From Fiji Times Online (15 December 2007)
Island sways to new beat
by Ashwini Prabha
Excitement, adventure and eagerness surrounded the first ever eco-camp on Rotuma this week.
Nearly 70 students, adults and youth volunteers gathered for the three-day camp at Oinafa Bay, overlooking the anchorage on Rotuma Island.
The bay was a hive of activity from Monday, with excited children arriving from the Motusa, Christ the King, Peptea and Malha'a primary schools. The only high school on the island, Rotuma High School, joined the camp as well.
The eco-camp offered hands-on, fun activities that helped the young campers learn about the natural world, other people and themselves.
Activities ranged from driftwood art workshop, visual arts, song and dance activities, field trips, beach profiling, bird watching, rubbish auditing (sorting and recycle) and financial literacy workshop.
"The eco-camp aimed to raise the profile of Rotuma's unique and fragile natural heritage so that the next generation may be more environmentally conscious in this age of climate change and loss of culture," said Alfred Ralifo, eco-camp coordinator, LajeRotuma Initiative (LRI).
The camp links into the ongoing environmental education awareness program that has been part of Rotuma schools curriculum since this year.
This creative camp concept was a LajeRotuma Initiative in partnership with the schools on the island and supported by the Council of Rotuma and the District Office.
The camp was funded by the Vodafone ATH (Fiji) Foundation, GEF Small Grants Programme and private donations from the wider Rotuman community.
LajeRotuma is the only environmental non-government organisation on Rotuma with the mission to strengthen and mobilise the island community to manage and conserve its natural resources through training, research, demonstration and cultural exchange opportunities.
"I'm amazed at what LRI has pulled together and see the benefits of such exposure at a young age," said Tarterani Rigamoto, chairman of the Rotuma Council.
"We need the upcoming generation of Rotumans to appreciate and protect what we have as we depend on the land and sea."
The objective of the camp was to showcase environmental lessons to the wider island community.
The five schools have environmental activities where students adopt different habitats.
"The camp links all the activities the schools carried out throughout the year.
"It shows the students how each habitat is dependent on another, for example, how a forest area is linked to coral reefs and that each habitat can not exist in isolation," said Mr Ralifo.
"All the activities combined make up the eco-system of Rotuma.
"The children brought and displayed all the work they have been doing such as posters, photos, essays on environmental activities."
Teachers and students at the camp had an equally rewarding experience.
The camp provided them an opportunity to meet and network with students from different parts of the island.
Mr Fanifau Rafael said: "This camp is very good exposure for these young minds and shows them how to re-use rubbish and the students who are not good with formal education are learning how to use the simple things lying on the beach to make something useful through the art and craft workshop."
"We take advantage of the natural environment on Rotuma and stop appreciating it in our everyday life.
"But the bush work, beach profiling activities and collecting of shells and things to make art work is making us see things in a different light now," he said.
The Driftwood Art Workshop held by local award winning artist Craig Marlow was an opportunity for students to fire up their imagination by interpreting the driftwood pieces they collected.
That involved the addition of shells, seeds, string, etc, to decorate their pieces to produce a work of art from flotsam and jetsam found along the shoreline.
Wilfer Rigamoto, a form six student of Rotuma High School said, "We only knew how to draw but now I can make a nice artwork out of the things lying around and even learnt to re-use rubbish."
Musically inclined eco-campers were given the opportunity to write and perform drama and dance pieces based on environmental themes by choreographer and dancer Pelu Fatiaki from USP Oceania Dance Theatre.
"I love the dance workshop. We can fly like birds and swim like fish when we dance, it's so much fun," said Chesta William, of Christ the King Primary School.
LajeRotuma EcoCamp Report (pdf file)
Fijischool's Blog (posted 4 October 2010)