Recently in Lisa Category
In my last entry I talked about how important it is for many of the communities Seacology works with to create a community center or public building in exchange for the decision to establish a conservation area. In these cases, when the building is finished, an opening ceremony is held at the center followed by a celebration and shared meal. If Seacology expedition participants are able to attend one of these ceremonies during a Seacology trip, they often describe it as an incredibly significant and moving event.
Going back in time from this opening ceremony to when the project began we can understand how such an event can be so moving. Over the course of the previous year or more community members were discussing the project, thinking over the details, drawing plans, meeting with officials, and volunteering their own labor to make sure the construction and conservation process would result in a useful and successful change for their own generation and the next.
As Karen wrote in her last entry, we have a very small staff here at Seacology - only six of us. The result is a pretty efficient group of individuals who all take care of more tasks than what our official titles would reveal. While I spend a little over half my work day processing all things financial, I spend almost about as much time reviewing projects in process and communicating with field representatives and project leaders about the current state of their programs.
One thing I have found fascinating over the years is the frequent request from project partners from widely different cultural regions to have Seacology provide a public meeting space in exchange for their decision to conserve their environment. The design of these buildings is planned at the site by community members in conjunction with hired contractors and either a Seacology field representative or a project leader. This planning process involves a high degree of cultural knowledge of building techniques that are appropriate for the extreme weather in the particular area as well as what makes sense in terms of community size and purpose. (Above right: Niakokokoro, Fiji Center; Left: Sarinbuana, Indonesia Center)
Seacology Field Representative Simon Ellis and project leader Frankie Harriss sent us some wonderful photos and a report from the Ailuk Community, Marshall Islands. The Ailuk Community established a 160-acre marine protected area and a 55-acre terrestrial/marine protected area for a period of ten years.
In exchange, Seacology funded the construction of a solar-powered airport terminal and guest lodge. The project began in July 2007. In spite of some setbacks due to a lack of shipping options for materials to this remote area, the construction phase of the project was completed in January 2008 (photo of building under construction and completed below).
The project that originally launched Seacology took place in Falealupo, Samoa and has remained a wonderful example of Seacology's win-win strategy. In the early 1990s the Samoan government told this remote village that if they did not build a better school, teachers would be removed and their children would not be educated. Having no other source of revenue, the villagers sold logging rights to their rainforests. Before this could happen, however, Seacology co-founder and chairman Paul Cox worked with the village chiefs and raised the funds for the school in exchange for a covenant protecting the 30,000 acre rainforest. The Falealupo Rainforest School was constructed, and since that time Seacology has had a close relationship with the village.
In the last few weeks we have had quite a few updates from Seacology's field representatives and project contacts on islands throughout the world. Here are a couple of updates from projects in Indonesia and India.
In Indonesia, Seacology field representative Arnaz Mehta notes that Seacology's project in Waigeo, Raja Ampat, is moving along smoothly. In exchange for a nine village agreement to establish a 123,553-acre marine protected area within the Mayalibit Bay, Seacology is providing a series of infrastructure improvements including constructing public washrooms, walking paths, and solar cell electricity for lighting so that children can study in the evening.
Seacology has a commitment to stand by our island projects when disasters such as the major tsunami hit the Indian Ocean in December 2004. Thanks to generous donations to Seacology's Tsunami Relief Fund of 2005 Seacology was able to provide relief projects to communities where Seacology had a presence before the event. These projects were intended to complement larger relief organization efforts in affected areas by providing to community members long-term relief in terms of restoring damaged village homes and community centers, or by providing materials and supplies communities said they needed most in order to regain traditional livelihood practices.
One of the updates we received this past week was from Seacology's long time friend and contact, Mr. Anuradha Wickramasinghe, Director of the Small Fishers Federation of Sri Lanka (SFFL). When the 2004 tsunami swept across this area of Sri Lanka, Seacology responded to SFFL with three projects to help community members recover from such a devastating trauma to their lives and community. Seacology repaired the damaged Seacology-funded SFFL Mangrove Resource Center, rebuilt a destroyed fishers' community center and provided sustainable fishing canoes and fishing gear to 88 families in the region, and replaced 15 lost fishing boats for a sustainable fishing cooperative in the area. This last project was just completed in mid-2007 and now each boat is owned and run by three family members who each provide food and income to an average five-member household (above right).
This week we heard from Seacology's field representative in Fiji, Mr. Saula Vodonaivalu Jr. He has just visited Nukubalavu Village at Savusavu, Vanua Levu Island. In exchange for the village establishing a 25,600 acre marine reserve for twenty years, Seacology is providing funds to build a kindergarten building (below). The building is now almost complete with installation of fixtures and fencing still to be completed as soon as the building supervisor can return to the village.
Also, we received a brief report from our field representative for Micronesia, Mr. Simon Ellis. While Seacology's project with Palau Conservation Society (PCS) at
Lake Ngardok (right) has experienced some delays due to the building permitting process, all permits were granted last month and PCS is ready to begin purchasing materials and finalizing plans to begin construction of a solar-powered eco-friendly visitor and education center at the lake. Seacology is providing the funds for this construction in support of the 1,236-acre Lake Ngardok Nature Reserve.
Seacology receives updates from our island projects weekly. Here are a few from the last couple of weeks. In Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia, Seacology funded the installation of a solar power energy system for the Utwe Walung Marine Park community center in 2000. The solar system had not been working for some time due to the lack of current community member training on the system's maintenance and the harsh weather conditions on the system's batteries. A cement building has been built to house the batteries and Seacology is providing a second grant to repair the system and provide a training session. Work is scheduled to begin in late October.
On Atiu Island, Cook Islands, an opening ceremony was held on September 21st for the brand new geriatric house for community members. This housing was built with Seacology funds in support of the community's decision to establish a 297-acre wildlife sanctuary and five mile restricted fishing zone on Takutea Island for twenty years. Two hundred members of the community attended the event as well as a member of Parliament, the Atiu Mayor and the Atiu Secretary. Field representative Allan Tuara spoke on behalf of Seacology and had the honor of turning the key to declare the building open.
Seacology receives news and updates from our island projects around the world regularly. Here are a few recent updates from September. The newly constructed geriatric ward at Atiu Village, Cook Islands, is complete and an opening ceremony is planned for the end of September. Allan Tuara, Seacology's field contact in the area, will be attending the opening ceremony acting as Seacology's representative at the ceremony and festivities. The construction of the geriatric ward was Seacology's grant to the Atiu Community for their decision to establish a 20 year 297-acre wildlife sanctuary and restricted fishing zone on and around Takutea Island, Cook Islands.
From North Sulawesi, Indonesia, Seacology's project contact sent us a detailed set of photos and descriptions of the completion of the infrastructure portion of the projects at Tulap, Tulaun and Ranawangko Villages. Included were scenes of villagers working together to finish their access road. This was the last task to complete after having already completed a series of infrastructure improvements earlier in the year using Seacology funding. In exchange for the grant for infrastructure improvements the three villages have established a permanently protected sea turtle beach area totaling 97 acres. Photos of the protected areas were also included.