A wealth of experience and more exciting challenges ahead

Saturday 17 April 2021 | Written by Supplied | Published in Opinion

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A wealth of experience and more exciting challenges ahead
Terena Koteka-Wiki. TIS/21041648

Te Ipukarea Society has recently welcomed a new project officer to help with their environmental campaigns. Here Terena Koteka-Wiki tells a little about herself, and the journey that led her to where she is today.

Kia Orana koutou katoatoa,

My name is Terena Koteka-Wiki, the youngest daughter of Emm Koteka-Wiki of (Nga-Pu-Toru, Mangaia, Manihiki and Aitutaki) and Paepae Wiki (Te Aupouri) NZ Maori descent.

Born in New Zealand in 1996, I have recently returned home to Rarotonga from the USA. My father has been employed with the United Nations for over 30 years so I have spent much of my life overseas alongside my mother and sisters, Tiana and Reihana, in different countries such as Croatia, Israel and Kenya. 

I was lucky to also get the opportunity to spend time in Rarotonga as a child and attend Matavera and Apii Te Uki Ou Primary Schools.

After living in Kenya, we moved to New York in 2005, and I spent my formative years in Westport, Connecticut, attending Staples High School. I kept myself busy as a member of the track and field, soccer, and golf teams, as well as being a keen participant in winter activities (skiing, snowboarding and skating). My other hobbies include the violin, hiking, surfing and fitness, which is unsurprising if you know my mum.

My upbringing has meant I have been fortunate to experience diverse cultures, environments and situations, which has ultimately shaped my passion for conservation and community service.

It was during these years where I connected with a number of non-profit organisations, including the Builders Beyond Borders (B3) programme, which took me to Guyana, as well as the People to People International Student Travel programme, where I traveled as a youth ambassador to Australia.

I moved to Hawaii in 2015 where I commenced my studies at Hawaii Pacific University (HPU). Although my primary intention was to study oceanography, I later broadened my studies to incorporate a wider range of environmental studies and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies. My final major research paper while at HPU investigated the environmental impacts of deep seabed mining and future mitigation options for a green environment for Pacific Island nations.

While at HPU, I got involved with the Sierra Club of Hawaii, an environmental organization based in the USA with a focus in preserving the world’s natural resources.  I participated in several beach clean-ups around the island, which opened my eyes to the sheer amount of pollution littering the oceans and beaches of our Pacific Islands. During an internship with the Marine Mammal Stranding Program I was involved in the reporting and analysis of stranded spinner dolphins and whales.

I have always found myself incredibly drawn to the wellbeing of our environment, marine mammals, and the preservation of our natural resources. Growing up in countries affected by man-made disasters, I feel fortunate and humbled by these experiences. The opportunity to connect with different cultures, environments and people from all over the world, has been a blessing.

After living in Oahu for the past six years and completing my degree, I made the decision to move back home to Rarotonga to expand my knowledge and experiences, share what I have learned, but more importantly, reconnect with my heritage, learn more about my culture, community and getting back in touch with my roots.

Returning home was somewhat of a journey from the USA, one that I will not forget, especially the countless Covid tests and quarantines we endured. But it has certainly been worth it!

I am humbled by this opportunity to work for Te Ipukarea Society as a project officer and I am overwhelmingly excited to work alongside this incredible team. I look forward to learning, growing, expanding my knowledge base, as well as immersing myself into community work, particularly with our youth.

Meitaki Ranuinui e Kia Manuia.