Work, Eight Months Into Sabeto

Now, this one is about work.

Two weeks ago, we had an Inter-Service Training (IST) on “Mobilizing Youth for Climate Change.” Though many of us suspected this was invented purely to get funding to bring volunteers in to meet the visiting Director of Peace Corps, it turned out to be a fairly rewarding training. It was only two days, and we had some speakers who were not only high profile (the Director, the US Ambassador, the head of climate change organizing efforts in Fiji’s foreign ministry) but also those with relevant experience, information and suggestions, including an RPCV.

To back up a little more, I started an Environmental Club at my school a month ago, after forming an Environmental Committee in order to qualify for the Clean Nadi Schools program. We have since set up paper recycling bins in all the classrooms (made from leftover cardboard boxes we decorated) and gotten a huge burlap sack to collect it in downstairs. I created positions and let the the six Environmental Officers (a boy and a girl each from classes 6, 7 and 8). The most active so far has been Epi, who is the “Paper Executive” (we also have an “Compost Executive” and an “Environmental Seer”).

The plan is to get plastic recycling set up here as well, and then if it is going well after a month or so, to expand it into both/either other schools nearby and/or the village. I want to promote anti-litterbug behaviors; it’s so easy to just throw something to the roadside, but I want the kids at the school to recognize some of the problems with it and, perhaps more importantly, simply not do it.

Our first week we simply dug a leaf pile and combed through the compost for non-compostables. I also threw in a quick and easy lesson on erosion under an overhanging tree, whose roots provide a small cave. The next week, we went to a nearby river – we were lucky enough to get there just after a digger had been digging up the riverbed, leaving us not only a dirty river that we could take samples of but also a small streak of benzyne, that I used to talk about the danger of oil spills. But mostly, kids just played in the river.

This week, we went to Lautoka.[i] We took a minibus, thirteen students and I with Solo’s dad Emosi driving. We went to their waste site, which was actually really awesome. They take care of trash from Nadi, Lautoka and the resort islands in the Mamanucas and Yasawas, and they aren’t just a gigantic pile of rubbish. They clear out the market in the afternoons, compost the waste and sell 10kg bags for 3 FJD – but the demand is too high for their supply. They also allow waste-pickers to come in and recover recyclable plastics, which is the majority of their landfill, for 20 FJD a month. After the waste site, we visited their tree park (which also had fish ponds and a starfruit tree with plenty fruit).

We’ll be going to the organic farm here in Sabeto, Aviva Farm, on Monday. Kids will plant their own plants (I forget what plant) and will be shown around the nursery and a few pretty cool plants. I’m also hoping that I will be able to get some tree-planting initiatives going on around here, but specifics remain extremely vague. Next week, I’ll be throwing a pizza party for the Environmental Officers – I’ll make some homemade stovetop pizzas that I’ve gotten pretty good at and put on a Planet Earth episode in the library, perhaps after doing some brief explanations and exercise on climate change. And in early August, we will participate in an oratory contest on the topic of climate change in Nadi.

I’m also investing US-Fiji relations, or more specifically for structural remnants from the 3-year usage of Sabeto village as an army base during WWII, and hoping to get that funded by the US Embassy. Still waiting on a responsive grant website for the covered walkway school management has enlisted my help for, as well as helping a little with applying for another grant to build a Multi-Purpose Hall/Evacuation Center.

On top of these, I’m organizing some reforms for the library, because I’m in charge of it and we finally got money in from the government for it. We’ll be starting a movie night once a week for all students, and also will hire a librarian that can run regular hours. We’ll also install another bookshelf near the ground, along with rugs that they can lounge and read on.

This is running long so I’ll cut it short here. Overall, I’m feeling pretty optimistic about my work and life here, though that’s not to say that I have entirely escaped the daily insecurities of miscommunication. They’ve just taken a backseat to the potential and receptiveness of the kaiSabeto I live and work with.

[i] The second-largest city in Fiji, around 100,000, about half an hour north of Sabeto.

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