Unlike the rugged volcanic mountains of our island in Hawai’i, born in the fiery chaos of volcanic eruptions, the sandy atolls that form The Eight Islands were built slowly, on the nearly-microscopic world of coral polyps. The reefs rose from the ocean floor and eventually broke the surface, breaking down into sand and piling up in wide, flat islands.
The people arrived in canoes, thousands of years before Captain Cook and Christopher Columbus- they brought an ancient culture, rich with customs unique to their family. They called the place “Eight Standing Together”, for the eight atolls that comprised their universe- in their language: Tuvalu.
They voted for their independence from Great Britain in 1978, making them one of the youngest countries in the world. They are the fourth smallest geographically, and the third smallest in terms of population. It seems like the modern world has forgotten about this pristine patch of ocean on the fringes of the Pacific Rim. They are Polynesian- they share much in common with their Samoan cousins, and their tiny atolls are home to the majority of the fish populations that support Japan and U.S. fishing industries.
Our project is dedicated to educating, empowering, and enterprising this tiny nation. But how does one begin to change the world? One person at a time. Our idea was pitched to a boardroom full of potential donors, friends of the university, and philanthropists. The initial worry was that Tuvalu’s plight had fallen on deaf ears, but Shauna Ockey contacted Toa Sailusi and expressed her desire to help us in our project.
“I knew in my heart that I needed to do something. There was something about Toa’s spirit, his determination to leave his island and gain and education that I was drawn to. That kind of courage is difficult to find, and I knew I needed to help,” Shauna said.
And the Ockeys sure did. And they aren’t the only ones. Support has come from the most unlikely of places- people love to hear the stories and see the video clip in this post. There’s a part of all of us that wishes we could reach through our screens and experience a little of true Polynesia.
That’s why we are anxious to return. We are coming to build a new building in which the children at the Olave Preschool will meet. We will continue sharing essential business skills with our Tuvaluan family. We have big ideas for waste management, water desalination, renewable energy, and sustainable growth economic models. We paddle in rhythm with the Tuvaluan government to bring the people of Tuvalu what they feel they need.
Our project leader is a man of vision and action. Our sponsors and mentors believe in our cause. And our team is committed to extending a hand of brotherhood and support across the waves of the Pacific. From the minute we touched the sandy shores of their atolls, the people of Tuvalu touched our hearts. We have worked persistently to return to the Blue Nation. We have not forgotten them.