Bal was awarded the Commonwealth Youth Awards for the Pacific region for this work as the founder and director of the Kama Scholars Foundation – a grassroots initiative that empowers disadvantaged youth. The Foundation has awarded 56 scholarships and organised volunteer placements for Australian medical students in local communities.
The Commonwealth Youth Council met with Bal early this year and with the International Youth theme in mind had to showcase the work of Bal Kama as he eradicates poverty and tackles other SDGs.
Bal, tell us about your work:
I work through the Kama Scholars Foundation to empower young people from disadvantaged background to have access to quality education by providing scholarship. The scholarships are based on three criteria – Leadership, Academic and Discipline (LAD). The LAD program not only promotes success in academia but also encourages leadership and good citizenry.
KSF also maintain an ‘all-girl’ scholarship for young girls with the intention to promote gender equality. It also provides for disable students. KSF further runs a medical awareness program in rural villages, providing medical advice on women’s health issues. KSF’s programs directly contributes to achieving SDGs 3, 4, and 5 with regards to health, inclusive education and gender equality.
Since its establishment in December 2013, my Foundation has provided fifty-six scholarships to students from disadvantages communities and backgrounds in the Highlands of PNG to attend high schools. Eighty-five percent of the recipients are female! In a male dominated society, this is an incredible result, clearly indicating the success of women empowerment.
Extending to reach indigenous youth
In the next two years, I would like to extend these programs to other parts of the Highlands region and eventually to the nation. I would like to create a national indigenous scholarship program that supports education in remote indigenous communities. The country’s development is derailed by its lack of literacy and education. Educated and informed citizens will in turn make informed decisions when interacting with their socio-economic and political space.
I believe our LAD (Leadership, Academic and Discipline) program provides the fundamental tools for young people to be change agents.
Important advice for a Bal:
We are living in a world that is constantly competing to progress, yet desperate to find answers to its problems. The 2030 SDGs was borne out of this paradox. The SDGs looks for problem solvers, not problem creators. Youth, with their innovative prowess and energy for change, should be at the heart of this equation! We must work to create a future free from discrimination and inequality, a future where access to basic sustenance and services including health and education, is a right and not a privilege!
All of us are endowed with the ability to be agents of change. Find your interest and press forward. Paraphrasing former US President J.F. Kenedy, let us ask not what the world would do for us, but what we can do for the world by thinking globally and acting locally. We must adopt the Colossians 3:23 work ethic: whatever we do in our life-time, let us work heartily, as if we are working for the Lord and not for men.