Whakatane Rotary Club builds kindergarten in Fiji

The Rotary Club of Whakatane, NZ, has continued its long-standing relationship with Taveuni Island in Fiji, with the official opening of a kindergarten classroom block at the Wairiki Holy Cross Primary School on the island.

Building and funding the facility through the trials of COVID-19 proved a challenge for the Rotary club and locals alike. But their efforts were rewarded on May 26, when the New Zealand High Commissioner to Fiji Charlotte Darlow officially opened the NZ$26,000 building.

The club’s connection with Taveuni goes back 50 years, with a number of projects carried out to help people in remote areas, including a hydro power scheme to serve six villages.

In 2019, the club’s International Service Director Doug Bull and President John Pullar visited Taveuni to discuss plans for a kindergarten facility at Holy Cross Primary School. The kindergarten had a young student roll of 62 and four teachers – but nowhere to work from.

The local Rotary Club of Taveuni was brought into the planning along with officials from the New Zealand High Commission.

The Whakatane Rotary Club raised $10,000 for the project, with the New Zealand High Commission putting up $16,000 to get to the $26,000 needed. The school found funding to pay for the labour involved, which provided work for local people.

Then COVID-19 intervened, making planning difficult, and presenting challenges in getting building materials to the island, along with travel limitations both within Fiji and from New Zealand. Basic materials like cement and roofing iron were held in lockdown on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu as COVID cases increased there.

However, all the difficulties were gradually overcome, and by May the building was complete and ready to be handed over to the school.

New Zealand’s High Commissioner was already scheduled to visit Taveuni to attend the opening of Vuna Village’s community hall, which was a major project by the Rotary Club of Taveuni.

It was decided Charlotte would open the kindergarten during that visit.

However, ongoing travel restrictions meant key members of the Rotary Club of Whakatane were unable attend. Their visit was deferred until July, when a delegation of President Mark Macintosh, International Director David Dowthwaite, and keen supporter Barney Gray, along with their wives, travelled to Taveuni to see what had been achieved.

They are already talking with islanders about what project they should tackle next!