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Cash assistance: more than money

24 June 2022, Impact of Our Work

Empowering women in PNG

For the first time in her life, Yalingsaguo is holding her own card in her hands. This is no ordinary card - it’s a bank card. 

Yalingsaguo is from a very small village tucked away in the mountains of Morobe province in PNG. 

At 53, she has seen the hardness of life and yet gracefully stands as a pillar of strength beside her husband, Gerry.

Gerry and Yalingsaguo standing outside the house that Gerry built after the couple relocated to higher ground.
Photo: Lillian Keneqa/Save the Children PNG

Life has not been easy since leaving her parents’ house near the coast and moving with Gerry to the mountainous region she now calls home. Together, the couple had three children but sadly lost a daughter a few years ago to an unknown sickness, something that still causes Yalingsaguo pain today. 

Tragedy struck the family again when in 2016 they lost their house, gardens and livestock to ferocious floods caused by the Kumalu River. It has been a long, hard road to recovery. The couple have since moved to higher ground, and Gerry - who is a skilled carpenter - has built a beautiful home for them on top of a rocky mountain. 

Despite all these challenges, the couple worked together and built a small school in their community. Known as Snake River Elementary School, it caters for over 100 children who live in the vicinity of the village. Yalingsaguo and Gerry attest that this has been one of their life’s greatest achievements and contribution to their people.

A new adventure awaits

This year as they celebrate 34 years of marriage, Yalingsaguo will also celebrate some new changes. Since marrying, the couple’s household finances have been dealt with by her husband, Gerry, who is the breadwinner of the family.

Students play soccer at the school Yalingsaguo and Gerry built together.
Photo: Lillian Keneqa/Save the Children PNG

This shifted when Save the Children came to the couple’s small community to distribute cash payments to people experiencing hardship. 

When Yalingsaguo heard that one of the requirements to receive support from the cash transfer project included registering for an account with the Bank South Pacific, she quickly took the news home to her husband.

Gerry remembers his response. “I told my wife, you must open your own account. So, when you have extra money from your small market, you can go deposit and save up,” he says. “I may be the breadwinner now but there’ll come a time when we’ll need your help so we must prepare now.”

With Gerry’s support, Yalingsaguo went through the registration process and opened an account. She was beaming with joy and excitement when she walked out with her new bank card!
Never in my life did I think I would own an account.


The power of empowerment

Shortly after activating her account, Yalingsaguo received a cash transfer from Save the Children. At the time, Gerry had travelled to a neighbouring community to attend a health appointment, taking the couple’s bank card with them. But luckily, Yalingsaguo didn’t have to wait for her husband to return to go to the ATM. 

She was able to cash out a small portion of the money during Easter to buy food for her family to celebrate the holiday. The next week she travelled into Lae City and bought clothes and school stationery for her six grandchildren. Yalingsaguo also bought some additional groceries, leaving a small amount in her account for a rainy day. 

Yalingsaguo says, “When I returned from Lae, I told my husband that this money came for the children, and because of that, everything I bought is for the grandchildren.”

Yalingsaguo after cashing out money with her bank card, ready to buy supplies.
Photo: Lillian Keneqa/Save the Children PNG


Yalingsaguo thinks her community would benefit from cash in a crisis and wishes emergency transfers had been available to her family during the 2016 flooding. “Other NGO’s came during the disaster but they gave us buckets, and what good will that do for us? Because at the time we needed food,” she remembers.

Save the Children [has given] us money and with this money I as a mother and grandmother have a choice to buy what my family really needs.


Yalingsaguo’s community was one of three in the district to receive support from Save the Children. We’ve been trialling our cash and voucher system to make sure we’re ready to support people with emergency cash transfers when a disaster hits, such as a flood, volcanic eruption, or a cyclone. 

Of the people we surveyed in the couple’s community, 90% reported spending their cash on clothing food and school supplies, with remaining funds spent on healthcare, medicine, and garden tools.  

Yalingsaguo is elated to have access to her own money and a key to her future. “Now I don’t need to depend entirely on my husband’s money, I can have my own money too,” she says. 

*Images of the bank card have been edited for privacy​.


This project is a Disaster READY initiative and is supported by the Australian Government. 

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