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A Sign of Hope

March 2024

Temwake speaking at an outdoor event in front of a microphoneEverything has changed since I’ve been at BYU–Hawaii,” says Temwake Kuraotio, a hospitality and tourism management major from Kiribati. “I have learned more about my culture and more about how to be a peacemaker and disciple of Jesus Christ. I’m learning how to think about my country and what I can do to help my fellow countrymen.”

When Temwake and his wife, Ritati, were newlyweds, they made it a goal to attend BYU–Hawaii. They learned English through the BYU–Pathway Worldwide program and then applied to BYU–Hawaii and were accepted to the university’s IWORK program. Temwake quickly embraced BYU–Hawaii’s mission of preparing students to be leaders in their chosen fields, and he started looking for ways he could help his home country.

Temwake with his wife and young son in front of the templeThe Aibwea Project

Temwake and some of his classmates from Kiribati noticed that the younger generations in Kiribati were leaving their country to seek careers elsewhere. The BYU–Hawaii students wanted to create more job opportunities in the area so that young adults would stay and support their home islands. Using what knowledge they had gained thus far in hospitality and tourism management, Temwake and the team started the Aibwea Project.

“Aibwea is a Kiribati word that refers to the first light that appears in the sky before dawn and the last light after sunset,” says Temwake. “This light is interpreted as a sign of hope in our culture. We wanted to bring hope to our country that things could get better.” The project seeks to improve lives on Christmas Island by educating residents and government officials on how to manage the nation’s tourism industry in a sustainable way.

“I’m learning how to think about my country and what I can do to help my fellow countrymen.”
– Temwake Kuraotio

After getting permission from the Kiribati government, Temwake and his classmates trained locals, including high school students, on how to share the environment, culture, and history of the area through tourism. “Most of the work we were doing was well beyond our capabilities as students, but we knew we needed to set a foundation,” Temwake explains. “As the trip continued, we realized this was an inspired project. We could feel the Spirit of the Lord guiding us through every moment.”

Temwake wearing a red shirt in front of the oceanChristmas Island’s stunning beaches offer first-class surfing, diving, and fishing. Temwake and his classmates are making plans to preserve an area of the island as the first official national park in Micronesia and to establish a Kiribati Cultural Center, designed after the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie.

Because of support from donors and the IWORK program, Temwake is making a difference in his home country. He says, “I am in the right place to be trained as a peacemaker, leader, and disciple of Jesus Christ and an active citizen in helping my country improve. Your generous donations have not only been transformative for me and other BYU–Hawaii students, but you are helping us transform our countries for the better.”

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