In a sleepy village called Garuahi, in eastern Papua New Guinea, a health centre lies. Newly renovated and staffed by four, it services 6000 plus people in the surrounding area.A rough dirt road connects Garuahi to the surrounding villages, and the ambulance driver who travels along this road — day and night — transporting patients to the health centre is William Nimo.
Known affectionately by the locals as “The Old Man”, Nimo has limited experience in the medical field. Nimo was born in a nearby village, and while he decided to pursue a career in forestry, he found himself back in his hometown, Topura, some thirty years later.
Nimo’s father had formerly worked at the aid post in Topura, and it was through two health workers at this post that Nimo first heard about the ambulance. Volunteers would come and drive it for two years at a time,then they would switch out. At that time, no one was driving the ambulance.
Since Nimo had learned to drive during his forestry career — and he had done quite a lot of driving — he said he would fill that position until they could find a long-term volunteer. After four years, no volunteer had been found, and Nimo was still driving.
In 2012, Nimo decided to go back to forestry. Another driver took over
the ambulance, and Nimo and his wife packed moved away. Then one day, the ambulance crashed. It was only a minor accident, but it was enough to scare the health workers. They found Nimo and begged him to return.
Being a religious man, Nimo took that as a sign from God telling him to go back, and he and his wife packed up everything again and moved back into the village. He’ll stay there until the health centre can find “another driver who’s as good as me.”
The road between Garuahi and Topura is long and rough. Oftentimes, patients have taken a long ride on a dinghy just to get from their village to the road so that the ambulance can pick them up. It’s not an easy trip, getting to a health centre. Countless mothers have delivered in the ambulance with only Nimo thereto assist. Once, he drove a man who cut his abdomen so deep that his intestines were spilling out. That same man walked himself out of the hospital a few days later. In his six years of driving the ambulance,Nimo has not once crashed and only one repair has been made on the vehicle.
Nimo has given so much back to the community. He’ll drive twenty hours straight one day and be up early the next day with a smile on his face. He’s made quite a difference in this community. I think I speak for all of the people who have had the opportunity to meet him when I say thank you, Mr. Nimo. Thank you.