Apeketon Business Hub Says Yes to Virtual Workshops

After 40 years sending skilled volunteers overseas to support communities in developing countries, Australian Business Volunteers (ABV) has reinvented its trusted delivery model to overcome global challenges and keep its promise to the people of Lihir in Papua New Guinea. 

Eighteen months after the global pandemic first shut down borders, restricted international travel and dramatically impacted the health and wellbeing of millions around the world, the Apeketon Business Hub on Lihir island has welcomed new clients and workshop participants following an extended hiatus from in person contact.  

First opened in 2019, the Business Hub offers a program of skill development workshops to aspiring and established small business operators in Lihir. It also provides clients with mentoring and consulting services available at the drop-in resource centre, sponsored by Newcrest LGL and delivered in partnership with ABV. 

The Hub currently services 70 registered businesses in the local Lihir community and, in its first year, delivered 13 custom-designed training programs to 144 participants. The doors were closed in March 2020, due to the global pandemic, which limited in-person contact and prevented international travel. 

Senior Program Manager, Henry Ume-Taule and Senior Project Officer, Betty Komes, provide the regular friendly faces on site and were delighted to return to Lihir in November 2020. However, ABV’s skilled business professionals, who donate their time and skills to deliver workshops, have, until recently, been unable to deliver the programs.  

Henry acknowledged the trying times and said he was happy to return to Lihir and reconnect with the community.  

‘We’ve been able to maintain virtual connections with community since the pandemic arrived, but it’s great to get back to Lihir and meet in person again, to re-connect with local operators, and to continue working with our previous graduates as well as new workshop participants.’ said Henry. 

CEO Liz Mackinlay committed ABV to keeping its promise to the Lihir community: to support them to create sustainable business and employment opportunities for their communities.  

‘During this time of uncertainty, ABV dedicated volunteer Skilled Business Professionals and staff revamped the workshops and created a dynamic blended delivery model that includes fresh, new video content, face-to-face facilitation, the introduction of virtual volunteers and the maintenance of essential digital connections,’ said Liz. 

“The new model allows us to support business development through effective and empowered local staff with support virtually from our team in Australia – a combination of volunteers and staff.  We’re 100% able to support business development despite border closures with our new model, which we’re delighted to be able to do in our 40th year”.  

The revamped Your Enterprise Scheme (YES) Start Up workshop was the first of the new blended model. Delivered in September 2021, the workshop combined digital technology and onsite contact to ensure that it remained informative and instructive as well as interactive and engaging for all participants, volunteers, and staff. 

Lihirian businessman Jackery Bachavien took part in the September workshop and found the program very relevant.  

‘Although I have been running my business for several years, it brought me back to understand the basic of business and has put me on the right course,’ Jackery told the Project team. ‘The facilitators presented the course excellently using face to face interaction, group activities and experts over the video link, giving me a multiple sources of information. I wish I had attended this course before I started by business.’ 

SAVI MONEY PILOT SUCCESS (breakout box) 

The Family Money Management Program (FMMP) is another core skills development workshop delivered by ABV through the Apeketon Business Hub.  

In late 2020, a pilot program of a modified FMMP was created with PNG micro-financiers Savi Money Plus. ABV Program Manager Henry Ume-Taule delivered the new iteration of FMMP to 12 staff from Solar Solutions Ltd in Lae and Port Moresby. 

The two classroom days, normally consecutive, were delivered one week apart, as were the two half-day 1:1 mentoring sessions. This suited the business operations as it limited the amount of time staff were out of the office.  

The mentoring sessions allowed for open and honest discussions as participants shared their real-time financial challenges. While this may also be emotionally challenging, participants found it very useful. Participants leave with a clear and measurable financial goal and the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve it. 

Henry Ume-Taule hailed the pilot a success and is looking forward to further developments with a range of potential clients. 

‘It was great to see PNG businesses invest time and resources to bring financial literacy to their workforce,’ said Henry. ‘This will add great value for Savi Moni Limited and Solar Solution as their staff build discipline around money management. A happy workforce free from financial burden is a workforce that will deliver beyond expectations.’ 

Some of the comments from Solar Solutions staff who took part in the Savi Money FMMP. 

“I want to start a trade store in my place of residence, but I didn’t know how” 

“I am a single mother and with this knowledge I see my savings growing with the additional income to take care of my loan and expenses” 

“I now count my money every day over internet banking, and this enables me to discipline myself not to spend unnecessarily at will. 

“My dream to contribute to my new family home in Lae is now achievable –  

thank you ABV for this program” 

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