Giving back to the people of Mitiaro

Monday 23 November 2020 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in National, Outer Islands


Giving back to the people of Mitiaro
Rangi Kimiora (far right) with his family in front of their family bakery in Mitiaro. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU/20112201

Rangi Kimiora enjoyed a comfortable life while growing up in Melbourne. But after spending a decade there, he decided to return home to Mitiaro to help improve the lives of his people on the island.

At the tender age of nine, Rangi Kimiora left his village Mangarei on the island of Mitiaro for Melbourne, Australia, for further studies.

Life in Melbourne was great. But Kimiora, who grew up with seven siblings, did not lose track of the advice his mother Cecilia gave when he left the island:

“Try to do your best in school, because you will see the easiness and the beauty of education.”

After 10 years of studies, he managed to graduate with a diploma in business and management.

In 2018, he returned to Mitiaro with the aim to give back to the community through knowledge and skills he had gained in Australia and to boost the island’s tourism economy. Kimiora also wanted to actively participate with the youth, church and other island activities he had missed while studying in Australia.

“I thank mum and God for the knowledge and gift I have. I came back to share that knowledge. I thought I had to do something to improve the development of our youth on our island and I am trying my best for the community.”

Soon after returning home, Kimiora opened up a bakery with his family. The bakery also sells snacks and fizzy drinks.

“This all started when I returned from Melbourne in 2018 and started to develop our business here. This has helped us get income and now we can afford what we need,” says Kimiora.

“At the same time, we are able to help build the economy in Mitiaro and give back to the community.”

The bakery is named after his mother Cecilia because the family believe “she is the backbone of their business”.

Kimiora now plans to build a supermarket on the island and hopes his parents will be around to see the fruit of his hard work.

Apart from his business interest, Kimiora is also the chairman of the Mitiaro Youth Group. His vision is to ensure young people do not give up in finding their way to success.

The 20-year-old says he has a gift from God that he wishes to share with his peers and help them get on track to a successful future.

“Youths are advised if they do not succeed in education or school there is a way to find success. I believe many of our youth are going through some kind of hardship. I encourage them whatever they may be facing, there is always a way to get through it and become who they want to be and to do what they want to do,” he says.

“There are so many opportunities on our island, there’s food, there’s money, we don’t have to rely on anyone. Even for those youth in Raro we can do it together. Support each other rather than pulling people down. Encourage each other.”

Kimiora has many plans for the youth group and some of their projects include beautifying tourism sites such as the famous lakes and caves on the island.

They are looking at applying for grants to help them with the beautification project as well as to clear the roads and set up solar lights around the caves for both locals and tourists.

Kimiora hopes his success story will inspire other Cook Islanders living in New Zealand and Australia to return home and give back to the people.

“Because I believe your home, your paradise will always remain in your hearts, no matter what. There will be a time and day you will feel homesick, come back and build here, give back to your community, love your people.

“Especially for Mitiaro, we need to build tourism up, have some businesses going so all those who are overseas, come back serve your people, share your knowledge and your gift.

“Mitiaro is a beautiful island and I can never leave home, even though I studied in Melbourne for 10 years, this is a place I call home – it is my identity.

“It is small community, small population but striving forward and aiming high, that’s why we are called the Might Arrow.”

  • The writer’s trip to Mitiaro was sponsored by Cook Islands Tourism Corporation and Island Hopper Vacations as part of an initiative to promote domestic travel experiences in the outer islands.