Our mission is to support the medical and dental systems in the South Pacific. In operation since 2001, we have treated more than 90,000 patients.
Our volunteer teams call it “Fiji Midnight.” Pitch darkness after the sun disappears. It is beautiful, peaceful and still. Unique to our world filled with artificial light. It is somewhat “exotic” to a handful of American volunteers.
Unless you’re a student learning to read, a mother mending clothes a father fixing a broken piece of equipment —then its just dark!
Last October the Volcom Corporation’s ”Give Back Series” made a donation to help fund Loloma Foundation’s “One light per bure” campaign. Our modest effort to bring a small solar lighting unit to each “bure” in a remote village. To switch on a small solar light that will help give families a warm glowing place to extend there productive day.
This the story of one Bernadette Rounds Ganilau a Fijian patriot and Loloma partner making the trek up the side of a mountain in Viti Levu and make this dream of light a reality. Here is her account:
Korovou Village ‘Solars Up’
with the compliments of Loloma Foundation and Volcom USA.
By Bernadette Rounds Ganilau
Taking 40 sets of Pro King II solar lights up the Central Ranges mountain of Viti Levu Fiji was a feat in itself as they were hand carried up 4 kilometers from where we parked our vehicle. Travelling along the Lomaivuna Road through the center of Viti Levu, we turned up the Serea Road to reach Sawanikula Village, the half way point in going up the mountain that feeds the Monasavu Dam that provides hydro electric power to most parts of Fiji. And they don’t have electricity!
This writer had just turned 63 last month and weighs 101 kilos (not heavy weight by our standards, just true Pacific size!) and I carried nothing, not even my handbag as 101 kilos was enough to deal with. I was very fortunate to have a human ‘walking stick’, a young student who volunteered to assist me across the river and up the mountain and who provided me with a running commentary of the area we were traversing.
Crossing the Wainimala River and its tributaries we witnessed large expanses of untouched vegetation, no noise except the birds that sang clearly and the river flowing, clean clear icy cold river water that you could scoop up and drink and behold, the beautiful Korovou village, lying on the side of the mountain, fenced with wire and entered through a wooden turnstile to prevent the wild horses or cattle entering – hence clean village lawns everywhere for the children to run freely without stepping into freshly dropped animal protein.
The villagers were grateful of the Loloma gifts, some households already had them with a few more fortunate to have generators, but those that didn’t were delighted to receive them. Most of the villagers are subsistence farmers and the main form of income is dalo and yaqona farming. Whilst there was a nursing station and a nurse at Korovou, more serious cases were carried down the mountain on a bamboo stretcher with the patient strapped to the bamboo, or if well enough, riding on a horse.
There are approximately 200 people in Korovou Village and during the school term the population increases another 60 – 70 with the school children who come down from the villages above – Narokorokoyawa, Matawailevu, Nasava, Nasauvere and Tuberua, from Monday to Friday to attend Nakuruvakatini Primary School.
Whilst many of the houses were made of corrugated iron, there were still some made of bamboo, spotless inside with the solar light providing an amazing difference to the household. One thing I noticed in Korovou and surrounding villages was the healthy skin and teeth of the children – clear eyes and skin and beautiful teeth. Living on vegetables and staples, wild fowl and boar were only provided during special occasions – and our visit with the parish priest was one of those occasions.
A simple fun loving village, they did not feel their lifestyle was hard – it’s just the way it has been for their parents and parents before them except for the mobile phone and the small television sets owned by 2 households with generators – for watching rugby and special church services.
After several hours of installing the lights, we reluctantly bade farewell – with the villagers kindly volunteering two horses to take me down the mountain – being an animal lover I declined, fearing for the lives of the 2 animals under my weight. When we reached Sawanikula, I noticed a tethered horse grazing on the side of the river with a makeshift saddle and grips – I was told by Fr Dan that the next carrier from the coastal towns would be bringing provisions which would be strapped to the horse who would carry it alone up to his master’s house in the village above – in the morning the horse would descend on its own with cut yaqona, ready to be loaded onto the carrier to be sold in the shops in town – and so the faithful nag did this 6 days a week.
Thank you Volcom and Loloma Foundation for this wonderful gift of light – from the villagers of Korovou in Naitasiri, Central Viti Levu.