Expedition Log: Tonga – Day 2
This is my third year coming to Tonga to wrap up a coral reef education program, and I’m excited to be back in the “friendly islands.” We started our pilot coral reef education program in Tonga while visiting the islands on the Global Reef Expedition in 2013, teaching students about life on their reefs. Now our Education Team is back in Tonga to find out what knowledge the students retained. It’s been a herculean effort to reach these remote schools, and I could not have done it alone. Let me introduce you to the rest of the team.
Since we first started working in Tonga, we have partnered with Hoifua ‘Aholahi, Sione Mailau, ‘Apai Moala, and Karen Stone to provide coral reef education. Melinda Campbell and Taniela Vaha’i are new to the team and the rest of us are excited that they can join us.
Hoifua ‘Aholahi, Assistant Conservation Officer, Ministry of Environment, Information, Transportation, Energy Planning, and Climate Change (MEITECC) will be providing support from the mainland of Tongatapu. As a former high school teacher, Hoifua understands the importance of coral reef education in Tonga. He has been invaluable in helping coordinate on the ground efforts, documenting comments and questions made at educational seminars, and liaising with schools and communities.
I brought Melinda Campbell with me from our headquarters to help in all educational efforts in Vava’u. Melinda joined the Foundation this past year as our Education Programs Specialist, and this is her first time in Tonga. A former high school science teacher, she knows all about coral reefs, and is excited to learn about the culture and education system here in Tonga.
Sione Mailau, Fisheries Officer, Ministry of Fisheries (MAF) will also be providing support from the mainland of Tongatapu. He has been an essential part of our team translating coral reef seminars to primary and secondary schools and communities. Additionally, Sione’s strong ties with the communities has been beneficial when setting up talks and discussing the most up-to-date information regarding fisheries management and Specially Managed Areas (SMA’s).
‘Apai Moala is a Senior Geological Assistant with the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (MLNR). He has been an integral partner helping coordinate on the ground efforts, translating coral reef seminars, organizing meetings with different ministry offices, and informing us of cultural traditions. ‘Apai will join Melinda and me in Vava’u to provide our final student survey and meet with local government officials.
Karen Stone is the Coordinator of the Vava’u Environmental Protection Association (VEPA), a local NGO promoting conservation of natural resources in Vava’u. She will help us coordinate efforts while we are in Vava’u, as well as from afar. Karen has been instrumental in providing a wealth of local knowledge and information, especially in Vava’u. She has also been essential in setting up meetings with various institutions and informing us of cultural traditions.
Taniela Vaha’i, Education Inspector for Vava’u District Primary Schools, Ministry of Education is new to our team. He recently moved to Vava’u to fill this position. Taniela will help us to coordinate and set up meetings with primary and secondary schools in Vava’u. His efforts will help us to understand whether information previously taught to students is being retained.
Photos by Amy Heemsoth