Baha’i educators share experiences from Papua, New Guinea“If you stay here, you’ll be just one more architect,” an Indonesian friend told Rahim Milani in 1981 when he and wife Marsha were considering moving abroad. “However, if you go to a developing country, you can make a great difference in your profession.”
“If you stay here, you’ll be just one more architect,” an Indonesian friend told Rahim Milani in 1981 when he and wife Marsha were considering moving abroad. “However, if you go to a developing country, you can make a great difference in your profession.”
As members of the worldwide Baha’i Faith, the Milanis are committed to the principles of service, universal education and the oneness of mankind.
“That advice was an important part of our decision,” Marsha said, describing their move to the South Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 1982. They hoped to contribute through their professions in that country, where the formal government education system just began after World War II.
“Our Faith teaches us that mankind was created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization,” Marsha said. “We felt privileged to be a part of that process for nearly 30 years in Papua New Guinea, and we learned so much.”
Rahim served as professor and head of the Department of Architecture and Building at the PNG University of Technology, where he led the efforts to achieve international accreditation for its courses in architecture. He also assisted in the establishment of the PNG Institute of Architects and the architectural registration board for PNG, serving as its Chair from 1982 to 2010. Another achievement was the establishment of the Architectural Heritage Centre of PNG to document the country’s unique traditional buildings before all are lost to modernization. “This historical data provides inspiration to present and future architects to design buildings appropriate to the culture and climate of Papua New Guinea,” Rahim said.
Marsha used her training in linguistics as an English lecturer at the same university and also assisted some 60 language groups with translation and publication of some Baha’i Holy Writings into their local languages. PNG is four and a half times larger than Wisconsin, with a population of about seven million and the most languages of any country in the world — over 850. “For many language groups these Baha’i translations are the first publication in their language,” Marsha said. “Therefore these translations not only make more knowledge available. They also preserve these languages.”
Marsha was also instrumental in establishing a correspondence high school as a community service project of the Baha’is in her city for 25 years. This school served students who were not able to continue in public schools, often because their families could not afford the school fees. There are well-established Baha’i communities in over 200 villages and towns in Papua New Guinea.
Following Rahim’s retirement in 2010, the Milanis returned to the United States to settle near their oldest daughter and her family in Willmar, Minn.
Rahim and Marsha Milani will be speaking about their experiences as educators in this rich and diverse developing country and will share teachings of the Baha’i Faith at a free program at 7 p.m. Saturday. The gathering will take place in a private home in Billings Park.
Call (218) 428-7490 for more information.