In 2010, I had the honor of receiving a ten-month research grant to study the lives of I-Kiribati living in New Zealand. The I-Kiribati are citizens from the Republic of Kiribati, a small Micronesian country located in the Central Pacific Ocean. Their islands, consisting mostly of low-lying coral atolls, rise just inches above sea level, and are under severe threat from higher tides and stronger storms. The purpose of my study was to gain an understanding of migrant experiences in New Zealand, in preparation for possible large-scale relocation due to climate change.
I first went to Kiribati as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2000 and was “adopted” by an amazing host family. In 2005, some members of this family moved to New Zealand. There, they lived amongst a large community of I-Kiribati migrants. I lived with my family throughout my Fulbright year and gained an intimate view of their lives in New Zealand. I experienced their joys, sorrows, and challenges on a very personal level. They were not the only ones facing challenges though. Back in Kiribati, our friends and family were struggling with surmounting impacts from climate change.