If there is a Will, there is a Way

If it wasn’t for will power and her involvement in the community Lu’isa would not be where she is now – the proud owner of a home and business, and a leader in the local Popua community outside of Nuku’alofa.   She remembers the vulnerability of her early married life when they lived with her husband’s family.  Her husband’s wages weren’t enough to meet the growing family’s needs.  Her dream was for their own home and she looked for every opportunity to make that dream come true.

After many years she heard that the government was going to divide the swampy land of Popua for the homeless people of Nuku’alofa, most of whom had migrated from the outer islands for better schooling, healthcare, jobs or other reasons.  Lu’isa immediately visited the government offices to seek assistance and directions.  After filling out all the government required documents she waited patiently at home, but checking in regularly with the Ministry of Land and Survey.

One day a Ministry of Land and Survey officer called to deliver the good news that a piece of land have been allocated and registered in her husband’s name.  The family did not waste any time and began preparing the highest site for their house – the rest was swamp.  At first they could only afford to build half of the house – so two sides were left open.  Everybody who passed by could see inside, heads or feet depending on which way they passed.  Lu’isa did not mind as she figured this way they would build it more quickly.  Not many people lived in Popua at that time and they were able to gather firewood to cook on an open fire.  Her husband dug an underground well in the backyard for washing and bathing and they bought water for drinking at the next village.  Shopping was done further away at the village of Ngele’ia when her husband got home from work on the family’s bicycle. There was no proper road and residents navigated mud and bushes to reach their new homes.  Today the land has been filled in and there is no sign it was once swampy.

Lu’isa has always been involved in community activities and has been the committee treasurer since the beginning.  She likes to learn new skills and do things with the group.  She received funding to help build a water tank, but when it broke down there was no one to fix it.  Support from Christian World Service has funded its repair and taught her how to maintain a good water supply.  Now she has water that lasts the year and enough to share with neighbours if needed or if disaster strikes.  The Tonga Water Board has also installed tap water to her home.  Through Ama Takiloa she has learned to grow vegetables so her family eats more healthily.

Her enterprise does not end there.  She runs a store from her home, drives the school bus and has her own van.  Her children are getting jobs and she is happy.  Even though she is now well off, she continues to organise the local Ama Takiloa group to help newly married families and the whole community of Popua.    Sharing the knowledge and skills is important, but so is her outlook on life, “Tomorrow there will be a silver lining no matter how cloudy today.”

Ama Takiloa
Ama Takaloa is a programme run by the Tonga Community Development Trust to encourage women to be involved in development.  The programme aims to improve health and increase food security, self-sufficiency and income generation by:
•    Reinvigorating and strengthening the Ama Takiloa network in Tongatapu and the four outer island groups of ‘Eua, Ha’apai, Vava’u and the Niuas;
•    Providing training and support to Ama Takiloa groups on family nutrition, organic vegetable gardening, home based piggery and poultry, income generation, budgeting, small business development, credit unions and sanitation and water supply;
•    Improving and increasing the informal sale of traditional/cultural products such as tapa and fine mats to family and community members living overseas, and to the growing tourism market;
•    Integrating disaster risk assessment and preparedness into the programme’s activities by providing workshops and enhancing traditional coping mechanisms.

Tonga: Preparing for Environmental Challenges
Faced with higher tides and rising sea levels, many coastal families are experiencing the consequences of the changing climate.  Land floods more often.  The ocean is becoming more acidic, affecting coral reefs and sea life.   Weather patterns are changing.  Temperatures are rising and there is less rain in the dry season and more in the rainy season.  Cyclones are likely to be less frequent but more intense.  Tsunamis remain a threat for low lying areas like Nuku’alofa, the capital where most people live.  Planting mangroves and other plants to protect low lying land from inundation is one strategy.  Another is preparing for disaster by putting a community response plan in place.  CWS and Ama Takiloa are working with government, NGOs and other groups to make sure they are prepared for disaster when it strikes.