Eyeglass Assist

Solomon Islands Project


Title: Mirror, mirror

Location : Tivi Island, Vanua Levu, Fiji

Year : 2014

We were sailing along the rarely visited northern coast of Vanua Levu late one afternoon and decided to pull in the bay to the south of Tivi Island and anchor for the night. As we were doing so, something on the other side of the bay caught our collective eye. It was so bright a light that it could only be the sun being reflected off a mirror. We were a little concerned that someone may need our assistance as they were very persistent but, in the end we justified to ourselves that there were other alternatives that the person could seek if indeed they did need help, after all, they lived here and, although rural, it was by no means remote.

The following morning the mirror signalling started up again and after about and hour it became too much for our curiosity and so we dingied across the bay and found access through the mangroves to the shore, which was around a kilometre from where we had seen the signal. Off we set along an old narrow gauge railway track that ran parallel to the coast, it turns out that the entire area had been for many years family plots of sugar cane plantations, that were run by the Indo-Fijians. In Fiji, Indo-Fijians are not permitted by law to own land, they have to lease it from the traditional Fijian owners. All of the plots were leased by extended Info-Fijian families who had been farming the cane for a number of generations. Most of the work is done by hand and it is very hard work indeed.

 We approached the area where we had seen the signalling which had by this stage stopped and we were directed to a small complex of abodes behind a small hill. Walking up the house we enquired about who was responsible for the the signalling whereupon a grandmother and granddaughter told us it was them and the reason they were signalling : so that we would come over and say hello!

 What a wonderful, friendly and generous family this turned out to be. We spent the next couple of days with them, learning a little of their lives. They were extremely generous and we shared several meals and a few bowls of kava with them. We fitted spectacles to whoever needed them and provide sunglasses to everyone.

One story in particular touched our hearts. The previous year their extended family had saved up enough money for the deposit on an outboard motor for their old boat which they had up to then only paddled around. The plan was to supplement their diet and any excess could be sold at the local market to help pay off the new motor. The closest place they could moor the boat with the new outboard was in the mangroves several hundred metres from their houses and well out of sight. They were devastated one morning to find that during the night someone had stolen their new outboard. They told the police but never heard any further about it. The saddest part is that they still owed a significant debt on the outboard, so even though they had no motor they still had repayments to make.

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