A homegrown community development nongovernmental organization, the Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises and Development (FRIEND) aims to empower communities in Fiji’s rural and underserved regions. Based on the west coast of Fiji’s main island, FRIEND works to improve the knowledge, skills, and resources of communities through a variety of integrated social, economic, and health interventions.
One of FRIEND’s current programs targets a key health issue among Fijians: diabetes. In 2011, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders declared Fiji a noncommunicable disease crisis zone, with NCDs accounting for 80 percent of all deaths in the country. Of those NCDs, diabetes is the number-two killer, second only to cardiovascular disease.
In response, FRIEND has launched the SMILE initiative: Sustainable Medicine Improving Lives through Empowerment. SMILE adopts a community medicine approach, with medical workers, such as doctors, nurses, exercise specialists, and physiotherapists, conducting regular NCD clinics in remote or poor communities. Each community is screened for diabetes. Patients with diabetes receive follow-up care and referrals, and the entire community receives support in starting its own exercise programs and appointing its own physical exercise leader or coordinator.
Focused around adopting a healthy diet, further awareness programs include developing backyard gardens so that communities can grow their own fruits and vegetables.
Since 2001, the Mamanuca Environment Society (MES) has dedicated itself to defending the environment of Fiji’s Mamanuca Islands. This nonprofit environmental conservation society partners with residents, government organizations, and companies throughout Fiji and nearby resorts in the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands, as it works to raise support and awareness for the area’s marine and coastal resources.
One of the Mamanuca Environment Society’s many initiatives aimed at protecting local flora and fauna is its recurring snorkeling workshop. At the request of its member resorts, the society regularly presents refresher workshops for resort activities staff to ensure that they are taking a safe and environmentally conscious approach to their tourist snorkeling excursions. Over two days, the MES snorkeling workshop instructs staff on the importance of conserving marine wildlife, specifically coral reefs. In doing so, it enables staff members to pass on this knowledge to guests and further promote conservation efforts.
The workshop also includes practical elements such as effective strategies for teaching both basic and advanced snorkeling techniques. In addition to preparing staff to lead guests on a snorkel tour, it covers basic first aid and rescue skills, teaches participants how to properly observe marine wildlife and coral formations without harming either one.
Dedicated to protecting the environmental resources and biodiversity of Fiji’s Mamanuca Region, the Mamanuca Environment Society (MES) encourages the sustainable use of resources, as well as collaboration between all Mamanuca residents and visitors, to preserve the region’s flora and fauna. MES partners with numerous local tourist resorts to carry out its goals, and its joint initiative with the Mana Island Resort and Spa has gone to great lengths to restore and protect Fiji’s turtle populations.
The Mana Turtle Recovery pond serves as a safe haven for injured, sick, and displaced turtles rescued from the wild. It takes in hatchlings and juveniles that are too weak to survive on their own and cares for them until they can safely reenter the ecosystem. The project draws on support from The University of the South Pacific’s Marine Resources and the Fiji Department of Fisheries while MES assists in monitoring the young turtles’ health, diet, and growth. By collecting data on their progress and documenting it with the Pacific Regional Environment Programme’s Turtle Research and Monitory Database Tool, MES helps to develop strategies to maximize the turtles’ survival rates and improve Fiji’s marine turtle population.
As of July 2015, the Mana Turtle Recovery pond housed 33 hatchlings and three juveniles, two of which were almost healthy enough to return to the wild. Because the Mana Turtle Recovery at Mana Island Resort and Spa is a popular attraction for visitors, it also serves as an instrument to raise awareness and support for Fiji’s struggling yet resilient turtles.
About David Pflieger
David Pflieger - Senior Airline Executive