Increasing resilience to disaster in the pacific – Martina’s story

25 Jun 2015   |   Media release   |   Solomon Islands   |   Long-term Development

“I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.” Pope Francis, encyclical letter on climate change.

The Pope’s encyclical letter, ‘Praised be – On the care of our common home’ marked a key moment in Church history, as now more than ever we are called to care for creation responsibly. The Encyclical calls for a new global solidarity, where all individuals, communities and governments have an essential part to play.

Caritas Australia, the Catholic Church’s international aid and development agency, works with communities in more than 32 countries globally and within Australia. As the Pope notes in his encyclical, as global temperatures rise, we will experience increasingly severe impacts on a global scale. 

The impacts of climate change are the most debilitating for the children, women and men vulnerable to extreme poverty and injustice – often those who have contributed the least to global warming. 

Many communities Caritas is partnering with are working to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change. Martina lives in the Solomon Islands, where she is a teacher at Bishop Epalle Catholic School in Nggosi, West Honiara. She loves to teach, and her small classroom rings daily with the sounds of her students’ eager voices often raised in song. 

But while the classroom is a place of learning and laughter, the world outside can be far less stable. In the Solomon Islands, the changing climate means that sea levels are rising, increasing the impact of storm surges and coastal flooding. Tropical cyclones are projected to become more intense and the weather will become more extreme, with more heavy rainfall days and more very hot days expected.

“Our homes are under threat from landslides and cyclones,” says Martina. Every year Solomon Islanders’ safety is under threat during the six-month cyclone season and the islands are also vulnerable to geological hazards such as earthquakes and tsunamis. 

For the children, these extreme weather events and other natural hazards can be overwhelming. The community began developing strategies to help its children, working with Caritas Australia’s Solomon Islands staff. From this collaboration, a program emerged that created safe behaviours for children by using popular nursery rhymes to break down the fear associated with natural disasters.

The songs enable teachers to help their students to identify the types of risks present in their community, and the warning signs for tsunamis, cyclones and landslides. 

In 2014 the education program received the inaugural Pacific Innovation and Leadership Award for Resilience from the United Nations. With support from the Australian government, Caritas Australia has expanded the program’s reach to other parts of the Pacific including; Vanuatu and Tonga.

Spurred on by the Pope’s lead, Caritas has launched a new climate justice campaign, called our Common Home. Find out more at Our Common Home.

Media contact: Nicole Clements, 0408 869 833, (02) 8306 3490 or media@caritas.org.au


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