Refuge on the Fly
My name is Menasseh and my brother is Robin. My family fled the conflict in West Papua in Indonesia and settled here in Kiunga, Western Province, along the Fly River.
I am lucky because the local school allowed me to join the classes. Everyday I climb up and down a high ladder on the way to school or upon returning home.
It is because the place my family calls home is built very high up on stilts.
The high stilts is important for our safety. The banks of the Fly River where our houses stand are flooded for most of the year and so our homes must be built high above the water.
Because we are refugees, we can not build our homes on better land. Only the banks of the Fly River do not have owners so our families built their homes on it.
Life along the river is difficult. We can just fall into the deep water and die. But in summer, when there are less rains, the river water eventually subsides.
The river becomes so small and shallow that boats and dugout canoes get crowded in the remaining water.
But the river is less dangerous this time of the year and our older brothers are allowed to play on the boats.
My mom could relax with my younger sister on the ground under the house when the Fly River is not flooded.
And my aunt and my nephews will have access to a small natural spring for bathing.
Other kids can just come and go without needing a boat or being told to be careful by their parents.
Yes, summer is the best time of the year because we can walk on dry land beneath our homes.
As for me and my brother and other young kids, we have learned to enjoy living high up on stilts. This place is our home, our refuge along the Fly River.