Established in 1983 as the Tourism Council of the South Pacific, the Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), is designed to build a sustainable future in the Pacific Islands by promoting tourism and safeguarding the cultural heritage, while simultaneously ensuring the protection of the environment. By pursuing sustainable tourism for the region, SPTO aims to enable Pacific Island economies, people, culture, and the environment to thrive.

VSA volunteer, Leora Hirsh, worked alongside SPTO as a Grant Proposal Writing Mentor, at their head office in Suva, Fiji. It was a privilege to share my grant-making knowledge with SPTO, national tourism organisations and small tourism enterprises from across the Pacific. I particularly enjoyed the challenge of adapting my New Zealand experience to suit the Pacific context.”

Leora Hirsh facilitated workshops on the fundamentals of grant writing, where participants were introduced to writing quality grant proposals. The workshop explored the complexities of developing objectives and logic models for proposals, along with developing budgets and creating lean canvases. The training was attended by over 100 tourism stakeholders from National Tourism Organisations, local tourism enterprises, and other government agencies in charge of grant sourcing, writing, and reporting.

Leora’s contributions however do not end here. At the Commonwealth Innovations Awards 2023, SPTO’s groundbreaking initiative “The Pacific Sustainable Tourism Policy Framework 2030” was recognised for its outstanding contributions to communities, countries, and regions within the Commonwealth. Leora drafted the successful application, enabling SPTO to become one of the 15 winners of the prestigious biennial awards. 

Mentoring and working alongside the SPTO team to create a two-year work and resource mobilisation plan has been a rewarding experience for Leora. “Living and working in Suva was, in turns, exhausting, exhilarating, challenging and rewarding—all-in-all, a great experience!”

Working as a volunteer in the Pacific is not just about contributing to the community, but in fact, it is also about engulfing oneself within the community, and Leora has done just that. “I loved learning about international development and geopolitics in the Pacific. I was humbled to hear of the tangible impact of climate change and of the innovative initiatives being undertaken by groups in the Pacific to combat these environmental challenges and develop resilient income streams. I enjoyed building my understanding of Pacific Island cultures and, in that short space of time, I made great connections and built deep friendships.”

We, at VSA, celebrate the work done by SPTO and Leora Hirsha on bringing positive changes in the Pacific!