Heritage In Young Hands In Action: 15-Year-Old Fijian Hero Prevents Wildfire At National Park

Around the world, Shangri-La properties organize programs for young community members that empower them to create lasting impact in their societies. On September 6, Sokonaia Tamaya, a 15-year-old junior ranger at the Sigatoka Sand Dunes, noticed smoke and fire emanating from the grounds of the national park. Due to his education and training through five-year participation of Heritage In Young Hands, an educational organized by Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort & Spa, Yanuca Island, he knew exactly where the fire was located, and that the fire would spread quickly because of the dry weather. After running to the Sigatoka Sand Dunes office to alert the staff, Rangers Saimoni Naruma and Sakusa Bulivorovoro quickly changed into their firefighting gear, ran to the site and extinguished the fire within an hour and a half. What could have turned into a catastrophic fire was averted by Tamaya’s knowledge of the environment that he learned through Heritage In Young Hands.

Tamaya is one of many Fijian youths who participate in Heritage In Young Hands, organized by Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort & Spa, Yanuca Island in partnership with the National Trust for Fiji, the Ministry of Education, Heritage & Arts and the National Archives of Fiji. Since May 2016, the program has empowered young Fijians to be passionate stewards of their natural and cultural heritage, as well as provides opportunities for the community members to make a difference in their everyday surroundings. Driven by four key principles, Heritage in Young Hands focuses on bringing people together, connecting with the environment, empowering others and educating by doing.

Since its inception, the program has provided outdoor training including general environmental education and life skills awareness. Participating students undergo specialized training as junior rangers and contribute to environmental protection at the Sigatoka Sand Dunes, an internationally-recognized heritage and environmental site, many parts of which are protected as a national mark under the management of the National Trust of Fiji. Archaeologists have visited the dunes, conducted excavations and have discovered important artefacts and human burials that have contributed to the understanding of Fijian prehistory. To date, Heritage In Young Hands has 100 students enrolled.

Thank you to Sokonaia Tamaya for saving the Sigatoka Sand Dunes. We hope more Fijian youth find empowerment and education through Heritage In Young Hands.

Original story appeared in the Fiji Sun.