Journey of Resilience: Kelera Railoa’s Path to Climate Advocacy and Inspiration

20 November 2023

The remarkable journey of Kelera Railoa began once upon a time in the picturesque islands of Fiji, specifically in Tailevu, with maternal roots in Naitasiri. Kelera Railoa, now a Project Manager for UniFiji’s USAID Pacific American Fund Aquaculture Project, began her career by collaborating with rural communities in the Ra province. Hers is a story of perseverance and dedication deeply rooted in her Fijian heritage.

Kelera Railoa’s tale unfolds against the backdrop of Nadi, where she spent most of her life and built a loving family. She is a proud mother of two little girls and cherishes every moment of their journey together.

Kelera embarked on her postgraduate studies in Climate Change at the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD) in 2016, aspiring to pursue a master’s degree focusing on ocean policy, as well as the restoration and management of Fiji’s crucial mangrove ecosystems.

But what truly sets Kelera apart is her passion for life’s simple pleasures. Her interests are as diverse as the colours of the coral reefs she calls home. She finds solace in the pages of books and the thrill of exploring new places. Kelera confesses her love for food, even though her appearance may suggest otherwise. Her favourites include fresh seafood like nama and kaikoso, indulgent Korean BBQ, and the aromatic delight of chicken biryani. When it comes to movies, her heart belongs to comedy, and every holiday season is incomplete without the timeless charm of Harry Potter and the nostalgic laughter of Home Alone.

Yet, amidst the laughter and joy, there is a profound sense of purpose in Kelera’s journey. The moment she first encountered the term “climate change” in primary school, it was but a whisper in the wind. However, the gravity of its impact hit her like a tidal wave during high school, after witnessing two devastating floods in Nadi.

As a resident of the Pacific Islands, Kelera realised that her homeland, like other Small Island Developing States (SIDS), bore the brunt of climate change’s consequences while contributing the least to its cause.

This awakening became the catalyst for Kelera’s pursuit of knowledge. Understanding the science behind climate change was crucial, but she aspired to be more than a bystander. With a burning desire to be part of the solution, she advanced her studies in climate change, armed with the knowledge and tools to become a formidable climate advocate.

For Kelera, climate change research transcends the realm of mere academia; it’s a way of life. She emphasises, “It has afforded me the opportunity to delve into topics of immense significance, such as climate-induced relocations, the intricacies of coastal adaptation, the impacts of health and disease in a shifting climate, and the interconnected challenges of traditional medicine and food security.” She further reflects, “Through my research, I’ve gained a profound appreciation for the intricate web that links various facets of our world, all profoundly influenced by the changing climate.”

Kelera’s journey and experience at PaCE-SD have been extremely rewarding. The chance to learn from esteemed researchers and passionate peers in the field of climate change has been an invaluable experience. This network has served as the bedrock of her academic and professional growth, enriching her comprehension and magnifying her influence.

When asked about her wellspring of inspiration, Kelera’s eyes light up with love and determination. She remarks, “My parents, who consistently encouraged me to strive for the best version of myself, have been a guiding beacon. Now, as a parent myself, my daughters serve as my driving force. I envision a future that is sustainable, equitable, and teeming with opportunities for them and for generations to come.”

Kelera Railoa’s journey is a testament to the power of passion, purpose, and unwavering commitment to making the world a better place. From the shores of Fiji to the halls of academia, her story is one of hope, resilience, and determination to create a brighter, more sustainable future for all.

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