As the light at the end of the tunnel begins to glow a little brighter, we can be thankful to God, that none of our children, staff, or members of Harland Trust have come down with Covid 19.
Like most of the world, everyone has been affected in some way, whether minor or majorly, and the next few months will be interesting as we discover what the new norm will be, both in Fiji and wherever “home” is for you.
School officially reopened on 6 July and some of our children were there on the first day, while others gradually arrived over the next two weeks, and now all but a few, are back at school and into hostel living again. Interestingly, it was the day students who were slow to return. Gloria and her two hearing siblings will not be returning to kindergarten, for fear of catching the virus.
We have a new little boy who will hopefully be able to join us within a few weeks, but there seem to be a few hurdles to clear before he arrives. Please pray for Arnav (around 7) and his family, as they face this new chapter in their lives - it is especially hard for mums to say goodbye for that first time. Arnav has been at a special school in Labasa, with an interpreter some of the time, but he hasn’t made much progress - he knows his alphabet but that is about all. Living in the hostel will be great for him and he will be signing and communicating in a very short time.
Temnik, who is Tony and Tema’s (Hostel Director) son, recently turned six and the theme for his birthday breakfast was red. Fijians love to celebrate and they make a very good job of doing so.
Mrs Babitu has been with us many years and has been a huge asset to the school. She is very strong in math and has been able to “make the penny drop” with some students when no one else has been able to. She has also been our Librarian at times and has a good knowledge of what books we have in the library and where to find them. For a few years now, she has said “This will be my last year”. However, we still have her and we await to see what she does in 2021. Thank you, Mrs Babitu, for your commitment and expertise.
The Fijian government has extended the school year to finish in mid-December rather than 20 November. As the school year normally starts in mid-January, it will be interesting to see the term dates for next year, as that leaves a very short break for the children and staff. The economy of Fiji is suffering at the moment with no tourists, and while we are not government funded, they do give an allowance for each child, and we are praying that they will have the funds to continue with this contribution.
This picture shows some of our teaching staff and children, preparing for our street march to mark the beginning of the Fiji National Disability Games, held in November 2019.
From Left to right back row: Isei (student), teachers Christine, Isi and Ana. Front: Temnik, Tuvou, Walter, Eremasi, and Leba.
Thank you for your interest and support – we will stay in touch.
We have had a few enquiring as to what the situation is in Suva, so here is a quick update.
School holidays were extended for a further two weeks after the first two weeks were finished, and eventually a decision was made by the Fijian government that no schools would resume again until 15 June. TV education, online school and written work was made available to all school children, but the first two are not so suitable for our children.
Our teachers have been back at school this week, putting together some work for our children to do at home with their families. This will either be picked up by their parents or sent to them electronically.
Tiare and Lario, two of our cooking students, have work to complete at home in their hostel, and Toni and Tema are helping them with this. Unfortunately, Vitalina is at home on her island, and we have been unable to make contact with her.
Some children are wanting to come back to the hostels and school, and our hostel staff are also keen to be returning to Suva. However, there are still another six weeks to go and for some they may be a long six weeks.
Edikiel has remained at Harland Hostel right through, with her daughter and the four boys from Vanuatu. She has been their hostel mum, their teacher and their cook, and has done an outstanding job of all three. Thank you Edikiel. In this photograph, the children are signing “Vanuatu”. From left to right are Jones, Jimmy, Michael, Dephne and Lorenzo.
There has been no flight to Vanuatu provided by their government, and after Cyclone Harold, they may well have other things to spend any surplus cash on. When lock down was lifted, Mere returned to the hostel to support Edikiel.
Our buildings all survived “Harold” and there is no major damage which needs to be repaired. Pesa, (right) our maintenance man, will take the opportunity to do some painting at school while there are no children around.
Let me introduce Elena who recently turned eight and first came to us when she was
just three. Elena was born hearing, but when she was about 18 months, she suffered
from an illness which left her deaf and lame in one foot. She is a brave little girl and loves to join the boys in a bit of rough and tumble. However, her lameness slows her down and at times makes life quite difficult for her. Recently, we made some enquiries as to whether anything could be done for her foot and ankle, and she is seen here with her x-rays taken this week, which will reveal whether surgery will help. Please pray for the best possible outcome for Elena and her parents, as they consult with doctors, and decisions are made.
You may be interested to take a look at ”A-Z in Fijian Sign” put together by Tuliana and Krishneer. If you are still in lock down, you will have plenty of time to practice your alphabet!!
The other link is to Fiji TV Hope Channel, where Tomasi (one of our teachers and also hostel staff) does a weekly slot, teaching basic Fijian Sign. This link is to lesson one and there are another four available, which you can find on Facebook.
Fiji Deaf Ministry
“…….. that those who cannot hear will understand” Romans 15:21
Wherever you are in the world, we know that you will be going through uncertain times, but we also know that God is still in control. In Jeremiah 29:11 we read – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ………….. How reassuring!!
We received an hours’ notice on Friday 20th, that school holidays would be brought forward by four weeks and would start that afternoon. The first job was to notify parents and ask that they come and take their children back to their villages where there was less chance of them being in contact with the virus. By Saturday evening, most children had gone and now we have just two of our cooking class students, and our group from Vanuatu remaining. There is a possibility that the government of Vanuatu will send a plane to take any citizens of Vanuatu home, as Fiji Airways have stopped flying there. Our children’s parents are anxious to have their boys’ home.
Most staff have also gone home and we await a further announcement at the end of the first two weeks to see if the holidays will be extended. After a change of plans and a quick pack up, we arrived back in Christchurch with an hour and half to spare before NZ went into lock down, and at this stage we are unsure as to when we will be able to return. Thank you to those who were praying.
Our three cooking students have enjoyed their first term of learning and do put some of their new skills into practice at home. Last week I came across the older boys enjoying banana fritters/pancakes cooked by Lario in the boy’s hostel. Here is our “team” all dressed for “another day at the office.” From left to right are Lario, Vitalina, and Tiare. Thank you to those who contributed to Tiare’s course fees - he very much appreciates your generosity and will now be able to return to Kiribati at the end of the year with a qualification, and hopefully find employment.
Two weeks ago, we were invited by the same private hospital as last year, to take all of our children and staff for free medical checks and lunch. We were delighted, that apart from a few minor ailments, most of our children were given a good report, and the volunteer medical staff were impressed by their good health. We have had chicken pox in the hostel recently, and while those children went home to recover, these early holidays will break the cycle and prevent further infection, which is something we can be thankful for. Michael, Aliti, and Tuvou holding four-year-old Waisea, after they had completed their medical check.
This year, Christine (hearing) teaches class eight, our highest level before the children move on to Gospel High. Christine enjoys her teaching, and she can often be heard having a laugh with her children. She lives in the senior girl’s hostel, is very much involved with the girls outside of school hours, and is a fantastic help to “Ma”, the hostel mother. Thank you, Christine.
Seru (deaf) came to GSD when he was seven in 1999, has been right through our hostels and school, and now teaches in our kindergarten class. The children love Seru, and have great respect for him. If a trip to see Seru is suggested when a child is misbehaving, that is usually enough to make them sit up and listen!
We value Seru and wish to thank him for his contribution to GSD over many years.As I finish, thank you again for your support and interest. I received a text from a friend this morning and she finished with these words:
“Our God reigns”.
Bula and welcome to GSD for 2020. School opened on 13 January and we are now well into our first term. Many children were present for the beginning of school and over the following two weeks, others gradually drifted in to start another year of learning.
Early in the holidays, we had two volunteers from NZ replace the living area floor in the main hostel, which was slowly falling apart. Over the next few weeks, a prominent businessman in Suva (Mr D) organised different businesses to contribute time and materials to see our main hostel painted inside and out, and a shower, toilet and new kitchen installed. Monetary donations also came from supporters in NZ and this resulted in a sparkling, updated hostel at little cost to us. Thank you to all who have donated to our renovations, which were greatly overdue. God provides in many ways, and we are thankful to Him for these many blessings.
We now have four deaf boys from Vanuatu, along with a hearing teacher and her daughter. It is a huge sacrifice for parents to part with their children for a year, and an even bigger “sacrifice” for the children to say goodbye to their family and friends, to come to an unfamiliar country with very few communication skills. However, we know that children are resilient, and it isn’t long before they are quite at home in the hostel, and happily interacting with the other children. Michael was with us for half of last year and returned to Vanuatu for the holidays – he was keen to get back here and re-join his friends, who were happy to welcome him back.
Waisea who is four, has joined us from Taveuni and loves hostel life. It is great to see the older children taking the new ones under their wings and looking after them. Shakshi from Ra has come to GSD for year eight and lives with the senior girls. It is unusual for us to have someone older join us who is already fluent in sign, but her parents felt it would be good for her to mix with other deaf. Three of our older students are taking cooking classes at TCF this year. Tony also attends to interpret for them.
A very tired Bola and his two daughters, Gratitude, and Precious arrived from Nigeria on Sunday, after a long trip with complications. However, after catching up on some sleep and buying some uniforms yesterday, the girls started at the hearing school today (Tuesday). Bola will sort a few details before he joins a classroom where he will be both student and teacher. He did not know any Fiji sign when he arrived but is quickly learning and can also voice quite well. It has been a long ”journey” over eighteen months to get here, and we give them a big welcome to Fiji and GSD.
Mrs Mudaliar, our head teacher has a wealth of knowledge and keeps GSD on track. She says she has no intention of retiring anytime soon as she loves her work. It’s great to have someone at the top who enjoys what they do, and this shows great leadership for others to follow.
Viri is our Development Director and in her quiet way, with her big smile, she is often out and about raising funds to keep our school afloat.
Rebekah is our “go to” person and as well as looking after finances and paying the bills, she can drive the bus, often prepares food for school functions, and is generally an all-round busy lady.
Thank you to these three ladies for running our school office, and keeping the place ticking over.
That’s it for this time. Thanks again for your interest, prayer, and support in so many ways. We may be on the ground here in Suva, but we couldn’t do it without you. Vinaka Vakalevu (thank you very much).
Wow, we are on the countdown and school finishes for Christmas holidays on 23 November. What an amazing year it has been with changes to both teaching and hostel staff, new children joining us, several volunteers from NZ and UK, a team from Wainuiomata NZ, many donations of food, meals, and financial support, but most of all the prayer support from all around the world which has kept us operational. After 18 years under Jim and Marilyn Cooneys’s guidance, staff have adapted well to a new Director.
Jim and Marilyn are returning to Fiji for 2 weeks this month, to assist a team from Wycliffe Bible Translators, who over the next few years plan to translate the Bible into Fijian Sign Language. This will be a huge task for everyone involved and prayer for the project would be greatly appreciated. This is a wonderful opportunity for the Cooney’s to catch up with everyone they have worked with over many years.
For those who have visited us, you will be pleased to know that we now have “stop” signs (lollipops) for the children to cross Dhanji St on their way to and from school. Dhanji St, where our main hostel is situated, is extremely busy, and fast at drop-off and pick-up time. We, as hearing, rely heavily on sound to warn us of approaching vehicles, but for the deaf it is all by sight.
Over the past two years, a group of parents have been fund raising and have built a new fence around our main hostel. This is now finished and looks fantastic. It is also much safer for the children to play outside, and with the gate closed and Lexi, our dog on guard duty, the main hostel is more secure overnight.
On the first Saturday in November we held our first ever “Market Day”, which was also a celebration of the 27th anniversary of Harland Hostel and 21 years for the GSD. All hostel children and staff members were involved in many weeks of planning and were divided into three competing groups to see who could raise the most money. There was also another category for the best decorated tent combined with the best performed item. The ‘Canaan’ group made the highest profit and were presented with a trophy. Fiji Times were present, and the paper the next day featured photos of our ‘Raven’ and ‘Lion King’ groups. Parents donated produce from their villages and attended on the day to support their children. Three thousand dollars was raised and staff and children would like the money to be used to install hot water heaters in the showers and kitchen. During the cooler months, our children often come out of the shower shivering and staff are concerned that this is not good for their health.
Richard from NZ has been with us for 10 days and has worked tirelessly from early morning until dark. The children now have functional swings and one of our shower doors which was badly in need of replacing, has a custom-built door filling the gap. The photograph shows his farewell morning tea, put on by the hostel staff. Thank you, Richard, and we hope to see you return some time in the future.
Our prizegiving for the year was held on 7 November and a good number of parents attended to see their children receive their awards. Our youngest pupil, Myra, who is not yet three, walked up on her own for her handshake and to receive her certificate from the Chief Guest. As some parents travelled quite a distance to attend, their children have finished school early to return home with them, and avoid another trip during the last week of school. Our end of year party for the hostel children takes place tomorrow (9 Nov) and preparations are under way to make sure that everyone has a fun day. Tomasi will put the lovo down in the very early hours of the morning, for the food to be ready to eat at 12pm.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share what goes on at the GSD and Harland Hostels throughout the year and we wish you all a Happy Christmas with your family and friends. Thank you again for your support in so many ways.
We are heading into the last week of term two and we continue to be thankful for the many times God has blessed us over the term. While some of the children have had colds, boils, and other mild illnesses, we are thankful that we have had no major health issues and everyone has been kept safe. We have had three couples from Christchurch NZ, another group from Wellington NZ, and a handyman from England, who have done programmes with the children and maintenance work around the main hostel – God is good.
Fijians are very generous people and we have had several meals provided by groups who just want to give. Recently a taxi driver arrived at the main hostel to arrange to provide a Sunday lunch for the children. He had dropped one of our hearing staff off previously and had learned about the children. He and a group of other drivers wanted to celebrate the first birthday of their car club called “The Low Riders”, by providing food for our children. Yesterday our neighbour and a group of his friends who used to meet to drink kava, but had decided they would be better doing something useful, cooked a BBQ and everyone enjoyed a piece of chicken and a sausage along with vegetables and bread. This was topped off with a cup cake - Christmas had come early and seconds were available if anyone wished!!
Six weeks ago, our first ever student from Vanuatu arrived with his dad and teacher. Dad stayed a week and then flew home to leave a sad Michael behind in the hostel. Michael soon found his place and is now enjoying life with our children, and is quickly learning to sign. His teacher has an amazing ability to pick up sign language, and will hopefully be able to teach other deaf children in Vanuatu. Currently there is no official sign language in Vanuatu and no specialist schooling for the deaf. We will work together with them to help establish both.
Our hostel staff were recently invited to visit the blind school and hostels. We were most impressed with everything and everyone, and like our teachers, their teachers were patient and kind to the children. We were treated to some lovely singing and it was quite emotional for us to see the joy on the children’s faces, when they themselves couldn’t see us. I came away being thankful that our children are deaf and not blind – life is so much more difficult for the blind.
After a suggestion from Liti that it would be great for our children to sit at tables, rather than eat on the floor, we bought some chairs, put up the folding tables, and meal times have become less of a challenge. Chairs and tables can be stacked away again and the dining room becomes the living room, gym, play area and all the other areas again!! This is far more hygienic for everyone!!
A week ago, our senior girls had a cooking lesson and learned to make chocolate fudge cake. We cut it up into 15 pieces and they intended selling it to the teachers at school on Monday. However, it was all sold by Sunday night! After purchasing the ingredients from the profits, another batch was made and more sales negotiated. Three further batches were made throughout the week and hopefully this “new business” may develop further.
Tomorrow we will all attend the CEACOSIE Games 2019. “Disability Is Not Inability” is the moto on the back of our BRIGHT orange tee-shirts, which are sponsored by McDonalds. Only some children will get placings but everyone will have a fun day, even if the weather isn’t looking good. We have had many days of rain and we have the promise of more to come.
Please pray for the safety of our children as they travel home to their villages for the holidays at the end of the week, and for our teachers and hostel staff, that they will enjoy a well-earned break
We have now finished week six of the second term at school, and the hostel children have settled back into routine and enjoying the company of their friends. Some are very pleased to get back and others are not so keen on leaving their families for so many weeks. Our hostel staff are usually happy to get back to Suva as some of them say this is now their home.
Eminoni, an eight-year-old boy who had never been to school is now living in the main hostel and enjoying learning. He is an outgoing boy with a big personality and he hasn’t taken long to find his place in the “family”. We welcome Eminoni to GSD and hope that he will be happy with us.
Early in the term, half of the school enjoyed a trip to Kula Wildlife Adventure Park which is about a two-hour bus ride from Suva. The children saw bats, peacocks, ducks, parrots, and various other birds. They also saw turtle and octopus, two kinds of iguana and a snake. They found this all very exciting and after another two-hour bus trip home they were feeling rather tired when they arrived back at the hostel at about 4pm.
Sarote, (hostel staff) recently found a tiny abandoned puppy. She rescued it, and much to the children’s delight, the main hostel now has its own thriving little puppy called Lexi. Lexi was very small and not very healthy, but after a visit by a local vet, at no charge, she has been declared fit and healthy. A kennel and food have been supplied by a local business and they have said they will continue to supply food as Lexi gets bigger and eats more. The children are very gentle and have learned that she has to be left alone to sleep.
Last weekend, Losana, who is our Kindy Teacher and has been involved in Scouting for fifteen years, along with Seru and Christine, took a group of seven boys to Scout Camp, attended by 115 boys. The boys thoroughly enjoyed their time and one of the aims was for them to have interaction with other children. While there, they learned to pitch tents, tie knots, gadgeting (all you Boy Scouts out there will know what this is), and how to use time wisely. They also enjoyed an hour and a half hike around Suva. The GSD has now been registered with Fiji Scouts and there should be many more camps to come. Losana is hopeful that a group will be able to attend Scout Camp in Hamilton, NZ, next year.
This term on Thursday afternoons, the children have a choice of joining in on one of four different electives. There is Scouting, First Aid, Art and Craft and Gardening. Last Thursday I saw some of our boys climbing a coconut tree to remove dead branches and generally tidying the yard at the main hostel as part of the gardening elective. All useful skills for the children to learn and hopefully they will remember them for years to come.
Sarote came through our hostel and school system and is now staff and responsible for the older girls in the main hostel. As all Fijian ladies have, Sarote has a lovely smile and when she smiles, her whole face lights up and her eyes twinkle. If anyone is unsure of a sign, Sarote will know it, and make sure that the sign is correct before she carries on with whatever she is doing. The younger children love her and she is often seen giving one of them a hug. Sarote, we hope you are with us for many years to come.
Asenaca also came up through our hostels and school and is now a very important member of our team. She and Sarote are both frequently asked to lead our morning devotion and we are left with some really encouraging thoughts and verses from the Bible to think on as we go about our day. Asenaca is a great worker and is often washing dishes and sweeping the floor. Once again, the children know where to go when they need a cuddle. She is also a “sign expert” and is able to show us the correct way to place our fingers!! Please stay with us Asenaca.
Asinate is Liti’s helper and is responsible for the meat and market shopping as well as balancing the books. She knows where she can get the best deal, the best produce, and a ”wheelbarrow man” to take her purchases back to the supermarket to meet up with the grocery shoppers. Asinate is also “fun loving” and some of our trips to and from shopping are very entertaining. Asinate is day staff and we miss her when she goes home to her family in the evenings. Vegetable preparation would be very quiet without Asinate!!
Fine is Tema’s mum, and a wonderful mum to six of our senior hostel girls. Fine is about to turn 70, is full of energy, wisdom and very humble. When Fine speaks, everyone listens, and is grateful for the advice she gives. On the other hand, she is quite capable of a good “one liner” and can have us all laughing at her humour. Parents of her girls can rest assured that their young ladies are well cared for, and living under the guidance of a wonderful lady. Thank you “Ma”, and we wish you a very happy 70th birthday this month.
Miriama first came to the hostel in 1997 so has been around for 22 years. After being a student, Miriama became hostel staff and worked tirelessly washing and cooking at the main hostel, until more recently she became a teacher aide at school. She still lives at the hostel and has carried on with some of her duties, including taking her turn at rising very early to prepare breakfast and lunches for the children before she goes to school, and then helping with the evening meal after she returns. Miriama has a great knowledge of the workings for both the hostels and the school. She loves her sport and doesn’t like to be beaten in a running race!!
Mela has been part of HDM for many years as well, and after completing her schooling, left for a while and then came back. She too lives at the hostel and is a teacher aide during the day, but still takes her turn with the duties. Mela loves to run, and most evenings can be seen pounding the streets of Suva in the heat. As are all the staff, Mela is very protective of the children, and anyone else, who may need rescuing from the many dogs which wander around our streets. She has worked out that rocks are a good deterrent to any dog who is getting too close, and has a supply in various places!! We owe you Mela!!
Tomasi, who is also a teacher, lives in the boy’s hostel and is often “on duty” when Tony and Tema are required to be elsewhere in the evenings. Tomasi is a great organiser and is often our up front person on special occasions. He is also our games man and the children love to join in on the fun and are ready for some rest after he has had them running around for an hour or two. Tomasi has his licence and is our driver when more than one vehicle is required to transport the children or when Tony is not available. Whenever we have a lovo, Tomasi with the help of the senior boys, is responsible for putting the lovo down and making sure the food is cooked to perfection. He is a man with many skills!!
Thank you for taking the time to read about our current hostel staff. We are grateful for the commitment they show to our “big family” and please pray for each of them, that they will have patience and wisdom as they love and care for the children.
We will introduce you to our dedicated teaching staff sometime in the future.
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