Leaving Suva city and travelling out to an isolated village down a very steep grade to the valley floor, you could feel the dampness in the air of the surrounding swamp-like paddocks. The isolation from the city has made it a very poor area with high unemployment. We complete the cross-country journey over narrow wooden bridges by going up a small rise to disembark in an ancient school yard, St John’s Primary School. The sparse school has at one end a Church and Vicarage, and a dining hall that
was to become our place for tonight’s welcome to the Golden Oldies.
We hear about the history of the Village, school and church, their pride in their students achieving academically against all odds, and their desperate need for a toilet block. The church, the hub of their village, has 300-people attending each Sunday, but since it was built in 1958 they have never had enough money to build toilets, and so they
have to use the adjacent vicarage.
The formal ceremony of welcome, prayers, singing, kava, speeches, dancing, and banquet meal, all made the evening another heavenly encounter. The friendliness of the people, although living in poverty of material richness, they made up for in spiritual joy and spontaneity of friendship. The heart-felt glow of love and appreciation for the kindness bestowed on the Golden Oldies wanted them to reach out and solve their hardships then and there. Although one
sobering observation was that as we ate like Kings and Queens , and even having ‘seconds’, the children performed song and dance to entertain us, no one from the village had eaten. Only after we had finished did they distribute our leftovers amongst themselves, each plate of leftovers being shared between 3 children.
On leaving, the deep sense of sadness in saying goodbye forever was softened in the knowledge that this wasn’t going to be a final goodbye. Our children had adopted a village of new brothers and sisters. While several of the Golden Oldies were talking about returning to this village, to partner with them to help fulfil their dreams. Including completing those toilets unfinished since 1958.