05.06.2020 - VSA volunteers love getting involved in community activities outside their core assignment. So when Environmental Adviser and volunteer Hilary Boyes had the opportunity to get involved in Tuvalu’s “Ozone Week”, she jumped at the chance.
Ozone Week in Tuvalu is based around International Ozone Day which celebrates the August 1987 Montreal Protocol which initiated the international cooperation to protect the ozone layer.
To celebrate, the Tuvalu Department of the Environment (the VSA partner organisation where Hillary works) arranged a series of activities.
While there wasn’t a direct link between the work Hillary was doing and the Ozone Week events, she was keen to be involved and join in with the activities. “I helped a little with ideas/logistics etc – but I take no credit, my colleagues Moeli and Lise ran it all.”
One of the activities was mangrove planting, and Hilary was keen to be involved with this.
“Mangroves sequester carbon at a rate two to four times greater than land-based tropical forests and contain the highest carbon density of all terrestrial ecosystems,” explains Hillary. “In short, they are really good at sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere and for offsetting carbon emissions (one mangrove tree offsets ~3.5 tonnes CO2).
“I got involved with the mangrove planting as a way to offset my personal carbon footprint. I also volunteered with a youth group to harvest and plant mangroves – the team of us probably helping to plant over 3,000 over a series of weeks.”
Another Ozone Week activity that resonated with Hilary was a poem competition for students. “The poems are SUPER charming and a little heart-breaking given that kids in Tuvalu may be the first to be impacted by climate change.”
Hilary’s assignment involved Environmental Assessments. She worked on developing a process specifically for Tuvalu, building the capacity of the Department of the Environment, and providing awareness and advice for all government departments of the importance of these assessments.
“I also helped the Department of the Environment with lots of general environmental advice and the also the Department of Waste, mainly with legislation. I helped them write the Single Use Plastic Ban and advised on their Waste Levy scheme.”
Hilary’s role, which ended in November 2019, involved community and agency consultation, site visits, outer island visits, activities and events.
“There were so many assignment highlights including Tuvalu’s outer island visits (Nukulaelae, Vaitupu, Niu, Nukufetau), weekends on the Funafuti lagoon, the Pacific Leaders Forum and helping it be plastic free, "clean up" activities and ministry sports on Friday afternoons, and dinners and events with local colleagues.
“Funafuti was a great place to be on assignment. I couldn’t have wished for more inclusive colleagues.”