A dirt path, worn by decades of striding feet leads Daniel toward his familys home in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. He is returning for the school holidays, but youd never guess it.
He looks older than the other students; his face and hands more worn, his eyes more knowledgeable. A smile of wonder stretches across his face as he passes what to any passing stranger would seem a humble plot of rice.
But this is Daniels rice field, and the reason hes on school holidays at all.
Daniel was raised by poor, subsistence farming parents. They all but lived hand-to-mouth, and as disease, disasters and a changing climate reduced their ability to grow crops, Daniel was forced to drop out of school they simply couldnt afford the fees.
Each day Daniel would watch his friends disappear around the bend of the mountain path on their way to school. Each day he would spend hours working the familys fields; hours that were haunted by the dreams he had been forced to give up and the fading hope of leaving his familys poverty behind.
Daniel remembers the day in 2009, a typical day by his standards, when the Rice Trainer from ADRAs Church Partnership Project came to his village. His father called him from the edge of the field to meet the trainer and they arranged for Daniel, and a number of other boys in a similar situation to him, to receive training.
Inspired by the training and the thought of a brighter future, the boys, with the support of ADRAs Rice Trainer cleared and cultivated a 45m x 100m plot of land.
That year the boys harvested 245kg of rice. They had enough for their families and sold the rest for 670 kina ($325). With their profits they bought spades, bush knives, gloves and fertilizer for the rice farm.
In 2010 they replanted the land; a severe dry season cut their harvest in half, but they still made more than 300 kina ($145) for their efforts. This time, the boys used the profits to buy two piglets to start a small piggery.
Now, Daniel and his family had enough food and a stable income. Daniel was proud of his efforts, but the call of education lingered without it, his future would be remain in the hands of the land.
In 2011, Daniel’s harvest was plagued by pests and disease but the 270 kina ($130) raised, along with savings from the previous two year’s harvests allowed Daniel to realise his dreams.
In late 2011 Daniel began carpentry training at the Mt Hagen Vocational School. He is learning a trade that will secure his future for years to come. But perhaps even more significant is that Daniel has overcome one of the most debilitating effects of poverty shackled hope, futures and dreams.
Rice had been planted, but a carpenter and a brighter future for Daniel and his family will soon be harvested.