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Peace Fellow in Australia

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Young men help their father unearth the lovo, a feast of local foods cooked in an underground pit.

Greetings from Fiji! We are back in the capital city of Suva, after having spent a month in a rural settlement on one of Fiji’s 332 outlying islands.

My field experience was originally intended to have me working in northern areas, which were ravaged by the category 5 Cyclone Winston last February. Unfortunately, the placement fell through (as is rather common in humanitarian work, I learned) and I was able to design a two-part program that has me working with the Peace and Conflict Studies Institute of Australia (PaCSIA), as well as coming to the isles of Fiji to engage in community expedition and needs-assessment.

Kadavu Island is the most spectacular place I have ever visited. Lush rainforest mountains rise over the crystal sea waters, and beckon you to splash in one of the many waterfalls or snack form the many pineapple, mango and papaya trees. After the rains (which are frequent this time of year), the sea blasts a brilliant turquoise that fades into the sky with more shades of blue than my eyes could register at once. The sunsets set the sky ablaze with color and fade to a vast night sky that is endless with constellations and shooting stars.My field experience was originally intended to have me working in northern areas, which were ravaged by the category 5 Cyclone Winston last February. Unfortunately, the placement fell through (as is rather common in humanitarian work, I learned) and I was able to design a two-part program that has me working with the Peace and Conflict Studies Institute of Australia (PaCSIA), as well as coming to the isles of Fiji to engage in community expedition and needs-assessment.

But, like all places, there are both good things and bad. Living in a remote area means that people are often cut off from necessary supplies. Despite the availability of some fruits and staple foods such as cassava and taro, may people suffer from malnutrition. The typical foods eaten are porridge, white bread, tinned meats, and crackers. Fresh vegetables sometimes come in on the weekly cargo ship, and are limited to onions, potatoes, carrots, and a few others that travel well. It has become a bit of a joke there that the fishermen sell their catches and use the money to buy canned sardines to feed their own families- one I found hard to laugh along with.

There is a hospital, and they seem to have adequate medicine and equipment- as we found when both my husband and one of our sons needed to go for treatment of barnacle-wound infections. The nurses there told me that what they need most is vitamin supplements for pregnant women and children. Major nutritional deficiencies here are iron, Vitamin A, iodine, and zinc. Upon my return to Australia, I intend to appeal to local Rotary groups to fundraise to provide seeds and  educational programming to promote home gardening in Fijian communities. There is a large effort by the Fijian government to boost the nation as a leader in organic farming, and I will explore opportunities for families that grow produce to receive subsidies for local distribution.

Next week, I will be back in Brisbane, continuing my work with PaCSIA. In December, we began a training series for staff at a children’s shelter and community service agency. I will continue and expand on that by aiding in the facilitation of adolescent-adult mediation sessions and doing direct mediation-coaching and preparedness with at-risk and delinquent youth.

A young girl organizes canned goods at her family's store

A young girl organizes canned goods at her family’s store

My other work with PaCSIA will include copy-editing and design for a transcultural mediation workbook developed by my supervisor. His focus has been mediation and reconciliation work in the island state of Bougainville, an autonomous region on Papua New Guinea. From 1988 – 1998, a civil war there killed 25% of the population and suffered some of the most widespread and devastating human rights violations in history. Though they are now considered one of the crowning achievements of post-conflict recovery, the work there is ongoing and reliant on a combination of international peace efforts merging with local traditions. I am thrilled to be a part of the team (though in a minor role) engaging in this important work.

As always, I would like to end this by professing my undying gratitude to Rotary and all its members and supporters for allowing me and my family this opportunity. I have met so many brilliant and talented people, and know that- because of this fellowship- doors are opening for me to follow my call to help people in concrete and meaningful ways.My other work with PaCSIA will include copy-editing and design for a transcultural mediation workbook developed by my supervisor. His focus has been mediation and reconciliation work in the island state of Bougainville, an autonomous region on Papua New Guinea. From 1988 – 1998, a civil war there killed 25% of the population and suffered some of the most widespread and devastating human rights violations in history. Though they are now considered one of the crowning achievements of post-conflict recovery, the work there is ongoing and reliant on a combination of international peace efforts merging with local traditions. I am thrilled to be a part of the team (though in a minor role) engaging in this important work.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Leanne

Kadavu's agricultural department signs. The island has received money to plant 1,000 coconut trees to replace those lost in various storms.

Kadavu’s agricultural department signs. The island has received money to plant 1,000 coconut trees to replace those lost in various storms.

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