Finafinau brings together enviro leaders for Sustainability Summit
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Last week on March 19th and March 20th, local environmental group Finafinau hosted the 2021 Sustainability Summit to promote conservation and environmental resilience within the island’s youth.
Day one of the event was held at Samoana High School’s cafeteria and was filled with speakers representing the various environmental agencies and departments across the island. The keynote speaker was Casuallen Atuatasi from the AS-Environmental Protection Agency, where she spoke the importance of being sustainable and how the youth can uphold the objectives of Finafinau: Save our Ocean, Protect our Land, Empower our People.
After the keynote speaker, there were two plenary sessions, each with two options of presentations. In the first session, the students were able to attend a session with Edna Noga from American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA) or a session with Nerelle Que Moffitt, who is a community expert on sustainability strategies.
After a brief refreshment break, the students then attended the second set of plenary sessions. This consisted of a presentation by Ryan Tuato’o from ASPA on water conservation or a presentation by DJ Sene from the ASCC Agriculture Community and Natural Resources Forestry Program (Land Grant) on the benefits of tree planting.
Day two of the summit consisted of the participants cleaning up the Lion’s park shoreline and also tree planting. For the clean up, the youth were able to see the detrimental effects of careless littering where they picked up loads of problematic litter such as styrofoam, glass, plastic bottles, plastic bags, etc. This experience helped solidify the learning from the Day 1 sessions, where Finafinau promoted the practice of being more “green” and saying no to single-use plastics.
After the clean up, the youth, assisted by the Land Grant personnel planted native trees at Lion’s park. This was to further promote the idea of taking care of the environment and also having the youth have a lasting effect with their leadership. Hence, these trees at the park will be a constant reminder of their positive actions to make a change in their environment.
When asked about her experience, Audrey-Rose Sevaaetasi, a junior from Samoana High School, shared that she “was amazed at the lifespan some of the everyday items have and don’t break down when thrown away. Plastic bags, even if biodegradable, can last for years. Even the smallest things like switching to bamboo toothbrushes can make a difference in terms of being sustainable.”
Overall, the effort is to steer the students to be leaders in environmental conservation and to also promote interest in pursuing STEM related careers. The hope is that these young students are inspired with the gained knowledge to, in turn, make a change in their communities by engaging in events and activities that center on conservation, preservation and restoration of our local resources.
The event was sponsored by various community organizations who felt that the summit was a prime opportunity for students to engage in a relevant learning opportunity. The American Samoa Democratic Party sponsored the registration for all 50 students to attend (originally it was $5 to cover administrative fees). SOPAC Inc, Manu's Pizza, and Bluesky Communications sponsored the refreshments for both days of the summit, where the students enjoyed sharing food and drinks while making connections with each other. In addition, Bluesky was also a dominant participant in the Day 2 events of the clean up and the tree planting.
There were 50 participants during the Summit’s two days of environmental activities that included workshops and lectures and ended with hands-on activities like a shoreline clean up and planting native trees at Lions Park. [courtesy photo]
Finafinau is an environmental community service project that aims to promote awareness to the public regarding the importance of keeping the environment clean and healthy. The project provides an avenue for our youth —ages 13 to 20 — to find their voice and become leaders within their communities. This year, we focus on tree planting activities and collaborative clean ups. The hope of the project is to encourage American Samoa residents to take action in protecting our ocean and land.
Finafinau is led by five members of the community: Denis Sene Jr. (Land Grant), Elizabeth Fano (ASDOH), Kacey Iloilo (AS-EPA), Sabrina Suluai-Mahuka (ASDOE) and Siumukuka Faaiuaso (AS-EPA). These leaders plan to continue Finafinau’s efforts to promote youth leadership and environmental change and are in the midst of organizing future events to do so. All events will be announced on their social media, so if more youth are interested in participating, they can follow the Facebook page Finafinau for updates.