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From Kia to Sweden

Serafina Silaitoga
Monday, September 29, 2014

MENTION the name Maleli Qera among the mangroves and the reefs which surround Kia Island and you just might hear a small splash. Or even notice the beginning of a ripple as it spreads out touching everything in its path.

It's simply a use of the metaphorical of course, but it serves its purpose to indicate how long and closely he and those on Kia have worked together to conserve their environment.

Since joining the NGO — C3 (community-centred conservation) — on the island, Male, as he is commonly known, has brought about a vast change in the attitude of villagers in caring for the marine environment.

Having worked for this newspaper for a few years, Male has used this network to raise awareness in the North. So he has been a frequent visitor to our newsroom in Labasa Town.

His environmental work has involved the young and old, the employed together with the unemployed, students, villagers, locals and even foreigners.

"Basically we just emphasise the importance of looking after the corals in particular the Great Sea Reef and the mangroves and the marine as a whole," Male said.

"And since working with these villagers over the years, I have seen changes in their attitude towards taking care of the reefs, corals and the mangrove.

"We have involved everyone in our work even the civil servants and their support has been great."

Male said students had shown keen interest in the work of the NGO. The work has given them an opportunity to become wardens of the environment where they head clean-up programs from the village compound to the sea.

"We are involving the students because our message of saving the environment needs to begin with the young people," Male said. "When they grow with this message; they will not only know but believe that saving our marine environment, the reefs, mangroves and everything in it is an important responsibility for everyone.

"We work with all the different communities and their response has been overwhelming."

Last year he took some students from the island to Sweden for their group's program. That trip, Male said, was great exposure for the students from Kia Island.

From an island surrounded by corals and mangroves to a foreign land that offered them a totally different lifestyle, these children surely experienced culture shock.

And one instance of this was through food. The various foods available and those which were offered in Sweden were very strange to these children, Male knew his task of being a chaperon would not have been easy.

"I had fun though because I have lived in Kia with them and know the kind of food we eat at home and none of it was seen during our trip," he said.

"We were having breakfast one morning when one of the students asked me for babakau (deep fried pancakes).

"We all laughed about it and whenever they didn't like any food, they would whisper to me 'ana ca (tastes bad). So you can imagine my task becoming even more difficult but fun."

Male loves his job especially the part where he works with the different communities and his passion has attracted supporters and followers to C3's program.








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