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Author: admin
• Saturday, December 10th, 2016

Posted December 11th

arriving in Vanua Balavu

After Koro, Vanua Balavu was the second most severely damaged outer island after Cyclone Winston. It’s part of the Lau group & is serviced by a weekly ferry, plus it has a grass airstrip, like Koro, with weekly flights.




A big ‘thank you’ to George Goundar, of Goundar Shipping that donated transport of the 21 boxes of books on the Lomaiviti Princess ferry. This time, we took the Fiji Airways small propeller plane & waited for the shipment of books to arrive 2 days later.

Giving the boxes of books to the 8 village schools was an unforgettable experience: children that have gone through such a lot, in badly-damaged schools that are still in the middle of reconstruction, yet remain so cheerful & thankful for any help that comes their way.

donating 5 boxes to Adi Maopa Secondary School


The logistics of going to the different corners of Vanua Balavu was challenging, but head teachers were very helpful in arranging boats, trucks & wheelbarrows. We even carried out one day’s school distributions in the island’s only police car!

Getting back to Suva was also an adventure as planes can only operate when the grass airstrip is dry…..& on the day of our departure, there was light rain! We went to the tiny airport & checked in, but were then notified 2 hours later that the plane had been cancelled & to wait for the next one in 1 or 2 weeks!! Luckily, after lots of phone calls, another plane came to the rescue after 3 days & we made it safely back home to Suva!

To finish off with, here’s a 2-minute news clip from the Fiji One TV news that gives a summary of our trips to both Koro & Vanua Balavu:

Fiji One TV news clip

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Author: admin
• Thursday, November 03rd, 2016

posted November 3rd

Read about our exciting trip to Koro island in Fiji’s Lomaiviti group of islands! It suffered more than any place in Fiji when Cyclone Winston tore through the island last February, ripping roofs off even the most solid buildings & in some cases destroying whole villages with tidal waves!

We visited every school on the island & donated much-needed library books. Here below is the link to our newsletter:

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Author: admin
• Thursday, October 06th, 2016

Posted October 6th

As we mentioned last time, the Ministry of Education gave us a list of 24 cyclone-damaged schools in 3 of Fiji’s outer islands, the first of which was Koro. We just came back from a one-week trip there & are happy to share the story, along with some of the photos, (many more photos on our
Facebook page

Our accommodation at Nasau Primary School for one night. You can see the damaged classrooms in the background.

Goundar shipping kindly donated our tickets to go there, along with transportation of the 26 boxes of library books that we were bringing for all the 8 schools on the island.

Koro island has about 5000 inhabitants & dirt roads connect the various villages. Cyclone Winston did tremendous damage to the island & even now, 6 months later, many houses are still lacking walls & roofs! There are plenty of households that are living under tarpaulins or in tents.

All the schools we visited were about half or three quarters damaged, with most classes now taking place in large tents donated by Unicef.

We gave 3 boxes of Australian library books to each primary school & 5 boxes to the (only) secondary school. They were received with great joy as the cyclone swept away just about everything, either by the strong winds or in the powerful waves that followed.

Sue sharing a book with some of the students.


We’re thankful to the Eastern Education Office in Suva, as they were extremely helpful in organizing diesel trucks to take us from one village to the next, along with all the boxes of books. They also helped organize our stay with the head teachers of some of the schools we went to.

Students of Qalivakabau Primary School show their new books!


To be continued…..

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Author: admin
• Saturday, September 10th, 2016

Posted Sept 11th

We waited all morning for the shipping company to bring the remaining 15 boxes of books to our house but had an uneasy feeling about it, as promises in Fiji can be very ‘flexible’! We phoned to ask when they would be coming, but the right person couldn’t be located & nobody seemed to know anything. On top of that, there was the risk that if the boxes stay at the warehouse beyond today, Friday, then we could be charged storage fees….

Finally, I decided I need to go back to Pacific Agencies warehouse & so started walking up the hill from our house, hitch hiking any passing cars, as I usually do. A few cars went by but didn’t stop; then a nice-looking little red car almost stopped. In fact he braked but then hesitated & decided to carry on, so I ran after it, prompting the driver to eventually stop! I thanked the driver for stopping & then commented that he evidently wasn’t very used to stopping to pick up hitch hikers!

He replied, ‘No, it’s the first time I’ve ever picked anyone up!’

I said, ‘Well, no need to worry: I’m not a terrorist but a missionary!’

That immediately changed everything! He explained that he was on his way to Hawaii to do a missionary training course. I said that we know someone that just came back from that same course, (the son of our charity trustees), & so it turned out that these 2 know each other very well! We straightaway became good friends & as soon as I told him, (his name’s Tim), about the problem with collecting our boxes of books, he immediately volunteered to go & collect them. We ended up doing 2 carloads & bringing everything back to our house, with Tim carrying everything. It’s funny that he was originally on his way to the gym, but the Lord had a different type of work-out for him, ha!

So all’s well that ends well & we’re super happy that we don’t have to go back to anymore shipping or customs offices, Praise the Lord! And thanks again to John, Heather & Joy for all their hard work in collecting all those books & surmounting numerous obstacles to get them on their way to Fiji!

As mentioned before, we have a list of 24 top priority, cyclone-damaged primary schools to donate books to, given to us by the Ministry of Education. Also another list from the department in charge of kindergartens. Most of these schools are far from the capital, in Koro island, Vanua Balavu island & Taveuni island, & so we’re trying to put together a plan of how to get the books to all 24 of these remote schools. Please keep us in your prayers!

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Author: admin
• Sunday, September 04th, 2016

Posted September 4th

Susan & I were away from Fiji for one year due to medical reasons. We’re happy to announce that we’re now back though, & will have a lot to share in the coming months as we actively reach out to bring library books to village schools damaged by Cyclone Winston!

To start off with, here is the story of collecting 26 large boxes of books, sent from Townsville, Australia by our good friends, John & Heather! As you may remember from previous posts, this lovely couple stayed with us 2 years ago & came on one of our primary school book distributions. Seeing the need for educational materials in village schools, & the great appreciation shown by both students & teachers, they decided to start collecting books from primary schools in the Townsville area. They had a number of obstacles to overcome along the way, but were able to surmount them & get the books sent down to Melbourne, where O’Brien Customs & Forwarding kindly donated the onward shipping to Fiji, as they have done several times in the past.

John & Heather sending the 26 boxes

Here’s the story of the shipment’s arrival, as related to John & Heather:


On August 24th we went to Pacific Agencies bright & early and soon found out that they were not very helpful as they asked us to pay FJD200 — for unloading & transporting the shipment 1 km from the port to their storage warehouse, plus documentation & VAT. We showed them our voluntary work & explained that up until now, every freight company has always waived these charges as it’s a charity project & the books are for free distribution to village schools damaged by Cyclone Winston. We explained that we can’t really do charity work in Fiji unless local companies get behind us & help facilitate etc etc. They were remarkably hard-hearted though & only reduced the amount to FJD165. Surprising, as helping Cyclone Winston victims usually generates a lot of sympathy.

Next came Customs. As expected, they insisted that they would have to conduct an evaluation & that we would have to pay duty on all the books. We explained that we’re a registered charity & that the books are for poor village schools etc etc, so they said we’ll need to get a letter of exemption from Firca head office: that’s Fiji Inland Revenue & Customs Authority, located completely on the other side of Suva.

Once there we were told that we’ll need to get a letter from the Ministry of Education, authorizing the project & making an official request for help. They also said I’ll need clearance from the Ministry of Finance!! We know from experience that this is not true: all we needed was someone senior enough to sign an exemption on the shipping waybill. Finally, to make a long story short, I found a higher level manager & he signed the document!! Great!

This process took the whole day though, so we went back to Pacific Agencies the next morning to collect the boxes. However, the Customs people there couldn’t believe that the exemption was genuine or couldn’t seem to accept it. We asked them to phone & verify, & eventually the problem seemed to be resolved. There were more forms to fill out & documents to photocopy, as well as a physical inspection of 5 of the boxes. I was also told I’d need to clear BioSecurity, but that the person responsible was out of the office & wouldn’t be back for another 3 hours!

After I’d filled out all their forms & photocopied all our supporting documents, Customs changed their minds & said that they’d looked again at the rules & that we would definitely need to pay duty on all the books!! They’d been in touch with Firca head office & someone there decided that charity books don’t come under the exemption guidelines!! They passed the phone so that the message could be spelled out to us personally…..we didn’t want to listen to all that so told them we’re coming over to discuss it again.

So another trip over to Firca on the other side of town!!! We again met with various officials & we all looked together at code 215 which states that items for the education of disadvantaged children in Fiji can be tax-exempted. The problem is that in other parts of the Firca handbook, it says that books are not tax-exempt. Finally, we were able to persuade them that books definitely help with the education of disadvantaged children, so therefore an exemption could be made, as we have done on numerous other occasions. It’s a great pity that Firca’s tax guide is rather ambiguous on this point, with the final decision being left up to the individual. Nobody wants to get in trouble for letting something through the net that should have been taxed, so it’s very hard to get anyone to sign the exemption, even though they can clearly see that it’s a good cause….

Back to Pacific Agencies again, where the Customs agent could hardly believe that I got her decision overturned! She was back on the phone, seeking clarification & still said that I couldn’t take the boxes until the Firca head office computer & her computer had ‘linked’ (?). So another half hour for BioSecurity clearance (only FJD5) & computer linking & finally I could take the books after 2 whole days of running around!

first 11 boxes arrive by taxi

I managed to ask Vanguard, a sister-company of Pacific Agencies, to donate transport of the boxes to our house, but they said they could only do it with their (small) company car & maybe not until tomorrow; also that probably all the boxes wouldn’t fit in. I therefore put 11 boxes in a taxi (much cheaper than hiring a truck) & brought them back to our centre…..

To be continued

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