers.
Puana thanked his wife for her support and for sharing his vision.
Ela Motors Education Champion category Judge, Dr. Eric Kwa, described Puana as an extraordinary man whose story is exemplary.
“I had to look beyond the attributes of each of the nominees in my category and ascertain what set them apart from each other. In Voi Puana, I found a man who sacrificed time, effort, family and finances to help his community.
“I was very impressed with the fact that he and his wife are able to use their incomes to pay the allowances of 12 teachers on a fortnightly basis for over five years. This great personal and financial sacrifice made Voi the stand-out nominee.”