The people of Tawake village have just begun construction on my first Peace Corps project—an evacuation center to be used in the event of a hurricane, tsunami, or other natural disasters that cause the village to flood.
It has been quite a long process to get this project off the ground, but all of life's greatest achievements only come after a lot of hard work and patient waiting. I submitted the application for the SPA (TK) grant in May and it was just approved this month.
SPA grants are available to Peace Corps Volunteerrs in areas affected by climate change. All projects funded by SPA grants must be related to climate change. Such a need is not difficult to find in Fiji, where beaches are shrinking noticeably every year and fresh water is becoming scarce in many areas during the dry season.
In America, where taps flow, electricity buzzes, and doors stay shut to the goings on of the outside world, is is no wonder that many people are skeptical of the notion of “climate change”. However, in Fiji, even Helen Keller would quickly realize something was off. I have yet to meet a Fijian who has any doubt climate change is real.
Speaking to the authority figures in Tawake when I first arrived, I learned that during major flooding the residents evacuate to the church, one of very few buildings on high ground. Most of the village is barely above sea level. There is only one house near the church, and it contains just one kitchen and one bathroom. Therefore, the residents are forced back to the village under dangerous conditions to cook or use the bathroom during these disasters.
This evacuation center will provide a safe place for people to take care of both of those needs. It will contain two flush toilets and a shower for men and another set of the same for women, as well as a kitchen and double sink for hand and dish washing.
I have hired a carpenter who drew up plans and provided a list of necessary materials which was used to get quotes from three separate vendors, from which I picked the cheapest: Bombay Trading in Labasa. The total budget for the project is $8,244.05 FJD.
Tawake's project planning committee, which includes me, the Chairman of Meetings, Village Headman, nurse, school Headmaster, and the Methodist pastor, has many more projects in mind for the future. We hope to create a natural seawall using Mangroves and to cement the drainage ditch that wraps around the village, among other things. Hopefully everything goes as planned and I leave Tawake a better village than I found it.