This February our thoughts were with the people of Fiji, and particularly with the families of those who perished during Cyclone Winston. The strongest ever southern hemisphere cyclone caused huge destruction across Viti Levu and other islands causing scores of deaths. Many resorts closed, but it is positive to see most reopening in recent times. Tourism is of course the backbone of the Fijian economy, and the return of tourists is absolutely essential to the country getting back on its feet.
At ABV we feel a special connection to Fiji as we have been placing volunteers in Fiji ever since we began as AESOP in the early 1980s. Only Papua New Guinea has welcomed more of our volunteers than Fiji. Over the years ABV and AESOP have helped build the capacities of a wide variety of organisations big and small right across the islands.
Given ABV’s aim of harnessing business to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth, a significant proportion of ABV’s Fiji assignments have sought to build the capacities of the private sector. ABV’s volunteers have for example designed a marketing plan for the Coconut Industry Development Authority. ABV has also helped design a business incubator system for the National Centre for Small & Micro Enterprises Development, and helped the Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises ‘N’ Development (FRIEND) to develop a growth strategy. Reflecting the broad skill base of our volunteers, host organisations have varied from major national institutions such as the National Bank of Fiji (now Bank of South Pacific) to micro-businesses such as a Nawaitauvou Virgin Coconut Oil – a family run soap business on remote Nacula Island.
With our enduring commitment to the country, ABV has sought to collaborate with Fijian organisations over the long-term, and thus many of our Fijian partner organisations have welcomed multiple volunteers. The Fiji Employers Association (now FCEF), Fiji Sugar Corporation, and non-private sector organisations such as the United Nations Development Fund for Women (Suva office), Future Forests Fiji, and the Fiji Lifeline Counselling Service, as well as several of the organisations mentioned above have hosted at least five and in some cases as many as fifteen volunteers.
In recent times ABV has renewed our focus on the Pacific, and with new assignments taking place soon, we are keen to do our bit to help Fiji recover over the coming months.