Charity work is something that requires money, time, effort and a lot of love, which is why English couple Peter and Margaret Long have been doing it for close to two decades all over Fiji.
"We're both teachers and on our first trip to Fiji saw what we took for granted back home was not even happening here so we decided to help out," said Peter.
Both have been travelling to Fiji twice a year since 1999 supporting and helping the community.
"It all started with a friend of mine who was Fijian and attended the same University as I did," said Margaret. "We stayed in touch even when she returned back to Fiji."
As time went by, staying in contact became harder to do, until eventually they lost touch with each other.
Margaret did not let their friendship end with just a puff so she contacted the British High Commission eager to rekindle a friendship that turned in to a love affair with Fiji and its people.
"We even put out ads in the papers until eventually we got in touch with each other," she said.
Margaret explained her friend was working for St Christopher's Home, a home for boys based in Nakasi just outside Suva. Her friend asked for help, and since then Margaret and Peter have been helping Fiji in any way they can.
One of the stories told by the humble couple was how they managed to get a High Security Prison to help out in their charity work especially with the School of the Blind.
Peter said "the school had Braille machines for students to use and books written in Braille for them.
But we found out they hardly had any fun books like other children had, these books were expensive and somehow we thought we would involve the High Security Prison which is close to where we stay".
Not only did the prison offer to develop the children's books in Braille, they also offered to cover the costs as well.
Peter and Margaret continue to involve themselves in the education system in England working part time as exam markers to allow them time to run charity organisation, Children of Fiji.
"We both took early retirement from teaching in the UK and run the charity full time, apart from 2 months each year when we mark A level examinations to earn the money for our own transport to Fiji and accommodation whilst there – we never use charity funds for this," said Peter.
The couple has also built kindergartens, bridges and even donated fibreglass boats."We also regularly provide resources for children’s homes and hospital departments," said Margaret.
An even more ambitious project for the couple was to provide fresh water at Navolau Primary School which is in a particularly dry area and water shortages meant that it often had to close.
The project involved piping water from a source in the mountains about 9.5 kilometres away to storage facilities above the school.
This project was funded in a three way split between the Fiji Government, Children of Fiji and the village of Navolau.
"One of the most exciting aspects of our charity work was being able to organise for a young girl to come over to the UK to undergo reconstructive surgery.
"The 14 year old girl suffered from a rare genetic condition known as ‘cherubism’, in which the bone in the face began to disintegrate at the age of about 5 years and replaced by tissue, leading to huge facial swellings.
Surgeons in a private London hospital agreed to carry out the operations free of charge" said Peter.
The couple has been able to assist many other Fijian children who require medical attention overseas.
Peter and Margaret have assisted in disaster response throughout the years, providing emergency food and medical supplies to those in need, as well ongoing support as communities rebuild. They were in Fiji at the time when Tropical Cyclone Winston hit and were immediately able to help with tarpaulins, water purification, mosquito nets, seeds and vitamins.
Most recently the couple were involved in the construction of a 87 metre suspension bridge over the Korotari River (a joint project with the Government of Fiji) to give children safe access to school.
Both Peter and Margaret epitomize the 'art of giving', creating unconditional, unlimited and sustainable abundance of love, peace, happiness and contentment. We are so grateful for their commitment to Fiji.
PIC: Margaret Long with a patient at the play area at CWM Hospital children's ward, Suva, which the couple managed to upgrade
Last Modified on 20/06/2017 09:11