THE Vodafone Fiji Hibiscus Festival queen contestants visited Buretu Village to witness the effects of climate change.
Hibiscus Events Group public relations manager Lice Movono-Rova said the contestants were very excited from the outset for two reasons, the first being the opportunity to see the impacts of climate change for themselves and the second being the opportunity to visit an iTaukei village.
She said many of the girls in this year's festival had grown up in the urban centres of Fiji so the Buretu visit was a great learning experience for them.
"It was a challenge, them learning to dress appropriately, behave appropriately and also be sensitive to the cultural setting but the girls did extremely well and were fully immersed in their surroundings upon our arrival."
The girls came away emotionally affected after seeing just how badly the lives of the people have been affected by climate change and so they were quite challenged to harness more support for climate change adaptation work.
Miss Friends Bar Zaira Begg said she was quite unprepared for the realities but she was touched by the people's willpower to preserve their way of life despite what they were going through.
"I was quite touched because it was very clear to me that their lives were very badly affected.
"Their economic livelihood is made smaller, their health has been affected and they can't even plant enough food to live on — but in the middle of all that, they continue to live, smile and laugh and welcome us.
"That told me that even though they have very little, they continue to protect their way of life, their style of living and their cultures," Ms Begg said.