10 minutes with samantha chapman
Fotbot spent 10 minutes speaking to Samantha Chapman, who studied in the UK and took her qualifications home to the Falkland Islands to become a teacher.
We spoke to her about a range of issues, from life in the Falklands to her views on her neighbours.
Can you describe how you and your family came to live in the Falkland Islands?
My parents moved to the Falklands after the war from Barnsley in South Yorkshire. My aunt and uncle from my dad’s side owned a fish and chip shop in Elsecar and they had decided to move to the Falklands to set up one there. My aunt spoke to dad about her plans and he was very keen to follow suit, as was their Mum. Initially my mum wasn't keen, however after her mother died she figured that she didn't have anything to lose! My dad set up a building business (which he still runs today and is very successful, he built my house!) and was part of the clean up process to restore Stanley to its former glory, including putting the cross back on the top of the Christ Church Cathedral! They had to travel on a rather gutless aircraft to Ascension Island, and then get a helicopter onto a ship that would take them down to the Falklands, a trip taking around 2 weeks to complete. They first went in 1983 but struggled to find accommodation, they then went back to the islands in 1985 and my dad built our first house on Fitzroy Road. I was born in the Falkland Islands in 1989 and my 2 younger sisters were also born there.
How did you experience growing up on what some would consider an isolated cluster of Islands? Did it affect your youth, or how you are as an adult?
Growing up in the Falklands was a brilliant experience as a child! It is incredibly safe, I was able to go out until it was starting to turn dark and walk to school alone from about the age of 8 without my parents worrying about it. We often spent our holidays at camp (what we call our countryside) on a friend's farm. We were involved in many aspects of farm life including lamb marking and drafting sheep, this was great for the animal lover in me! There is also a wide range of amazing wildlife to see, I distinctly remember seeing 3 killer whales in Goose Green harbour when I was 9. They were leaping out of the water like Shamu, it is probably my favourite childhood memory!
Whilst I loved living here as a child as I started to get into my teenage years I found that I became 'bored' and assumed that life was greener in the UK. We did briefly move to the UK after my parents divorced and I quickly came to realize that the grass was greener but that was about it! I found school very difficult to settle in to. I went from a school of 250 to one of well over 1000, I felt isolated and people assumed that I couldn't speak English. I moved back to the Falklands about 3 months later and never complained about being bored again! I suppose as a teenager you have to be a bit more creative but I spent lots of time with friends, family and going to camp. I left the Falklands from 2007 - 2013 to study and since I have returned I have loved it. I desperately missed home and was very glad to return. I think that I felt more isolated in the UK than I have ever done in the Falklands. Perhaps I feel it more now as my mum, step dad and sister live in the UK and I haven't been able to see them for 3 years. The distance is hard, but it was certainly harder whilst I was away from the Islands. The distance can also be an issue when ordering items from the UK, or when building a house, as you have to wait quite a while for things to arrive. But we are pretty used to that here and things have certainly improved over the years.
Are your long term plans to live and work in the Falklands?
My long-term plans are to live and work here for the foreseeable future. I am an Early Years Teacher and I have a permanent job here, as the school that I was taught at! (There is only one infant and junior school; the second is the secondary school.) The head teacher was my Year 5 teacher! My father recently built a house for me in the new area developed for housing and aimed at first time buyers. I have no plans to leave that I can see right now!
How close is the community and do they have a strong sense of British identity or is there a unique ‘Falkland Islander’ way of life?
We have an incredibly close community here; we see this in the good times and the bad! And when bad things happen we all feel it. We do have a strong British identity and we are proud of our heritage and everything that the British forces did for us and still continue to do. Liberation Day is probably our most popular holiday. We have a parade, 2 minutes silence and then onto the town hall to begin the celebrations. Whilst we are undeniably British we also have a strong sense of a Falkland Islands’ identity. We are proud, we look after our people and our islands, and we work hard and respect others. A traditional Falkland holiday is sports week, which is held in the February school holiday. There is a host farm on the east and west Falklands and it is filled with activities including shearing, motor cross riding, horse riding and sheep dog trials,followed by a lot of dancing (mostly the country kind) and having a good time. I think that if you are the sort of person who works hard, is resourceful, likes a challenge, has a good sense of humour and enjoys meeting new people then you would certainly love it here.
How does the controversy over the ownership of the Falkland Islands with Argentina affect those living in the Falklands?
Our day-to-day life isn't really affected by what Argentina has to say, they aren't stopping us living our lives, and they are just making a lot of noise. Our MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) and their support do a fantastic job or representing us both here and overseas and have done a lot of work to ensure that people understand our heritage, what we stand for and that we wish to stay as we are, British. Whilst they do a great job or promoting our story we are all aware that we all need to take an active part in informing others. I came across quite a few people during my time in the UK who suggested that I 'didn't deserve to be British' and that I wasn't entitled to be studying there. These people were ignorant to our situation and I did my best to explain but I can imagine that it is difficult for some people to comprehend. Which is why it is so important that we continue to have our voices heard.
In your opinion how much support does the British government give to Falkland Islanders and how can it be improved upon?
Currently we get have great support from the British Government. Prime Minister Cameron, along with many other MPs over the years have supported our right to self-determination and we hope that this continues. In terms of financial support I believe that we only have that type of support in the form of a military presence, which is still necessary.
Are there any pressing environmental or conservation issues in the Falklands?
There have been concerns surrounding the oil discovery in the Falklands. People are worried that it will spoil the view, increase the amount of people here and possibly destroy wildlife should there be an accident. It is all in the early stages of development at the moment and everyone is working carefully to ensure that any problems are considered and solved carefully. We shall see what happens!
How can FOTBOT reach out more to those living in the Falklands Islands?
FOTBOT I believe have made contact with quite a few people from the Falklands who are studying overseas. I feel that this is very positive and it certainly helped me when I was away. I used to find it difficult as I felt like an international student due to the distance, however I am British and I didn't get the recognition that I felt I needed. It's a great way for us to meet others from British Overseas Territories and make more links to a supportive network.
Do you have an awareness of the issues within other British Overseas Territories, or a sense that there’s a relationship between the BOTs?
Our MLAs have worked hard to make good connections with other British Overseas Territories and have included other young people to accompany them on trips overseas (hopefully I will be able to go one day!). We have a strong connection with St. Helena (my partner is also from there) as we have many people who have moved to the Falklands from there and there are also Falkland Islanders who have moved out to St. Helena as well.
What issues will be particularly important in the future to the Falklands and what could we do to help?
An issue that will always be important is our right to self-determination. We are British and wish to remain as such. Any support that we can get to help get our voices out there and inform those who are unaware of our situation is vital.