LäjeRotuma Initiative



On the morning of 3 March 2006, LäjeRotuma Initiative was awarded the Commonwealth Youth Programme Silver Award in recognition of youth participation in environmental development issues. This award through the Ministry of Youth was presented by the Minister for Information and Rotuman Member of Parliament Mrs Marieta Rigamoto and received by two Rotuman young people chosen to represent the Initiative volunteer network both on the island and in mainland Suva. Nataniela, who had recently left the island but was previously involved in the island volunteer network, from Losa village, Itu‘ti‘u and Emeli, from Hapmak, who is currently studying at the University of the South Pacific, received the prize money. The award prize money was dedicated with words of prayer by the resident Minister Fekau Raki Tigarea.

Morning Tea

In my introductory note about the Initiative, I acknowledged the personal sacrifice by the team of volunteers and the individuals’ commitment to continue a community service by providing information and access to opportunity for youth development. Since its inception in 2002, we have witnessed LRI develop from a simple idea of mobilizing community to manage well their natural resources to a vision with national significance and international recognition. Although the award was presented in recognition of volunteer efforts on Rotuma, LäjeRotuma remembers the island volunteer network and the partner communities in their acceptance, hospitality and support provided to the team of volunteers during times of outreach on the island for the last four years.

Presenting the distinguished guests with tefui

The core members present were Rupeni Mario, who emcee'd the award ceremony and Alfred Ralifo, a science teacher by profession and an artist, who created a turtle painting recently exhibited at WWF, the global conservation organisation, for the launch of the Year of the Sea Turtle; he took leave from school to assist in the preparations. Ruth Isimeli and Marie Pene, our dedicated and trained community facilitators, were also present in the background, making sure all was organized. Heartfelt gratitude goes to the Churchward Chapel youth. I would like to acknowledge the hard work of Ruth Isimeli and her family for the support they gave to her during the week organizing this event. The contributions of the core group of volunteers, for whom our shared vision for Rotuma continues to flourish, even during times of hardship, are also very much appreciated. LäjeRotuma would also like to thank our sponsors and partners who came to the award ceremony in numbers, and most especially the Chairman of the Rotuma Council and the District Officer, who attended the ceremony.

Since the award day, LäjeRotuma has made the news in more ways than we can imagine. It has been featured in the WWF South Pacific Programme e-bulletin as an on the ground news story. LRI was also invited by the Chairman of the Rotuma Council to attend its meeting on 30 March. Since the publicity both at the community and national levels, there have been discussions with potential sponsors from the University of the South Pacific to carry out an extensive biodiversity survey of Rotuma’s marine environment. However, this will have to await consultation with the relevant authorities on the island for endorsement of such an activity. LRI also received two small grants from the Direct Aid Program of the Australian High Commission and the GEF Small Grants Program, not to mention the trickle of personal donations from generous members of the Rotuman transnational community who have a passion for their home island.

CYP presentation of award

Considering the evolving nature of the Initiative since its inception and the urgent need for a formal system in recognizing and accessing major grants to support and sustain environmental-based activities on the island, the next few months are critical for the core volunteers in our efforts. We need your prayers and welcome support of any kind, even if it is only a kind message first thing in the morning; such messages have strengthened us as a team of volunteers in having the faith to do what we do. For this year, the CYP award ceremony launched the year’s phase of activities, which will then be followed by the March island trip to conduct follow up visits with island partner communities, namely: Savlei, Tuakoi, Juju and Pepjei. This March island trip will also coincide with the LRI presentation of its progressive work over the last four years to the Rotuma Council, along with proposed recommendations for the next 3-5 years concerning its outreach on the island.

Please stay tuned as we hope to provide an overview and current update of the plan of action over the next few years.

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