It wasn’t until an unfamiliar boat appeared on shores of Long Island that the flicker of hope still burning behind Malta’s smile fanned into flame……
It’s not every day you get to witness an entire family transformed through the miracle of medical care. Malta, Malaki and Pilak are such a family. Their native home of Long Island is a small forgotten slip of green found only by those brave enough to sail nine hours east of Madang town on the mainland of Papua New Guinea. In spite of the relatively short trip from there, Malta, Malaki and Pilak find themselves isolated from nearly all of the already limited resources their mainland friends share. With no historical precedent of medical care or government representative on Long Island, 1,000 locals are left to fend for themselves.
Malta, her husband Malaki, mother Pilak and their many children live peaceful lives as subsistence farmers. One day warring villagers from another part of the island came and attacked Malta and her family permanently severing her right hand from her body with a machete. With no medical resources or form of communication to the outside world, Malta found herself searching for answers and hope. As her arm began to heal however, her eyesight began to weaken. Around the same time, Malaki and Pilak found themselves consumed by the cloudiness of cataracts. Despite her determination to keep a smile on her face through dire circumstances her family found themselves in, Malta’s hope for a better future quickly dissipated.
Pilak’s eyesight left first. Even now she has a hard time remembering how many years it has been since she last saw her grandchildren. Although her grandchildren have since grown up and become mothers and fathers of their own, she knows her great-grandchildren only by the sound of their voices and the touch of their skin. Pilak was once a vital part of supporting her family but since losing her eyesight to cataracts she is no longer able to contribute.
When Pilak lost her sight, her son-in-law Malaki took the extra slack upon himself to support her and his burgeoning family. However it wasn’t long before Malaki succumbed to the same fate. When Malta’s sight began to fail they had no choice but to rely on the mercy of their ten children who had long since started families and become parents themselves.
It wasn’t until an unfamiliar boat appeared on shores of Long Island that the flicker of hope still burning behind Malta’s smile fanned into flame. Strangers on a gleaming white marine vessel, the m/v PACIFIC LINK, docked on the shores of Long Island with the promise of free dental work and primary health care, but better yet they were fully equipped and ready to perform cataract surgeries on board that would forever alter the lens through which they viewed life!
Fifteen minutes on board the PACIFIC LINK provided Malaki and Pilak new lenses free of vision-impairing cataracts and a quick trip to the primary health care station provided Malta with the eye exam and prescription glasses she needed to correct her vision.
Malta walked off the PACIFIC LINK proudly donning her new glasses as her husband and mother followed in tow with fresh eyes of their own, each with dreams of how they will employ their newfound sight. Malta is thrilled to return to her beloved garden where she anxiously awaits opportunity to feel soil beneath her fingernails again while Malaki envisions soil of his own yielding the bananas, yams and taro he loves to grow. Meanwhile, Pilak is excited to finally catch a glimpse of all those great-grandchildren she’s only ever heard of.
Story by Caitlyn Stone