The Fiery Canoe Foundation
My name is Kea Rutherford and I’m a high school student from New York. My maternal grandfather, John Tabakitoa Teaiwa, was born on Tabiteuea in Kiribati in 1941. His father, Teaiwa (which means Fiery Canoe), was from Banaba (Ocean Island). The Banabans were forced to leave their home due to phosphate mining by the British Phosphate Commissioners (BPC) and occupation of the island by Japanese forces during World War II. On December 15, 1945, the Banabans were relocated to Rabi Island in Fiji. My great-grandparents were part of this community and my grandfather grew up there and in other parts of Fiji where my mother was born.
Whilst I haven't traveled to Banaba yet, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Rabi when I was very young. Although I was too little to recall every moment, I never forgot the sense of Kainga (our family) and company at Tabona near our village of Tabiang. There was constant singing, dancing, kava gatherings and performances as it was a celebration for my aunt, Katerina Teaiwa’s, wedding. Over the past year I’ve been researching ways to support the Banaban community, especially during the global pandemic. Pacific islands are vulnerable and COVID is spreading rapidly across the main island of Fiji. Whilst COVID-19 hasn't reached the outer islands yet, those areas must be prepared when the virus reaches them, because once there it will be very difficult to contain and there is very limited medical support. With COVID-19 causing the rapid loss of jobs, savings, food and basic life necessities, we are hoping to raise funds to support Banaban communities.
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