Tuvalu is on the front line of the effects of climate change, and residents of the low-lying island fear their home will be “wiped off its place on the map”.

Kato Ewekia is a 27-year-old climate activist from Tuvalu and said he loved his home and his culture and didn’t want to lose them.

“Seeing the beaches that we used to play rugby [on] with my friends had disappeared, kind of gave me that wake-up call,” he told Nesia Daily.

“I was worried about my children because I wanted my children to grow up, teach them Tuvaluan music, teach them rugby, teach them fishing. But my island is about to disappear and get wiped off it’s place on the map.”

Tuvalu is the fourth smallest country in the world with a population of just over 11,000 people.

The low-lying island is widely considered one of the first places to be significantly impacted by rising sea levels, caused by climate change.

Locals said the spring tides this year in Tuvalu have been the worst so far. More flooding is expected with the king tides that usually occur during late February to early March.

In 2021, Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister, Simon Kofe, addressed the world in a COP26 speech whilst standing knee-deep in the sea to show how vulnerable Tuvalu and other low-lying islands in the Pacific are to climate change.

Ewekia was also at COP26 and made history as the first youth Tuvaluan delegate to participate in the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Despite only speaking limited English, he took to the global stage to tell the world about his home.

“Since I was the first Tuvaluan activist, people didn’t really know where Tuvalu is, what Tuvalu is,” he said.

“It was culture shocking, overwhelming. But the other youth gave me the confidence to just speak with my heart, and get my message out there.”

Since 2020, Ewekia has been the national leader of the Saving Tuvalu Global Campaign, an environmental organisation that aims to amplify the voices and demands of the people of Tuvalu. At the core of it all, he’s dedicated to saving Tuvalau for future generations.

“Going out there, it’s not easy. We really, really love our home and we want how our elders taught us how to be Tuvaluan, we want our children to experience it – not when it disappears and future generations will be talking about it [Tuvalu] like it’s a story.”

In the four years that he’s been advocating for Tuvalu on the public stage, there have been many moments of frustration that are specifically directed towards world leaders who aren’t paying attention.

“My message to the world is I’ve been sharing this same message over and over again,” he said.

“If Tuvalu was your home and it [was] about to disappear, and you wanted your children to grow up in your home in Tuvalu – what would you have done? If you were in our shoes, what would you have done to save Tuvalu.