SEATTLE — Fiji smiles at the world with great sparkling oceans, wispy palm trees and white beaches. However, there is a great deal of poverty in Fiji hidden behind the beautiful scenery.
Fiji is comprised of over 300 islands. Amongst these islands, life expectancy is low, nutritious food remains in shortage and unemployment is high. More than 250,000 Fijian people live below or just above the poverty line.
Much of the poverty in Fiji is due to the isolation of the islands themselves. Efficient delivery of health care, education, and other valuable social services is difficult and thus scarce.
Organizations are working hard to adapt and bring aid to the Fijian population. The Tutu Rural Training Center is an organization that capitalized on the need to bring education, nutrition, and assistance to the isolated rural areas of Fiji.
The Tutu Training Center runs courses to teach people from the most remote areas of the country the skills needed to care for their families and overcome poverty. They teach families to build strong relationships, maintain healthy lifestyles and assist them in becoming successful farmers.
Eric and Ma are one couple that has had their life changed by the Training Center. Prior to enrolling, the couple worked feverishly on their farm but, their 25 years of labor returned almost zero profit.
“We didn’t know how to manage a farm,” Eric told the Caritas organization.
After they completed their training at the Center, they returned home and were faced with completely different results. Their farm now flourishes and not only provides a sustainable food source for the family, but it provides them a steady stream of income used to raise their six children.
“I think we were blessed to be a part of the program in Tutu. Tutu opened a new door us. Without Tutu we wouldn’t be here where we are now,” Eric said.
Tutu states its mission is to provide a place for its country members to take charge of their lives and adapt in a rapidly changing world. It’s prime objective is to train members on how to live successful lives when they return to their farms and own homes.
The organization has gained praise from Fiji’s Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Dr. Brij Lal. After touring the Training Center, Lal spoke to the valuable education skills the training center gave young pupils.
“The institution provides alternatives for those that cannot make it into tertiary institutions where formal education is offered. It is indeed an enriching course as it creates the character from within that will last a lifetime,” Lal said.
The organization, established back in 1969 by the Society of Mary, gained its roots from the Sydney monastery. The monastery ran a Marist Brothers training course for Pacific Islanders. Each Brother would come from eight different Pacific regions.
They would receive one year of religious training before receiving another year of technical training in agriculture and carpentry and other basic life crafts. While providing the pacific islanders with these skills, the training course also led non-formal adult education programs. This is what eventually became the Tutu Rural Training Center.
The two programs have now broken apart from each other. The two-year training mentioned above is now purely the Formation Center for Marist Brothers, while the Tutu Rural Training Center has become an entity of its own.
As it has evolved, the Training Center has remained flexible in its educational training. It has constantly made changes to develop a more effective program to prepare the Fijian people for rural self-employment. The Center currently offers five different courses: Young Farmers, Married Couples, Young Single Women and Parents and Village Courses.
While maintaining its success in educating the Fijian people, the organization has given the rural youth of the area an opportunity to rise above poverty while equipping adults with the well-deserved chance for success. Poverty in Fiji will continue to decrease as the nation’s people continue to take control of their lives.
– Katie Grovatt