Over 43% of the Fijian population is under 25 years old. This lush and welcoming island nation has a young and increasingly urban population. These youth will be responsible for helming the country’s fortunes into the future, yet will face unique challenges brought about climate change, political instability, and globalisation – and the evolution of cultural norms in the face of these influences. Yet the Fijians are harmonious and adaptable, perhaps something to do with their history adjusting to their voracious jungle environment, colonial takeovers and the confluence of multiple cultures.
Fiji’s young people will have to maintain this adaptability and creativity as they navigate the challenges of the 21st century, and we are proud to be a part of this evolution.
New Partnerships for Mary MacKillop Today
Over the past year, we’ve developed two new partnerships with locally-based organisations in Fiji, making Fiji the newest country for our growing Partnerships & Performance work!
During our recent trip to Fiji with Child Benefit and Ola Fou Fiji, our staff Sophie and Caitlin were enthralled by the passion for the work that they do and hope for future generations expressed by our partner staff.
Participation is another principle underpinning how our partners work in Fiji – with their story-telling culture guiding the inclusion of participant’s voices in all aspects of their work. It’s a simple but powerful formula at work. Passion and hope coupled with collaboration will see positive change for communities.
Calling, Community & Early Childhood Education – Child Benefit
Analesi Tuicaumia loves what she does. For her, early childhood education is a calling, a right, and one of the most important things we can offer to a child. This much is evident from the obvious emotion in her voice as she shared with us a story from her work. This clear sense of purpose drives Child Benefit’s approach to early childhood education and the Mobile Kindy program, which offers a much needed preschool service direct to communities.
With Mary MacKillop Today’s support, Child Benefit will be offering the Mobile Kindy program to three new disadvantaged communities, based in the squatter settlements in the outskirts of the country’s capital, Suva. For Child Benefit, education is more than just maths and grammar, it is about facilitating the holistic development of lives and communities, with these broader aims forming a key focus of the project. And the community is excited, as one member stated, ‘We are so happy, because this is the beginning.’
Education is more than just maths and grammar, it is about facilitating the holistic development of lives and communities.
Commitment to Guiding Fiji’s Youth – Ola Fou Fiji
Mary MacKillop Today’s second partner organisation in Fiji, Ola Fou Fiji, similarly reflects this passion and commitment to supporting and guiding Fiji’s youth. The youth-focused organisation works with young people to develop leadership skills and become a more active part of citizenship in their communities.
The Talitha project supported by Mary MacKillop Today is working with young women aged 18-35 in three provinces across the country’s main island, a group traditionally excluded from services, decision-making and the public domain.
Ola Fou Fiji’s peer-led approach is grounded in collaboration and self-determination, with the young women participants informing the project’s design through the consultation and conduit of the three young women who will implement the project in each province. Mary MacKillop Today staff had the privilege of spending two days brainstorming, sharing and collaborating with these knowledgeable, strong and frankly funny young women.
“I think the girls will look back and identify this project as the point their lives changed.” – Sereki Korocowiri, OFF Regional Director
Talanoa – Collaborate, Be Heard
In Fiji the talanoa dialogue process forms a central part of communal life – ensuring that all can sit together and have their voices heard. The commitment shown by both our partners to ongoing consultation with the people they work with and for is admirable, and just like Mary, their passion stems from a commitment to remedying the need that they see in their fellow Fijians. Our time with both our partners there reflected this principle, as we came together to spend time sharing our experiences, discussing the best approach for the projects, and ensuring spaces were held for collaborating and learning across our partnerships.
Mary MacKillop Today’s two new Fijian partner organisations have a lot to teach us about the power of collaboration and hope. Reflecting the passion that Mary MacKillop herself felt for the importance of education, these two organisations are committed to ensuring that Fiji’s young people receive the education and guidance that will stand them in good stead for their uncertain future as a small Pacific Island nation. And as Child Benefit and Ola Fou Fiji reminded us on this visit, open partnership and respectful relationships are the basis for any good program, and a few laughs don’t go astray either!