On 21st March a large crowd gathered at the Apollo Theatre to support and raise funds for the children of Fiji who have had their lives uprooted by the terrifying force of Cyclone Winston.
The driving force behind the event was Tuilagi Seiuli Allan Alo, Pacific Outreach Coordinator for Polynesia of the University of the South Pacific’s’ Programme for Polynesia.
Financial and in kind support came from Fiji Airways, University of the South Pacific (USP), Save the Children Fiji, and the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel, Apollo Theatre, South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP), Goodman Fielder and others.
Cyclone Winston blew a devastating and far-reaching path around the Pacific at the end of February 2016. While Samoa was spared the wrath of the storm, Fiji was right in its path and many small islands were flattened.
In all 243 schools were damaged, 64 schools were destroyed, and 72,137 students had their education disrupted. In the final count thousands of homes were destroyed, crops were uprooted. Food and personal security were shattered.
In one frenetic week the fundraising programme took shape with approval to launch the film, “Moana – The Rising of the Sea’ at the Apollo Theatre.
The film was a partnership between USP and the Bergen University in Norway and the executive producer Professor Edvard Hviding from the University of Bergen was on his way to Samoa. Air tickets were also booked from Fiji for the five USP dancers Oceania Dance Theatre. The USP dancers were flown to Samoa to perform with members of the Outreach Dance Theatre Samoa at the cocktail event.
The ‘Fiji Appeal – Save the Children’ fundraiser created goodwill between the people of Samoa and Fiji and the Head of State Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi presented the opening address. He referenced the shared history and culture of Fiji and Samoa with legendary references and a Samoan proverb “ o le lave i tiga, o lo’u ivi, o lo’u toto ma lo’u aano.”(He who rallies in my hour of need, is my bone, my blood my flesh).
Guests were treated to a cocktail and the much-awaited film. There were informative presentations not only by His Highness but also by Professor Hviding, Peniamina Le’avai from SPREP and a special performance by the Oceanic Dance Theatre USP and an auction.
Guests were zealous about supporting the Fiji Childrens’ Appeal. The highlight of the evening was the launching of the Film “Moana – The Rising of the Sea” in Samoa. This performance had a European tour in 2015 to Norway, Edinburgh, Paris, and now it was Samoas’ turn.
Peniamina Le’avai reminded us we must strive to keep the target of 1.5 degrees Celsius. We are experiencing the hottest records in centuries and sea level rise and this is the core focus of the ‘Moana - the Rising of the Sea’ film.
The suffering of relocating people, pulling them away from their ancestral lands and way of life is the inevitable outcome of climate change in the Pacific with sea level rise.
The performance of Moana was a collaboration between artists and educators, Vilisoni Hereniko, is the producer, Edvard Hviding the executive producer, Peter Rockford-Espiritu the director and choreographer, Igelese Ete the musical director and composer, and Tuilagi Seuili Allan Alo the cultural specialist and protocol. Moana – the rising of the sea was first launched as a DVD at the Paris COP 21 meeting in Paris in December 2915.
The film highlights the global impact of Global Warming on small island nations and is inspirational, motivational, heart rendering – offering a human face to the issue of climate change.
The fundraising event demonstrated how the arts can be used at a vehicle for educating the masses and raising awareness of the critical issue of climate change. It also illustrated how the public can be motivated to get behind causes if sweetened with artistic performances and how our Samoan public are thirsty for the arts and the enjoyment they get from participating in such events.
Tuilagi noted that the appeal was a huge success on many levels; $25,000 was raised in one evening, and this exposed the conviction, determination and hard work of many individuals.
The event was organised in a week of hectic planning so it was a massive challenge to get people to Samoa from Norway and Fiji. “But the success of the event was entirely due to the hard work and efforts of all the partners. None of this would have happened had it not been for their support.”
Tuilagi tells us of fitting Samoan proverb - ‘E pipi’I tia, ‘ae mamao ala” (Men are living together on earth, but whether they will ever meet depends on the will of God who may send sickness, storms or other obstacles).