Semiti’s story – Fiji

Semiti grew up in an informal or ‘squatter’ settlement in Fiji. He is now Director of the People’s Community Network, supported by Caritas Australia, which empowers thousands of landless Fijians living in informal settlements.

Semiti says, “Through the voice of the poor we can become one, and it’s very powerful.”

Semiti grew up in an informal, or ‘squatter’, settlement in Fiji. More than a quarter of Fiji’s people live in these settlements, with little hope of finding permanent housing and land. Their situation is particularly vulnerable – many live in unstable shelters, and there is a constant threat of extreme climate events. Children have few opportunities for education, and unemployment levels are high. There is little access to public services such as roads, water supply, electricity and garbage collection.

I was once someone who had nothing.”Semiti. Now Semiti is working together with other residents of informal settlements to make positive changes. He is the Director of the People’s Community Network (PCN), which Caritas Australia supports. PCN helps empower landless people in Fiji, enabling them to address the issues that affect their lives.The network helps people in each settlement to advocate together to improve their living conditions. They work in committees on issues relating to health and hygiene; care of the elderly and of women who need empowerment; education needs; and unemployment.Semiti and other informal settlement residents tell how PCN helps them work together as neighbours, in solidarity. Through their participation in housing, savings and education programs, they have formed common bonds, and have grown in resilience and in dignity.

One thing that my past taught me is to give back to the community what I have learned. I always tell them: I was once in your shoes.” – Semiti