Opeta Alefaio | Movers & Shakers 2019 – Community Builders

It takes two hours by boat to get to Rotuma, an isolated island at the very tip of Fiji, the South Pacific island nation. Opeta Alefaio and his team from Fiji’s National Archives (NAF) made the trip during a government outreach event in 2015 to bring a bevy of archival material, including land and genealogical records, photos, and historical audiovisual footage. This was the first time the islanders had seen these records, says Alefaio, and they formed a huge line outside the tent housing the documents.

Opeta Alefaio

CURRENT POSITION

Director, National Archives of Fiji, Suva

DEGREE

MBIS, Monash University, Suva, 2011

FOLLOW

@opeta_alefaio; Opeta Alefaio; National Archives of Fiji (both Facebook)

Photo by Arieta Buliruarua

MS_logo_300x81

Heritage Road Show

It takes two hours by boat to get to Rotuma, an isolated island at the very tip of Fiji, the South Pacific island nation. Opeta Alefaio and his team from Fiji’s National Archives (NAF) made the trip during a government outreach event in 2015 to bring a bevy of archival material, including land and genealogical records, photos, and historical audiovisual footage. This was the first time the islanders had seen these records, says Alefaio, and they formed a huge line outside the tent housing the documents.

“In 2012, it became apparent to us that we could not wait for people to come to us, so [with only a small budget] we started to look for opportunities to take archives holdings out to the community,” Alefaio explains. For the past two years, the archives have held about 30 public education events per year.

During these programs, Fijians have been able to connect with their heritage in profoundly meaningful ways. Descendants of indentured workers who’d been brought to Fiji in the mid–19th century were able to corroborate oral history accounts with records to find out who their ancestors were and which countries they’d come from. In another instance, an Australian woman discovered her Samoan roots and was able to hold a reunion with relatives in the village where her family originated. One man finally found photos of his late father. “I was so overwhelmed I actually kissed the photo,” he told the camera crew.

“Documentary heritage holds immense potential to enable us to find crucial elements of ourselves,” says Alefaio. “In the Pacific this potential is vastly underrecognized, so it is important to build in this space.”

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Folasade Adepoju

Thank you for touching the lives of the people in that community, for bringing them close to their past and for linking them to their root. I am replicating this soon in my home country.

Posted : Mar 31, 2019 06:24


Kahoa Corbett

Kolovai Community Public Library founder Brendan D & Kahoa Meimuli Corbett got the ideas to start up the very first Community Public Library in Kolovai/ Kingdom of Tonga when cyclone Gita damaged 85 % of Kahoa's home town Kolovai including both Primary Schools. We visited Kolovai to fix Kahoa's family house as heard from the locals that the house had no roof after the cyclone Gita damaged it. When we arrived from NZ we saw the Primary School 2 doors down from my family house had had no roof and the floor was very damp and all school materials were damaged and the children had no journal books to read, everything destroyed. My husband Brendan teaches Trades at different High Schools in Auckland for the last 17 years including Manukau Institute of Technology so it was quite handy to have a husband that knows what it was needed to be fixed so when we arrived in Tonga he took some of his expensive tools with him to fix my parents house. It wasn't just the roof to fix. There were floor was not very safe to walk on and the kitchen water pipes needed fixing with so many other part of the house needed to get them fixed. The roof was actually covered with taps and about over 1000 litres of water was just sitting on it. I couldn't believe and don't know how my husband was managed to climb up to the roof with a bucket emptied all the water to the ground and pull off the taps from the top of the house so that he started fixing the roof. There were no qualify builders at the time in Tonga so I got my cousin to come and help Brendan holding the frames before he was heading over to Nuku'alofa to buy some corrugated iron for the roof. Once paid for corrugated iron, company delivered them and the work begun. About 7 days that took my husband and 3 labours to fix the roof and the floor. The house started to look like a real house. He got the kitchen bench connected to the wall and fixed the water pipes in the kitchen so we used the water then. Also we spent two days painting the wall and the dining room. After spent 12 days in Tonga we returned to NZ. I emailed the head of the cancelation at Auckland Libraries that I really want to send some books to Tonga and am going to start up the public Library there. Kolovai community agreed to lent us the community whare so that we can turn it into a library. I got an email sent to me from Tricia the manager at Auckland Libraries that email had sent out to 57 Auckland libraries letting them know that if they have any cancelation books just let me and Brendan know. We offered to pick them up from all over Auckland. May 2018 we started collecting and colleting and ended up sending to Tonga free with the help of the Tongan Ex All Blacks offered to pay for some of the containers that was sent to help people of Tonga after Cyclone Gita. Also Lion Internationals Ellerslie/Onehunga offered to send our books, chairs donated from Auckland City Council to our project together with their stuff. We then sent more stuff with 5 ONZO bikes, 200 hundres chairs from Auckland City Council donated to our project also and the idea is to hire them out to help paying for the power bills, water bills and also for the Wifi that we going to get installed once the library is up and running July this year. Books were donating non stop from most of the Auckland Libraries branches & I stayed up till 1am at night packing them to banana boxes ready to drop them off the next day to the shipping company. We have been blessed with a shipping company called CFR line based in Onehunga to ship all our books free when ever we want to send them. I baked and dropped the cakes off as a big thank you for sponsoring our project as I just felf that I should give them something for their generosity. They loved the carrot cake and the fruit cake last Christmas. Then Bunning's Mt Roskill gave us paint to help painting the Library whare. When we arrived in Tonga last October I approached the Ministry of Education in Tonga to let them know what we doing so they offered to sign off all consignment free of charge so we only have to pay small amount of money to Customs when books arrived so that they can release them before picking them up. We also donated hundred of books to Kolovai GPS & Kolovai FWPS and now the Ministry of Education in Tonga asked if we can donate some books to Tonga High School and Tonga College. I have just picked up more than 20 boxes from some of the Intermediate Schools in Auckland to donate to them. We have shipped thousand of books already and we paid for a driver to pick up the books inTonga once they arrived. We also for customs and a bit in Tonga as well so we don't mind as what we doing is all for our Kolovai Community and also for all the communities in The Kingdom of Tonga. We are very, very happy with the outcome and now the library is all painted, My husband got his trades students at Southern Cross College to build all of the shelves and then we shipped them to Tonga and painted them there. Now the Kolovai Community Public library - The very first Community Public Library is just about to open so in July it will be up and running. We approached the VSA NZ for a librarian and still waiting to hearing from them but Peace Corps Director Nancy will try her best to get a Peace Corp to help out with the Library once it is up and running in July. Our family house will be available for who ever is helping out with the Library from Overseas is welcome to stay in our family whare free of charge as it all fixed and all fenced off. There is a fridge in it. Electricity is working and we have just fixed the toilet and put new tiles in the bathroom last January while in Tonga doing the shelving and painting in the library. So we nearly there and the very first Community Public Library in the Kingdom of Tonga will be up and running soon.

Posted : Mar 12, 2019 09:28


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