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Big Apple beckons University of Waikato Fulbright scholar

6 May, 2013

Big Apple beckons University of Waikato Fulbright scholar

University of Waikato Fulbright Scholar Lora Vaioleti is heading to New York City to work with a global partnership dedicated to helping island leaders work together on climate change, conservation and progress towards a sustainable future.

She has secured an internship with the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA) and will be assisting three major projects, including sourcing funding assistance for Micronesian island groups, planning for the International Year of the Small Island Developing States in 2014 and helping to define GLISPA’s role in a planned world-wide voyage of traditional Polynesian vaka, the Hōkūlea, being organised by the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

“This voyage will be a bold statement and a valuable source of inspiration for students and their communities to respect and care for the ocean, the environment and the deep cultural connections to these,” she says.

“I am excited and grateful to have been wholeheartedly accepted into such a creative and challenging role within a dynamic and influential partnership.”

Before securing the internship, Lora was in the U.S completing her Master’s Degree at the University of California (Irvine) as part of the Fulbright programme.

In the last month of her study, she applied for an extension to her Fulbright exchange and secured two small grants to interview a number of Tongan-Americans in a study on migration and the application of the socio-spatial concept of Tauhi va; attempting to gauge the latent value within traditional social practices for adapting to predicted changes in climate.

“Part of this study had me exploring the potential within Pacific diaspora for strategic climate adaptation, and I began investigating New Zealand’s own diaspora strategy, including the successful online Kiwi Expat Association (KEA),” she says.

“KEA includes a database of expat New Zealanders and within this database I happened upon the contact details of one of the key coordinators of GLISPA.”

Lora contacted the organisation and the rest, as they say, is history.

She says GLISPA represents a great opportunity for growth and the partnership mirrors her own vision for the Oceanic region, but on a global scale.

“One thing that drives my work is acknowledging how vital it is for islands within the Pacific, the collective Oceania, to collaborate and coordinate efforts on all scales and levels of society to improve resilience to climate change.”

“GLISPA’s priorities include inspiring leaders to make greater commitments to conservation of island biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods through mobilising resources, facilitating collaboration, tracking progress and importantly, increasing the visibility of these efforts to improve international recognition of the unique challenges being faced by the global island community,” she says.

It is also about showcasing the action islands are taking – “something I feel is lacking in mainstream climate dialogue”.

She says while she initially travelled to the U.S. to broaden her understanding of climate change for the Pacific, “I am now able to shift and apply this learning for the diverse global island community and gain insight to understand the common future threats and opportunities that exist for people of all island nations – not just Oceania.”

“Gaining such insight, not to mention the invaluable experience of working with the broad range of GLISPA participants such as the United Nations and international island ambassadors will only add to my capacity to assist in climate change resilience planning and implementation for Oceania in the near future.”


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