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Pacific climate activists graduate

Thirty Pacific climate warriors including Samoans graduated from an online training initiative, which is designed to coach them with essential skills they need to make a positive impact in a rapidly changing landscape.

350 Pacific, which is an international movement of ordinary people working to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-led renewable energy for all, released a statement saying the graduates had completed a Pacific Pawa Up Fellowship (P.P.U.F.) online training initiative.

350 Pacific Regional Managing Director, Fenton Lutunatabua, said that 30 graduates from nine countries have over the last 12 weeks dedicated their time to develop their skills as climate leaders.

“At a time with so much uncertainty with COVID-19, and the ongoing climate crisis, these young people have chosen to access this opportunity to improve their skills and increase their understanding of climate action,” he said.

He added that the science clearly states that unless we take necessary steps to tackle climate change, things will only get worse. 

“Whilst we are figuring that out, we are also figuring out ways to sustain our communities and build our resilience for future crises,” he said in the statement. 

“This 12-week long online training has offered them the opportunity to do just that. It’s clear that the fossil fuel industry and other big polluters are strong, quick, and coordinated.

“We can win against them if we stand together and build our collective power. Right now, this is what it needs to look like and continuing the work in the face of this health crisis.”

One of the graduates is Samoan Pacific climate warrior, Okalani Mariner, who said that before she was invited to join the Pacific Pawa Up Fellowship, she had been feeling lost and a part inside of her that burned for community, storytelling and climate justice felt less like a flame and more so like a glowing ember. 

“During these last three months, this community has been nothing but patient, gentle and encouraging. You have taught us the power of our voices when we stand united together as one. You have reminded me of the impact you can make by sharing your unique story.

“In Samoan culture we use the ipu ava [coconut shell] in welcoming ceremonies to scoop and serve the ava to the high chief and visiting guests to honor and welcome them into the village.”

She added that the occasion was symbolic for the graduates.

“We are the ipu ava, and the love, encouragement, knowledge, skillsets and mentoring we have received from our Pacific climate warrior family is the ava inside.”

“It is my prayer and desire that we use the knowledge, skill sets and mentoring that we have received of the past three months to teach and educate others that there is hope for our future generations. 

“That there are warriors who will not stop until the voices of our people are heard, that these warriors have banded together as one to declare that we are not drowning, we are fighting.” 

Ms Mariner added that this was her prayer that, “we like the ipu ava will pour our knowledge and our love out to others so that it may also fill their ipu, just as this fellowship has filled ours.”

The Pacific Pawa Up Fellowship is an essential trajectory for Pacific youth, which models the Principles of a Just Recovery for a more sustainable, secure future. 

The five principles of a Just Recovery are: Put people’s health first, no exceptions; Provide economic relief directly to the people; Help our workers and communities, not corporate executives; Create resilience for future crises; Build solidarity and community across borders – not empower authoritarians.

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