The Director of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (A.D.R.A.) Samoa, Su’a Julia Wallwork, is all smiles. She has every reason to, having returned from Fiji where a paper she presented during a major global forum held there was honoured.
Su’a’s paper titled “Coupling Disaster and Financial Management to Reduce Vulnerability: Challenging the Traditional Samoan Mindset” she presented during the Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation in the Pacific Region earned first place.
More than 90 countries were represented with some 45 speakers including Su’a from Samoa.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Su’a said she spoke about the Samoan experience in using traditional knowledge to look for indicators of climate change.
“I spoke about our Samoan experience using traditional knowledge in how we look to the sun, moon and the stars for our indicators for climate change and how we name our winds,” she said.
“We know our winds like the To’elau, Tuaoloa and I said that adaptation in the climate change should be from the lens of the Pacific Islander because we know our needs, lands, our seeds and our sunrise and we know our people.
“Instead of a scientific data, we put up a power point of 30 pictures of our beautiful Samoa, all the beauty of Samoa starting from the people, the sceneries and then we put up another 30 pictures of the devastation of Samoa from the tsunami and cyclones, the devastating impact.
“[And] then the last part was the measures in place, the different projects that we are now implementing to train our people to create awareness among our people.”
Asked if she expected her paper to come first, Su’a said no.
“I was worried about the presentation because I knew I was going to be up against a field of scientists who are well qualified scientists on climate change,” she said.
“Our work here in A.D.R.A. is to prepare the community for climate change, it’s only part of our work because the main work of A.D.R.A. is humanitarian.
“The programme says that there was going to be an award ceremony but I didn’t really think about it, in fact my paper was presented on the last day of the symposium, I was third from the last presenter.
“After presenting my paper I told one of my staff that went with me to go for lunch because I didn’t eat the whole day. I was so worried about my presentation.”
Back at Symposium, Su’a said she did not expect to win anything.
“So we came back to the Tanoa and then I went and sat all the way at the back with the other Samoan representatives we went with and the announcer started calling out the winners from third place.
“I just sat there thinking oh two Indians won third and second place and I was thinking ok I’m sure a palagi scientist will take first place.
“But then I saw the heading of my paper coming through and I sat up and said to my staff “oh goodness” that’s my paper. I stood up and walked to the front with my head held high and so proud of being a Samoan.
“All the Samoan representatives stood up and started screaming with joy because out of 90 countries that were at the symposium and 45 presentations, it was an honour because I am from a small country and I am a grandmother and here I was collecting the award for the Best Paper.”
“It’s a great honour for Samoa and for A.D.R.A.”