Accidental encounter touches Aussie sailor's heart
IT WOULD be a gross understatement to say Craig "Crackers" Hand lives a unique life.
He's lived out of his 15ft half-cabin fishing boat for the past 12 months, travelling 10,000km from Darwin to Brisbane, across the top of Australia and to Papua New Guinea's remote heart.
Continuing on his journey down the south-east coast of Australia, Crackers (a footy nickname that stuck) stopped in Mackay last week and took the opportunity to promote his charity work within PNG.
The accidental charity worker started the charity Friends of Papua New Guinea more than three years ago.
"I set out to cross the Torres Strait in 2008," he said.
"The trip was a week all up and in the process I came across the Sibidiri tribe in Papua New Guinea when my vessel hit a sand bar."
"It was an unbelievable experience to meet them."
Crackers spent a few days with the tribe. He was only the sixth white man they had ever seen.
During his visit he learnt that they had no communication with the outside world, no basic supplies and were in need of some assistance. They asked him for clothing, pots, pans, musical instruments and a chainsaw.
"I ended up back in Darwin and started up a charity for them."
He said the look on the tribe's faces when he returned was priceless because they never expected to see him again.
"In the end we got a VHF communication set up over there," he said.
Today, some members of the tribe even have mobile phones and communicate with Crackers via text. He has since revisited the island, recently spending two months living with the tribe.
To find out more about the charity visit http://www.friendsofpapuanewguinea.org.