Rebuilding Hope: A Story of Climate Change Displacement (Part 1)

This is a story about hope. It’s a story about rebuilding from nothing, from walking a tightrope between holding onto the past and letting go. It’s a story about Tukuraki Village.

Exactly two years ago, the strongest tropic cyclone hit the southern hemisphere on the main island of Fiji, Viti Levu. The numbers related to the tragedy are staggering and heartbreaking. Hundreds of thousands were affected and homes, school, building were lost and damaged.

Entering the new Tukuraki Village

Tukuraki Village is one of one the many villages that was severely damaged in the aftermath of the cyclone. In the case of Tukuraki Village, it was the consequences of a landslide that cruelly engulfed homes, even a family who passed away.

In panic and fear, the members of the village fled and found hiding in an overhanging rock, essentially a cave. The Building Safety Resilience in the Pacific (BSRP) Project, funded by the European Union and implemented by the Pacific Community, helped to relocate this entire village and reconstruct homes in a location deemed much safer for the families.

I travelled to the new Tukuraki Village and meet with different members of the community with two staff from the Building Safety Resilience in the Pacific (BSRP) Project.

Strength Comes from Many Faces

As we enter one of the newly constructed homes, we are welcome to a family. One of the women introduces herself, “I am one of the people from Tukuraki Village. I am 60 years old. I saw the landslide happen in the old village, now we are here.

In her eyes, already before we speak it feels as though she is putting on a strong face to keep back her tears. As we continue to speak, she recounts the series of events that happened. She remembers the exact date, the exact times of the day, the exact feelings she when the landslide took away everything.

Without asking the second question, she says with sincerity, “When I come to the new village there are new houses here. A Fijian house. I am very happy.” 

What was really are the heart of her conversation was a feeling of peace. She explained that although she has memories of the past, and they haunt her, she is no longer living in fear.

Oldest man in the village

We step out of her home and continue to walk along the row of newly built homes. All the door of each home is wide open, and as we pass people step out to greet us.

An elderly couple sits on their straw matt and welcomes us into their home. I am touched by the man’s beaming smile, while his wife seems shy she is still glad to see us. They are the oldest people and couple in the new village.

Although the entire village and all people benefit from the relocation, it was very touching to hear the story of how the new home transformed the life of this elderly couple. The new home that was constructed provided the couple with access to the kitchen and bathroom inside the home.

As the man gleefully said, “New house with new washroom – everything is here!”

New home supports this woman who cannot walk

The third home we visited was the home of an older lady living alone. Her dwelling, like the others, was constructed in the shape of a square with thick weaved straw mats laying on the floor. The bathroom and a sink were in the back of the home, with a small area for a kitchen in the main space.

This woman had no power from her hips down due to health problems. She had lost her power in her legs and I watched as she crawled around her home with her arms in front, pulling her body. She too explained that because everything can be accessed from the home, she can live on her own and support her day-to-day activities.

She explained that other people of the village help her often, but she is happy that she doesn’t need to depend on others all the time. This gave her confidence she didn’t have in the old village.

After meeting with several families in the village, I realize that strength comes from many people, many faces. With each encounter, I am deeply touched by their stories of how they survived and persisted. They teach me the meaning of resilience.

This is part one of a two-part story “Rebuilding Hope: A Story of Climate Change Displacement” 

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