Friday, August 26, 2011

On the Rotary rounds ... Taveuni , the garden island of Fiji

Bouma school kids singing in the rain. Below: Alan fishing - "it all helps"; Claire with the fishing family. Photos: Alan Eyes

CAFÉ PACIFIC publisher’s sister Claire and her husband, Alan Eyes, currently governor of Rotary District 9920 with a responsibility for the Pacific islands, are currently on a field trip to Fiji looking over a number of school and water aid projects. The trip has been a welcome eye opener. And they are now enthusiasts of the “Pacific Way”.

Some brief snippets from her diary:

August 24:
Bula, bula

We’re surviving the busy schedule … just! What an experience. We have been treated like royalty at the special water for life opening ceremonies and can now sit crossed-legged for almost an hour on the ceremonial mats … Have now downed many bilos of kava and been clapped by the elders. Cutting the ribbons and turning on the water taps in the villages is amazingly moving.

We met Sitiveni Sitivatu's mum in her village yesterday, and saw all that he has done for her. All Black No 11? But we see in the newspaper headlines today that he’s been left out of the World Cup team. She will be so disappointed.

Ni sa bula vinaka

PS: David, I met one of your ex-journalism students from USP - Emily Moli. She is a journalist still over here and has just joined the Suva Peninsula Rotary club. She says hi to you.

August 15:
The day starts sitting on Geoff’s covered outdoor deck under a coconut palm and looking out to the sea. Raining here in paradise this morning - a commodity needed to fill all those water tanks on the Rotary projects that Geoff is constantly finding funds for.

Also a cooling for the humid temperatures, so good for the group of us being shown the sights of Taveuni. Geoff is an inspiration and even at breakfast, provided for us by Joey, he is promoting Rotary and its projects as he maps out our morning.

We have been instructed that we will leave at 0815 sharp as we have a lot to see. The programme is very “light” today, Geoff says. We all bundle into his Toyota Prado, Joey, Alex Oehlmann, (an ambassadorial scholar from Germany currently studying in Auckland, and hosted by Auckland East Rotary Club), Alan and me, with Geoff driving.

Then we stop at the TovuTovu Resort, to pick up Ken and Angela who are over from Melbourne - Rotary club of Templestowe - promoting the ABCD -Art programme for schools. This Rotary initiative may join with Fiji clubs to create sponsorship for disadvantaged children to assist with education costs through this programme.

Off we set south, past Taveuni Airport, which is very close to where Geoff and Joey live. Then past “Tromoto” Restaurant on a cliff overhanging the sea where we shared a beautiful meal together on our first night. We pass first the Marist Training Centre/Waica Water Project which is currently under construction. Gradually the villages of Taveuni are being supplied with piped running water, a commodity we all take for granted. All these projects on Taveuni are possible thanks to Rotary clubs' financial and physical support, and the Rotary Foundation.

Next we head up the winding bumpy dirt track to the Buculevu Secondary School perched up on a hill and also overlooking the sea and surrounded by palm trees and gorgeous brightly coloured foliage. Here we view a working project with local village men learning on the job building skills overseen by Geoff … The Buculevu 40 bed girls dormitory will enable students from the final two years of schooling to have some more space and privacy.

Currently 140 female boarding students are housed in two small accommodation houses. We are privileged to view the dormitory which is nearing completion. Alex had contributed some time and energy painting the wall of the laundry area yesterday. Many local volunteers are also giving their time.

And still there is so much work to do on Taveuni …

PS: Later in the day, Alex and Alan were being taught how to fish from the beach with a Taveuni woman and her three sons. She couldn’t understand much English but when we mentioned Rotary, her eyes lit up. She beamed at us and said: “Rotary has done so much for us here."

All Pacific power to you, Claire and Alan.

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