Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Finally found the time to update this! Last post was a couple months ago.

Wrote this piece for work on our #PrayForOurPacific Campaign.

Pacific Climate Warriors Praying for Our Pacific.

By Fenton Lutunatabua.
Pacific Climate Warriors form a prayer circle at the Vatican. Image: Fenton Lutunatabua.

Shammah and the Lentil Patch

It was the 17th of October, thirty Pacific Climate Warriors had just blockaded the largest coal port in the world in Newcastle, Australia. They had done this using traditionally made hand carved canoes to send a very clear message to Australia that the continued expansion of the fossil fuel industry was exporting destruction to the Pacific.
To this day, when people refer to that canoe flotilla, they say it was like a modern day “David vs Goliath”, where a small group of Pacific Islanders went up against giant coal ships in tiny canoes. In many ways this story highlighted the strength of the Pacific in the face of the climate crisis. The story about the spirit of perseverance of many small Island nations in the face of climate change.
In many ways as well, the canoe flotilla also told another Biblical (and less well known story) similar to that of Shammah and his lentil patch. TheBible’s Old Testament tells the story of Shammah, who fought for a tiny lentil patch. Shammah was actually one of David’s mighty men, who proved himself worthy as he defended a field of lentils.
On it’s own, the lentil patch didn’t seem like it was very much to defend, but as part of the whole, it was actually quite a lot. You see, a war tactic back then was for the opposing army to march through fields, trample the crops, drive those dependent on those crops to hunger, and therefore weaken their ability to fight.
As recorded in the Bible, Shammah defended that lentil patch and claimed victory. His story is a story about standing your ground. It’s a story about a man protecting the inheritance he got from his father. The Pacific Climate Warriors, like Shammah, are also fighting to protect their inheritance. For Shammah, it was his lentil patch. For the Warriors, it’s their island homes.
Since the canoe flotilla in Newcastle, the Pacific Climate Warriors have not stopped standing their ground and setting their boundaries. They stand to lose everything if the fossil fuel industry continues to choose profit over people, and are therefore continuously connecting communities in the Pacific in order to build a powerful base of Pacific Climate Warriors.
This September, Pacific Islanders are standing up for the Pacific by uniting as a region in prayer.


The Pacific Climate Warriors are leaning into their faith and calling on communities all across the Pacific region, and beyond, to come together between the 3rd and 11th of September to #PrayForOurPacific.
Prayer is an immensely positive force in the Pacific, and a powerful way of bringing people together. It breeds compassion and love, and it helps build strong, connected, resilient communities that are essential for carrying us through this climate crisis.
When Tropical Cyclone Winston tore through Fiji earlier this year, people turned to prayer which helped carry them through the chaos. Then, as a community held together by prayer, they started rebuilding and will continue to rebuild, and pray, for as long as is needed.
In the face of the climate crisis it will be our neighbours, our congregations who will help us through it. They will be the ones who will be there through the times of trial- to deal with floods, storms and more. That’s why we must work to support building stronger communities across the Pacific.
Coconut trees snapped in half when Tropical Cyclone Winston made landfall in Fiji. Image: Fenton Lutunatabua.
When a child in Fiji experiences trauma after losing his home, or a mother in Kiribati can’t fetch safe drinking water anymore for her child because their well is filled with salt water, or a young woman in Papua New Guinea feels sadness as she witnesses her ancestral burial ground disappearing under rising tides, I can guarantee you, prayer helps carry them through and helps them persevere.
For the people on the front lines of climate change, prayer connects their lives with each other and to something bigger than themselves. Prayer offers hope and encouragement, it offers strength and solidarity, and it is also a powerful call to action.

We are not drowning, we are fighting!

This September, Pacific Islanders are connecting across the region through prayer, and coming together to make this movement more powerful. All across the Pacific, a diverse range of faith based communities are turning to prayer to stand their ground and set their boundaries.
Since the launch of the #PrayForOurPacific Campaign in July, people registered over 120 events in the Pacific and around the world.
#PrayForOur Pacific event in Brisbane, Australia. Image: Tony Robertson.
In Samoa, a children’s Sunday School group that were getting ready for White Sunday, used their time together to pray for those on the front lines of climate change. Young women of the Young Women’s Christian Association gathered to talk about how climate impacts young girls and women, and the role of women in building the climate movement. Youth members of the Baha’i faith in Apia, organised an evening to discuss the power of prayer and the impacts of climate change on their island home.
#PrayForOurPacific event in Samoa. Image: Timothy Komiti.
In the Solomon Islands, 350 Solomon’s worked with over thirty church youth groups to organise a combined youth service. Additionally, they also organised a national broadcast of the #PrayForOurPacific event at the Wesley United Church in Honiara.
Beyond the Pacific Islands, Friends of the Earth, Rize for West Papua, Fossil Free UQ, Brisbane Solidarity Group, 350 Australia, as well as members of the Brisbane community formed a prayer circle at the Picnic Island Green in South Bank.
The #PrayForOurPacific campaign has been able to reach pockets of people within our communities who otherwise would not have engaged with the climate movement. This is by far the largest number of climate mobilisations across the region ever organised by the Pacific Climate Warriors, and as a truly grassroots shaped Pacific Climate Movement, it can only grow stronger.
They are confident that, in order to win this fight against climate change, the Pacific region must stand together in camaraderie. They are also confident that when they pray together, stand their ground together and set their boundaries together, they are sending a clear message proclaiming, “we are not drowning, we are fighting!”
The Pacific Climate Warriors, a group of young Pacific Islanders working across the region to protect their Island homes. Image: Forest Woodward.

If you want to learn more about the Pray for our Pacific campaign,go here

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Children of Resistance: Walking in Fiji post-Tropical Cyclone Winston.

On the 20th of February, less than a week after Fiji became the very first nation to ratify the Paris Agreement, Tropical Cyclone Winston tore through my beloved Fiji. Eight days later, Fiji Coordinator, George Nacewa, Australian Photojournalist, Jeff Tan, and I, sat with 3 different families from Navoci Village, Korovuto Settlement, and Vatukoula.
Here are their stories of Tropical Cyclone Winston, the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere

Mohammed Shazil.

“It was a scary night and all I remember was hoping that this would be the first and the last time something like this happens here.”
"I feel sorry for those in the interior, I hope they can get they help they need.”
 The winds were so strong that night, it reminded me of how back in the days people without washing machines used to after they washed their clothes in the rivers, beat it- that’s what the winds sounded like someone beating their clothes by the river. We were all so terrified by the strong winds and the debris flying everywhere. I met a family that said they witnessed a roofing iron slice down a coconut tree in a matter of seconds. It was a scary night and all I remember was hoping that this would be the first and the last time something like this happens here.
The night TC Winston hit our area; we were in the other house up the hill carrying out our ‘bhajan’. As we were wrapping up our prayer for the evening, a roofing iron crashed into the lounge. We learned later that it was the roofing iron from my neighbors’ home. They lost their roof and having no roof throughout the entire ordeal, meant that everything they owned inside their home was destroyed. I felt sorry for them, they were barely making ends meet. Their three daughters were all in primary school, and now they just lost all their possessions, what are they supposed to do now? We are helping them rebuild, and once their roof is back on, they can move back into the house and slowly rebuild their lives.
We have been told that we will be without power for about 4–5 months and while that’s a long time, we consider ourselves lucky. Our homes are close to the road, which means relief rations are easier to reach us. I feel sorry for those in the interior. I hope they can get the help they need.

Salome Pareti.

They told us on Friday, that the cyclone would hit the Western Division on Sunday. But by Saturday, the winds had already picked up and by that evening, we could already feel the full brunt of it.
I was already overdue, I was meant to give birth on the 14th, so I was worried that I would go into labor during the height of Tropical Cyclone Winston. Imagine, that night, the winds were so strong that whenever I needed to go to the bathroom, my husband had to hold my hand and lead me so I wouldn’t get blown away. On top of that, the rain made everything so slippery and it was so dark, I couldn’t see where I was going. I am so glad I didn’t go into labor that night. If I did, my husband [would of] had to run to the fire station to get me a truck because there was no signal on our phones. There were branches and debris everywhere, fallen power lines and a fire truck was the only way I could imagine I could get to the hospital. To be honest, I was having a bit of a panic attack that night. I ended up going into labor early Wednesday morning and after about 16 hours of labor, I gave birth that evening. I was unable to nurse my son however, the nurse explained to me that because of the trauma brought on by Winston, I couldn’t give milk to the baby, so she advised me to go home, calm down, rest and relax and head back in later for another check. Even though I couldn’t nurse my son because of the trauma, I consider myself lucky. The Indo- Fijian lady in the bed next to me had a miscarriage because of stress brought on by Tropical Cyclone Winston. The nurses told her the unfortunate news the day I had given birth to Philman.
“Throughout this entire ordeal, all we could was pray. Pray for it to be over and done with, especially before I go into labor.”
 “I consider myself lucky to have gone through what I did, others have endured a lot more.”
I read an article once about this lady in an interior village who tried to cross over a river to reach the home of the midwife. Before she could get through the river, she went into labor. Her young son, who was accompanying her, ended up running up ahead to inform the midwife. By the time they had come back, the baby was out along with the afterbirth. The midwife had to cut the umbilical cord, wait for a while for the mother to be strong enough to walk, then take her to safety. Imagine, this is what it’s like out there, without a cyclone. I consider myself lucky to have gone through what I did, others have endured a lot more.
Throughout this entire ordeal, all we could was pray. Pray for it to be over and done with, especially before I go into labor.

Adi Pareti.

“We will have to start again.”
“We cannot stand out there and stop the cyclone, but we can rebuild, we can start again.”
 You know when I was a child, we hardly had these, but now it’s more and more frequent and it’s devastating. That night all we could do was just sit here and listen to the wind roar like a huge lion. We just prayed all night until the light shone through again. Some communities and families need more help than others. We can fix our own roofs. Places like Koro have lost everything and people have been traumatized, I hope they can get the help they need. We will stay in Navoci village until mother and baby are strong enough to head back home and rebuild. We will have to start again. It’s already March now and we need to start planting again soon. So much has happened, but what can we do? We cannot stand out there and stop the cyclone, but we can rebuild, we can start again.

Romeo Kivi.

“I had been through Hurricane Bebe, but this night, nobody will ever forget — all you could hear was the constant howling of the wind.”
“I just lay there with my children and prayed.”
 Locked up inside our home, we couldn’t do anything else but pray. As soon as we heard the warnings, I got the bus to the town and bought things to see us through, Cyclone Winston. A torch, some batteries, candles, and tinned food items. We tried to prepare ourselves the best we could. I had spoken to my two sons and told them, when I say run, don’t run to the neighbors, run underneath the house and seek shelter. By that evening when we started feeling the strong winds, it felt like we spent three hours in hell. I had been through Hurricane Bebe, but this night, nobody will ever forget — all you could hear was the constant howling of the wind. I just lay there with my children and prayed. That’s one thing I am thankful for, the power of prayer, I think that’s what saved my family. Even though we went through all this, I can’t help but feel for the people in my village. They were hit by both the hurricane and tidal waves that crashed right into the village and destroyed everything in its path.

Following the oral traditions of storytelling in the Pacific, you are able to find an audio version of my reflections, "Children of Resilience", here.

Children of Resilience.
Recently, I was referred to as a ‘Child of Fiji.’ Someone who is born from, embedded in and a native of. This resonated so much with me, mainly because I had never thought that my identity was tied to my nationality. Yes, my passport, birth certificate and every form I’ve filled say, I’m Fijian, but my identity, I had hoped, was a little more nuanced than that.
Personally, I identified as a child of my mother’s’ dreams and aspirations. A manifestation of her hopes as she packed her suitcase and moved from the outer islands to the city, in search for a better life.
I identified as a child born from the sheer hard work of a loving mother, embedded into a culture where giving graciously was always encouraged, and a native of the ocean and everything it represented.
My identity was never tied to a sense of patriotism. In fact, until that reference, I had never even considered myself a ‘child of Fiji.’ I have always just been a young human, finding purpose through service, and I also just happen to be Fijian.
A sense of identity in itself is important. A sense of identity as you figure out how to show up in impacted communities, even more so. Simply because you need to know how you being there will impact those of that community. As I navigated my way through this, I unraveled a few lessons, that I think are valuable and worth sharing.
A Child of Fiji.

How do you ‘show up?’

Let me first start off by saying, that these are my personal experiences, and I share them without any ill intentions. I simply would like to share my story with the hopes that it can help somebody else think about how they can useful during this period of rebuilding.
Everyone has ‘shown up’ in a way that has made sense to them, but have we all ‘shown up’ in a way that makes sense to those in impacted communities?
8 days after Tropical Cyclone Winston destroyed already vulnerable communities in the Western Division, I traveled there with Fiji Coordinator, George Nacewa and Australian Photojournalist, Jeff Tan.Our backpacks were filled with cameras, audio recorders, and notebooks. In Nadi, we picked up ten cases of bottled water, two bags of hard candy and an assortment of chips. Our intention was to travel to impacted communities to collect stories and photograph the trail of destruction left behind by Tropical Cyclone Winston.
We had a loose plan in place. George and I had contacts living in the West that we knew from our former roles as Dialogue Facilitator’s. We would check in with them and their loved ones, listen to their experiences and share their stories with the hopes that people around the world would hear them and feel motivated to help rebuild Fiji.
As we drove out of Pacific Harbour early that morning, it seemed simple enough. We were speaking to old friends and because we had heard access to clean drinking water was a problem, we could, at least, offer some water for their families and some treats for the children.
What I experienced that Sunday however, was a little different. I struggled with navigating how to show up in these communities. Would I show up as the trained journalist that I am or as the aspiring storyteller that I feel I am? What identity would I take on? As a ‘child of Fiji’, would I be the ‘journalist’ the world needed that could go in, extract that image, extract that story, and leave, or would I take on the identity of a ‘storyteller’ the community needed, and share a truth the world needed to hear?
It was interesting because I got it, you know, I got the justification around going in and getting these stories, because if you’re ‘out of sight’, you’re ‘out of mind’ and the world needed to hear these stories and see these images, so they could mobilise, donate, send aid, help rebuild. I got that, and to some degree, I have so much respect for that because I think it takes a certain kind of person to be able to tell these kinds of stories. To have a camera in the face of someone that has just lost everything and snap away in order to get that one powerful image- it takes a certain kind of ‘courage’ I haven’t understood yet.
For me, as a ‘child of Fiji’, someone who is born from, embedded in, and a native of, my heart had been modded to show courage in a different way. In that moment, I had to be courageous enough to navigate culture, protocol and respect, be clear in stating that while I hope this water might bring you a some sense of relief, what I can do to help, is elevate your voice and share your story with the hopes of eliciting the type of reaction needed to allow for allies to rebuild with you- as partners. And in order for this to happen, I needed to show up as a storyteller.
Coconut trees split in half by the cyclone.
As storytellers, it’s important we honor stories and people by sharing a more in-depth, nuanced truth.
In emergency situations, I know that the rules are different, and there is a time crunch and urgency around getting information out. But what I think it comes down to, is the choice you make about the identity with which you ‘show up’, when walking in post- disaster situations.
For instance, with the recent devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Winston, it would have easy to have taken thousands of photos and told you hundreds of stories about the destruction, the despair, and the sorrow. It would have been easy to share yet another story about the sheer size of the devastation.
But you know what, that story will be told and that aid coming in from donors and Governments will come in whether I tell you those stories or not.
So instead, I want to tell you a different story.
One about the aspirations of our resilient nation. One that focuses on how faith and community will be at the core of rebuilding our beloved Fiji.
The story of a woman who was overdue during the cyclone but could only worry about other mothers in more remote villages. The story of the neighbors in Ba who are rebuilding their community one rooftop at a time, and the story of the father and his children, who prayed all night for their village and their people.
Theses stories of Fijians minimizing their misfortunes so it’s never about themselves. These are our stories because they weave in aspects of the Fijian society that make me realize that there is something beautiful unfolding in all this destruction, and it cannot and should not be packaged in a traditional news piece.
The story I want to share with you, is about our shared identity as ‘Children of Fiji’, Our shared identity- along with all its beautiful diversity- is what truly shapes our story. What truly defines who we are are the powerful values at the core of each of us. Faith and how it comforts us, resilience and how it defines us, and community and how it enables us. This is who we are as ‘Children of Fiji”.
This is our identity; this is how we must always show up.
Communities in the Pacific are already made vulnerable because of climate change, and as more and more of these Cyclone Pam’s and Winston’s, tear through our homes and turn our lives upside down, may we will always remember who we are.
We are neighbors fixing rooftops, we are mothers worried about families, we are fathers praying with our children. In the face of climate change, more severe tropical cyclones and sheer devastation, we are faith, we are community, and we are children of resilience.
A young girl walks along the beach outside her recently destroyed village. This is resilience!

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Watching Tropical Cyclone Winston Unfurl

You ever find yourself feeling frustrated because you can't seem to find the right words to piece together your thoughts and, therefore, can't articulate your truths? Gradually, I have come to learn that this is my spirit holding my soul accountable, reminding me that I need to figure out how to ground myself- quick! When I'm not grounded enough, the power of the truth I'm trying to articulate dissipates, and becomes something I wish I had made time to be more present in. I'm realizing this while sitting in my Aunts dining room in Auckland, I have a YouTube Bob Marley playlist on and I will attempt to string together my thought process about being in New Zealand while Tropical Cyclone Winston tore through my beloved Fiji.
In just a little under a year, I had unfortunately found myself in a situation I had hoped never to be in again. Reporting on another tropical cyclone wreaking havoc in the Pacific. In March last year, Tropical Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu, and it was absolutely devastating. Over the weekend, less than a week after Fiji became the first nation to ratify the Paris Agreement, Tropical Cyclone Winston made landfall in Fiji and became the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere.
The first of many of 'those' types of calls.
Following the chaos Tropical Cyclone Winston created from a dining room table in Wellington, I caught myself going through the motions with my colleagues and asked myself if this is what 'normal' would look like for the Pacific from now on.
I remember working on Tropical Cyclone Pam in Suva a year ago. I was out for lunch at Saffron with two of my friends. I had just ordered the Goan style coconut fish curry and was looking forward to a decent meal and a long overdue catch up with my friends. Instead, I spent the entire time glued to my laptop fielding media requests from international media agencies, updating our live blog with digital ninja, colleague, and friend, Thelma Young, whilst also navigating how to hold space for Isso Nihmei, our Coordinator on the ground in Vanuatu- who was literally sending us up to date stories of the entire ordeal. This was of course on top of making space for conversations with my colleagues on how best to respond to this very new area we were getting into whilst clearly defining our limitations as an organisation, that doesn't generally deal with these sorts of things. It was crazy. 
That Saturday, I had started working on Cyclone Pam updates from Saffron at Damodar City at around lunch and continued on to the Grand Pacific Hotel, where they had a television we could view the footage Isso was sending in from Vanuatu on CNN and BBC. I had my first call with Thelma that day, I took the Skype call out on the rocks by the ocean (it was the quietest place I could find as the GPH was filling up with happy hour patrons), in that moment, I didn't realize that it would be the first of many of those types of calls. After that call, I drove home and proceeded to work all weekend constantly fielding media enquiries, updating the blog and again navigating hard conversations about what was the best way to respond, as an organisation, to everything that was going on. I repeat, it was crazy. 

Valuable lessons.
With both Pam and Winston, because my colleagues and I weren't on the ground, we were better placed to help elevate different stories and perspectives using social media and from experience, we knew what we were capable of and what we could really commit ourselves to. 
We knew that the live blog would again be valuable and a source of solace for many people wanting credible, timely information from the ground. We knew that the request for videos and images would come flying through from the media and we needed to provide them with something. With the gift of foresight, we were able to contact three volunteers on the ground, Sina Suliano, Shanesh Prasad and George Nacewa, to live tweet their experiences using the 350 Pacific Twitter handle. We also knew what lay ahead and that pulling consecutive all- nighters, like we did with TC Pam, probably wasn't the best idea. We needed to pace ourselves and be very realistic about our combined capacities and capabilities across time zones. Most of all we knew that the organic hashtags that emerged on Twitter, #TCWInston and #CycloneWinston, meant that there would be many stories on this single event shaped by different perspectives, and this was important for people following this ordeal from afar.

Following everything on Social Media.
Following the entire ordeal via Twitter from Wellington was insane, stories of fear, distraught and confusion filled my Twitter feed, followed by more confusion, more fear, and more distraught. Then came the report backs on the extent of the damage- homes destroyed, trees uprooted, families torn apart, lives lost. The death tolls increased with more official assessments rolling in, and as a picture was painted about the true extent of damage brought about by Tropical Cyclone Winston, I couldn't help feeling a mixture of both guilt for being safe in Wellington, and helplessness that I couldn't do anything about what was going on in Fiji.

In response, I turned to Twitter and social media to again elevate voices of my fellow Fijians on the ground. In more ways than one, I felt vindicated by sharing their stories. I was struggling with feeling useless, being safe while my family and friends feared their lives back home, and was also figuring out how best to serve from afar. Further, I was wondering whether or not I had the right to speak to, or even feel, some of the trauma felt by my friends and family on the ground. 
Social media, in its own little way, helped me navigate all that. The Twitter community built around the tragedy that was/is TC Winston was a safe space for many people trying to make sense of what was going on back home. The community was built around the urgency in sharing information, grew- because of the platform's ability to connect people, and was a source of solace because of its ability to share hope and create clarity in a time of chaos.

Final Reflections. 
Personally, I feel that the ongoing narrative coming out this was ordeal was one that perfectly reflected the spirit of our people and our innate ability to smile through the pain. If anything, that characteristic about our people didn't get lost in the chaos caused by Tropical Cyclone Winston. Headline after headline painted a bleak picture of the devastation caused by #TCWinston, yet we saw news articles, tweets and Facebook posts of people picking up the pieces and rebuilding their homes with hope shining through on their faces. People who had lost everything still acknowledged their faith by expressing their gratitude to God for keeping them and their loved ones safe. Despite their loss, families dug deep to provide comfort to their neighbors, and little children throwing up peace signs in front of uprooted trees and damaged gardens. were seen all over the internet. This is the Fiji that we all know and love. This is the Fiji that is stronger than any Tropical Cyclone! 
While we are still reeling from the aftermath of this cyclone, we are coming together as a community to rebuild Fiji. Fiji communities all over the world, relief agencies, and our team of Fiji volunteers are ready to help out in whatever way they can. As a team, we will continue to rebuild our communities as well as reinforce our resilience as a nation. The relationship between climate change and severe tropical storms is becoming more and more evident. As we learn more about those connections, one thing is for sure, we will continue to identify ways to escalate our efforts in keeping climate changing fossil fuels in the ground and more importantly, we will continue to bear witness and share our frontline truths!

*Views are my own and not neccesarily of the organisation I work for.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

East Asia Climate Leadership Camp August 22-26, 2015

Participants at the East Asia Leadership Camp.

In 2015, I was invited to Vietnam to conduct storytelling workshops at the East Asia Climate Leadership Camp. A five-day climate leadership training that brought well-selected climate leaders and organizers together. The training was an opportunity for participants to learn a little more about cross-cultural understanding, climate leadership upskilling, strategy building, regional networking and generating actionable ideas that would help solve the climate crisis in East Asia. 

The camp was organized by Vietnam with technical support from, East Asia, and other partners.

To be selected for the training, you had to be able to commit to an actional plan for climate campaigning in your country. This was the first ever East Asia regional climate leaders training that included a follow- up plan that participants needed to commit to. The participants came from diverse backgrounds and skills that enabled cross-border networking and leadership.

Throughout the training, they were assigned real- life situation tasks had to learn how to collaborate and use various tactics to do an effective campaign in different contexts from using storytelling, arts, direct actions, digital campaigning and community organizing. My role as a story coach was to help young East Asian climate leaders understand what compelled them to do the work that they do and communicate that clearly and concisely to mobilize potential climate activists in their communities. 

Facilitators at the East Asia Leadership Camp.

During my time there, I worked closely with Zeph Repollo, a Phillipino campaigner, and organizer with East Asia. She was one of the most inspiring people I have ever worked with and it was such a blessing to be able to see her stand in her power and inspire so many more participants at the training. A few months after the East Asia Leadership Camp, I supported her as she released this powerful blog about the terror inflicted on the Lumad people who stand to defend their ancestral lands from corporate mining interests.

Zeph Repollo.

'Beyond the Narrative'

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive"
Coming alive, being present in the moment, being grateful for having experienced those moments, and working towards your dreams, are a few things that come to mind whenever I see that quote by Howard Thurman.
It's 21 days into 2016 and I have finally finished the final step of my blog 'rebrand'. I managed to land on a name I feel represents my ideas, dreams and hopes. The original blog was "The Other Foot 2015" and while that name was true for me last year, I feel that moving forward, "Beyond the Narrative" is more honest.
Initially, I started a blog with the intention of making sense of the things going on in my life. I find that writing my thoughts out help me organize and transition towards some sense of order and control. Later on, I realized that writing was a great way to document events that were significant to me and reflecting on those events would sometimes resonate with another person and create opportunities for connection- something I hope for in the world- building more deep connections through storytelling. 
'Beyond the Narrative' is two things for me. 
First off, it's a space where I can be my whole authentic self. A platform for me to share my reflections, my journey of growth, my struggles with navigating both the limitations and possibilities of my dreams, my appreciation for both the beauty and the blessing that comes from the commitment to being more present, and most importantly a transparent avenue for holding my soul accountable to my mind.
Secondly, it's a sole trader business that is the culmination of the overlap of some very life-affirming interactions I had in 2015. From the gift that was my time with Heather Box and Julian Mocine-Mcqueen, story coaches, mentors and founders of The Million Person Project, to following and being inspired by Arieta Rika living out her dreams through Talanoa to finally realizing that we are at our best when we are standing in our gifts and this was exactly how I wanted to be in this world.

'Beyond the Narrative' as a business is the merger of story coaching, storytelling, and public relations. My intention is to run an ethical business project that provides mentoring and coaching for individuals, to first and foremost, understand their truths, secondly, find comfort with the articulation of these truths, then finally, provide further support for them to strategically share their stories in powerful ways that uphold their public image or brand.
I hope to support others speak their truths and share their stories with the world in the best possible way for them.
Framing my hopes for 'Beyond the Narrative' was a learning process in itself.

When I was talking to my mentor about this idea, she asked me to promise one thing. 'always ask yourself if this project is working for you, and always check if you're having fun doing it.' 

This was exactly what I needed to hear. By nature, I am a very anxious person who does what is needed to stay on top of things. This means long hours, sleepless nights, overly committing and pushing myself to the brink of burnout. So in order to minimize all that, I have committed to some very clear intentions. 

One of them is to see how long I can go without ever experiencing stress in relationship to the project. If I begin to experience anxiety and stress, it should serve as a reminder that I am not honoring the work I'm doing and will eventually turn on it. I have committed to showing up joyfully for my clients and serving them with that spirit. My mentor reminded me, that this is a really important commitment when starting off because it's a sign of integrity to show up, be present and ready to be grounded in my service.

Secondly, I am committed to being OK with having money flow into my experience. I need to be open to creating a financially viable business and not be afraid to think about big goals and working towards them. When my ego tells me it's embarrassing to set financial goals, it's not OK to want money, and it's selfish and wrong to make money from doing this work, I need to recognize that it's my ego trying to protect me from the challenges that come with growth. Our challenges determine our success and I need to figure out which challenges I choose. I am at a point in my life where I want the reward as much as I want the challenge, the result as much as I want the process, and the victory as much as I want the battle.

Finally, I am committed to set my goals where I can achieve them in a way that is completely fulfilling and relaxing. If I don't be careful, this project may lead to burning out, where serving others could yield diminishing returns in my life. I need to constantly remind myself that this project is about enabling others to be whole and full, and I can't show up to support them if I am overstressed and under-resourced. 

I am excited about what lies ahead and I truly believe that this work can impact lives in many ways. It's deep as it is full, and abundant as it is specific. Moving forward, I need to remind myself to be gracious and embrace the many challenges and rewards, processes and results, battles and victories. This work is deep and can be life-affirming, and if anything, I say again- we are our best when we are standing in our gifts, and this is exactly how I want to be in this world.