Empowering Families, Transforming Lives

31 Oct 2023

The Famili i Redi Journey of Cleef Aru

In the heart of Port Vila, Vanuatu, Cleef Aru, a 44-year-old father of two embarked on a transformative journey that reshaped not just his life but his entire family's future. Like many Ni-Vanuatu, Cleef ventured abroad as a seasonal worker, seeking opportunities to provide for his young family.

Like many young fathers, Cleef was confronted by the pressures to provide for his young family amidst rising cost of living at home yet restrained by the limited employment opportunities available to him. Labour mobility provided a rare opportunity for Cleef to overcome these constraints and to create a better future for his family.

Prior to working overseas, Cleef earned an average of USD$162 fortnightly as a mechanic. On his farm job in Australia on his first trip overseas, working both as a mechanic, driver and grapefruit picker, Cleef earned USD$1,248 per fortnight, almost seven times more than his income at home. The monetary opportunities enticed Cleef to also encourage his wife Seri Kalotiti to join him in Australia, with the hope that together they can double their earnings to meet social obligations at home and create a better life for their young family.

Cleef Aru and his wife, Seri Kalotiti, ventured abroad as seasonal workers, seeking opportunities to provide for their young family.

But like all good things, there is also a downside to Cleef's labour mobility story. Before his wife joined him in Australia, Cleef faced the harsh realities of his new life in a foreign environment, away from his family and his familiar way of living. Distance strained their family bonds, and the challenges of settling into a new environment took a toll on his well-being. Cleef began to turn to alcohol and drugs. "This affected my relationship with my wife and children," he confessed, reflecting on the difficulties he encountered.

After consecutive trips overseas and returning to Vanuatu with no progress on plans, Cleef realised that change was imperative. It was then that he and his wife had the chance to attend a Famili i Redi workshop, a pioneering program crafted by the World Vision Vanuatu, International Organisation for Migration, the Vanuatu Department of Labour and with seasonal workers and their families. This initiative aims to provide holistic tools, skills and strategies for labour migrants and their intimate partners, including modules on what to expect from overseas work, healthy relationships, nutrition, gender-based violence prevention and family financial management, which encompasses budgeting, saving, reducing the cost of remittance transfers and entrepreneurship upon reintegration in Vanuatu.

Utilising what they had learnt from the Famili i Redi workshop, Cleef and Seri embarked on a transformative journey. They participated in training sessions that not only empowered them with valuable life skills but also helped them envision a brighter future. Together, they set ambitious long-term goals which included constructing a family home, starting a bakery business, investing in a fishing boat, and acquiring a truck.

Driven by determination and newfound knowledge, Cleef made significant lifestyle changes. He relinquished alcohol and cigarettes, focusing on his family's well-being and the pursuit of their goals. Both Seri and Cleef agreed that she will continue her work in Australia while Cleef managed their projects and cared for their children back home.

Cleef Aru proudly smiles as he stands in front of his house which is currently under construction.

Today, they stand proudly halfway through building their dream home – a testament to their unwavering dedication. The family's bakery business has flourished, with Cleef's freshly baked bread becoming a local favourite in Port Vila and beyond. The couple even acquired a van, enabling them to transport their baked goods to communities at each end of Efate Island.

"Beyond accomplishing our family's long-term goals, the Famili i Redi program helped my wife and I communicate better. In doing so, this has helped our relationship, especially with my wife working abroad," shared Cleef, highlighting the impact Famili i Redi had on their communication and connection.

As Jimmy Kawiel, Deputy Portfolio Manager, Climate and Resilience Livelihoods Portfolio expressed, "Cleef's journey exemplifies the potential for positive change when families are equipped with the right tools and support. We are committed to empowering more families like Cleef's, ensuring their dreams become reality."

Cleef Aru's story is true for many labour mobility workers. Many started off with bright dreams and high hopes but only to be toppled by the harsh realities of life in a new environment, away from family and the familiarities of home. Initiatives such as Famili i Redi are critical in providing the necessary lifeline for workers and their families.

The family's bakery business has flourished, with Cleef's freshly baked bread becoming a local favourite in Port Vila and beyond.

Cleef's labour mobility journey highlights the significance of the employment opportunities offered by labour mobility schemes but that the benefits of these opportunities can be overshadowed by the challenges of life away from home. These challenges do not discount or devalue the potential benefits of labour mobility, they only accentuate the need for lifelines to support workers and their families overcome these trials. Famili i Redi is a true example of the benefits of these lifelines to enable workers and their families to reap the full benefits of labour mobility.

Thanks to the vision and dedication of initiatives like Famili i Redi, lives are transformed, families are strengthened, and communities thrive, one empowered family at a time. As the slogan for the training says: it's not an individual journey but a family journey.