Visits to Vanua Levu and Taveuni –
Our journey to Vanua Levu started at 4 am,
when we had to find someone to help us transport us and our 6 boxes of
resources to Suva bus stand. Fortunately, this one of the rare mornings
when it was not actually raining on the Suva side of Viti Levu and we
were able to stand at the roadside until a willing cab driver came
along. That only took a few seconds, even at this hour of the day!
At the bus stand we waited for the bus to arrive, and, quite amazingly,
all the passengers and their vast amount of luggage were squeezed in,
and we headed off towards Natovi. The aisle was piled high with sacks of
taro, boxes of rice, newly woven mats to give as presents for all kinds
of family occasions, twisted yaqona roots wrapped in newspaper to
present to the chief of the village and various completely
unrecognisable objects, so getting on and off the bus entailed a certain
level of mountaineering skill!
After a couple of hours the road deteriorated into a rough and very
bumpy track. By now there were children running barefoot over the stony
track to reach school and they all waved as we passed. Finally we
reached Natovi wharf and spotted our boat just arriving with passengers
The bus drove on to the ferry, but everything had to be offloaded, as
there would be a different bus to collect passengers at the other end.
Our boxes were stacked on a pallet at the side and we went upstairs to
sit on the deck. The weather was warm and sunny, and the 4-hour crossing
to Nabouwalu soon passed. On the way we saw shoals of flying fish and
then dolphins appeared and were leaping playfully all around us!
When the boat docked at Nabouwalu there were people and vehicles
everywhere – no thought for health and safety! We were met by Ahmadiyya
school manager and he insisted on driving on to the boat to collect our
boxes with no apparent regard for the people milling around and the
vehicles trying to drive off – and then had to carry out a 3-point turn
in the middle of all this commotion!
There followed another 2-3 hour journey on extremely bumpy tracks until
we finally reached Batiri and saw Ahmadiyya Secondary School (the school
where we have had sanitation facilities installed). By now the only
thought in our minds was to see the sanitation block – in fact not just
to see it, but to make use of it! We were both able to confirm that
everything was in working order! When we spoke to the school’s head
teacher, he said that there had been a noticeable improvement in the
health of the students since the installation of the sanitation block.
They were also much happier and able to concentrate better on their
We have also had solar power installed at Ahmadiyya School and so we
looked at that and heard what a huge difference it has made for the
children to be able to use the lighting in one of the classrooms to do
their homework in one of the classrooms (instead of straining their eyes
by crowding round a single hurricane lamp to read). We heard from the
staff of the effect that all these improvements are having on the
education, health and general morale of the students.
The next day we had another very bumpy ride to reach Naduri – this time
it was not quite so long (about an hour) and was mostly along the coast.
Naduri itself is situated right by the sea. In fact, as we arrived, we
spotted the villagers on the beach. They had been out overnight (as they
do most nights) diving to catch beche-de-mer (sea cucumbers), which they
were then boiling in huge drums over wood fires. After this they would
be dried and weighed, and then sold to the Chinese food and medicine
market. This is apparently the village’s only source of income.
We were taken through the village to the kindergarten that the charity
has funded and spent a whole session with the children. They sang for us
and invited us to join in with their activities. The children really
love to come and because the building is positioned in the heart of the
village, there is a very strong community feel about the whole project.
We were able to donate boxes of pre-school resources to help them and
they were thrilled with all the books, toys, games and art/craft
that day we visited Koroinasolo in Bua where we have had water storage
facilities installed at the school. We spent the afternoon talking with
the staff and chatting with the children in their respective classes. It
soon became very obvious to us just what a difference having fresh water
has made, not only to the staff and children at the school, but also to
the whole community in Koroinisalo Village. The health of the children
started to improve almost immediately and as a result the attendance
figures at the school have risen significantly. This means that there is
far more continuity in the classroom, so there seems to be a much more
focused and confident approach to learning among the children. We were
able to donate a box of brightly coloured reading books, stationery and
other suitable resources, and these were accepted with enthusiasm.
That night we spent in Savusavu (on the south side of the island), ready
for a very early morning flight to the island of Taveuni. We still had 2
of our boxes left over and we were asked to step on the scales with
those to make sure the tiny plane would not be overloaded. The walked
across the runway with the 4 other passengers and boarded the plane. It
was a very rough flight and we were very pleased when we finally touched
down on Taveuni. The roads on Taveuni leave much to be desired
(especially after such a rough air crossing), but we managed to find
someone with a vehicle that was able to cope with the bumps and
potholes. He agreed to take us to Vuna District School that day and then
to Bouma District School the following morning. These were 2 more
locations where we have had fresh water storage tanks installed.
staff and children at Vuna were thrilled to see us and proudly showed us
their new tanks. They had experienced a period of heavy rain shortly
before our visit and so the tanks were full. Once again there had been a
significant improvement in health, attendance and general morale. We
were treated to coconut juice (straight from the coconuts), fruit and
cakes. Then the children entertained us with ‘meke’ (traditional Fijian
dancing to the accompaniment of chanting and wooden rhythm instruments).
The boys put on a particularly fearsome spear dance in our honour! We
donated a box of books to the school, many of them given by the authors
themselves and even signed and inscribed with a message in some cases.
They were absolutely thrilled with those.
The next day we planned to visit Bouma (on the other side of the island)
and set off early in the morning. However, although it was dry where we
were staying, it had been raining heavily on the eastern side and we
were unable to reach the school because of severe flooding. The books we
had planned to donate to that school ended up being given to a school we
happened to be passing on our way back to the air strip. The staff and
children looked upon our visit as some sort of miracle!