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Meet these four amazing people

Meet four amazing people from the Pacific who have been instrumental in being the catalyst for change in a very practical and Pacific way.

Among them are a blind advocate since birth, a marine graduate, climate activist, and a pageant contestant.

Mataafa Utumapu

Over the last decade Ms Utumapu has contributed immensely to the recognition of the rights of people living with disabilities in her island nation of Samoa and in the Pacific.

Being blind from birth did not deter Ms Utumapu from putting in the hard yards and paving a safe space for people living with disabilities.

She is one of ten disability leaders from the Pacific who assist in the regional implementation of the Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities through the Pacific Disability Forum. Speaking from Savai’i , Samoa, Ms Utumapu said her role has been a rewarding one.

“I just love how people from  different walks of life can always find a common ground to come together to improve productivity and bond,” she said.

On Sundays she takes on a role as a Sunday school teacher at their local church. She confesses it is like any other work and is nothing new under the sun.

Mataafa Faatino Utumapu’s hard work is living proof of how Samoa began to make the necessary efforts to make the rights real for persons with disabilities. Picture: Pacific Community

“It’s like, you know, being in a family. To tell children that they are learning and to help them understand what they are being taught. I like to ensure children not only read the bible, but are able to understand and work together with each other.”

While  the Samoan advocate takes on varying roles, she remains adamant on being a resilient Pacific Islander despite the sea of issues the region faces.

“We have to adapt to the changes of the day. When the old ways are no longer valid, we need to change our approach and pick up from there.” Ms Utumapu shared.

Andrew Paris

Growing up in the isles of Fiji, Mr Paris was always drawn to science and this led him to pursue research in safeguarding ‘moana’ from micro- plastics.

Mr Paris said the Pacific is trending towards a fast paced, convenient, fast food takeout, high end fashion lifestyle that directly impacts the environment and the common predator among them is plastics.

Growing up in the isles of Fiji, Mr Paris was always drawn to science and this led him to pursue research in safeguarding ‘moana’ from micro- plastics. Picture: Andrew Paris

The marine science student said this is an understudied area of research in Fiji and the Pacific and is an issue of growing environmental concern.

“I think a lot of islands in the Pacific are facing issues around waste management and waste prevention will not have the capacity to deal with the influx of plastic waste that we are currently trending towards,” he said.

Paris also assists in SCUBA diving, snorkeling and fishing for various research projects for USP. Picture: Andrew Paris

Mr Paris pleads with his Pacific brothers and sisters to be aware of the issue, minimise the use of plastic and help the Pacific Ocean live a life free of the shackles of plastics.

He also assists in SCUBA diving, snorkelling and fishing for various research projects at The University of the South Pacific.

Brianna Fruen

Even at 11 years of age, Ms Fruen was influencing youth rallies and communities in her island nation of Samoa for the fight to keep the environment safe.

Brianna Fruen was one of the founding members of the grassroots climate change movement 350.Samoa and leader of the environmental group “Future Rush”. Picture : Brianna Fruen Facebook

She was one of the founding members of the grassroots climate change movement 350.Samoa and leader of the environmental group “Future Rush”. In 2019 Ms Fruen was awarded the Le Va Pacific Emerging Leadership award.

Move Beyond Coal campaign is about replacing dirty coal with clean energy. Picture: Joseph Zane Zikulu Facebook

“I dedicate this to all the young people that don’t see themselves as leaders but as servers because for me service is the true way to leadership,” Ms Fruen said in her speech.

Gladys Habu

Ms Habu is Miss Solomon Islands 2019-20. She took on the pageant platform to advocate for breast and cervical cancer.

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She is a pharmacist who graduated from Monash University with honours, and now works at the Solomon Islands National Referral Hospital.

Ms Habu is Miss Solomon Islands 2019-20. She took on the pageant platform to advocate for breast and cervical cancer. Picture: Miss Solomon Islands Pageant

Breast and cervical cancer were the leading form of cancer killing women in her homeland. Through this platform she helped establish the Cancer Unit Trust Fund and increase cancer awareness.

This was also a means to gather support from organisations that render monetary support to assist cancer patients. Ms Habu is also a climate activist.

 

 

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