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FOOD FOR FIJI: Weis from Malevu Village goes all terrain! - Reelaxn

There’s no stopping him now

Your donations haven’t stopped making a difference here in Fiji, let me explain how.

Two months after the first barge was delivered, our second loaded barge of donations head to Naviti Island and the allocation of most of the nearly $90,000 AUD / $140,000 FJD in cash donations.

Since then Soso Village have had two 23,000L tanks installed and connected increasing their daily water storage capacity 200% from their initial 10,000L which was used daily. If Soso’s generator broke down even for a day the village was hugely reliant on a back up generator and risked no water supply at all. Thanks to your generosity Soso Village now has a minimum of three day’s capacity which may not seem like a lot but will make all the difference. I explained on social media at the time, that Soso Village has more potential than the smaller villages to generate income and be more self sufficient post Cyclone Winston. Soso also received more food donations from other sources, due to their connection with more resorts than other villages. Many in their village also work at nearby resorts and the village itself owns land some of the resorts are built on, which also generates income. Their highest need was for water.

When I travel to Naviti Island next time I’ll be going to Soso village to inspect the working tanks and report back with photos.

In May we delivered Weis a wheelchair with standard wheels, kindly donated by Bay Mobility Wheelchairs. I’d arranged specialised all wide wheels to gain all terrain access in the village, Malevu on Naviti Island, only the wheels hadn’t arrived in time for our first visit.

Two months and a few hundred phone calls later they arrived and we delivered on our next trip to the Yawasas.

Malevu Village Naviti Island Fiji

Each time I visit Weis I feel so honoured to experience helping him first hand. You get to see what a difference your donations are making, I’m privileged to be the delivery person seeing and feeling first hand what a difference a group of people can make to somebody’s life.

As it turns out the all terrain wheels weren’t specified for this particular wheelchair, the manufacturer had let us down. The wheels wouldn’t fit, they needed modification so we could have Weis up and going again.

Returning items often isn’t an option in Fiji, especially when the items have travelled from another country, been processed through customs and delivered by boat over 2 hours from the mainland. So back to the work shed we went.

Where there’s a grinder, a chisel and some paint there’s a way

Trent, Justin & Craig sawed, ground, chiselled, cut, filed and painted their way to a wheelchair with new wheels that didn’t rub on the side of the wheelchair and we were able to return to Malevu Village.

Each time I visit Weis he opens up to me more. Initially, when we gave him the wheelchair he seemed quite overwhelmed and didn’t say much. This time it was different. When I returned with the wide wheels attached, he was stoked. Thanking me hugely and literally followed us to our long boat when we were leaving; for the first time over the sand.


Now for a house modification

The door of Weis’ house wasn’t wide enough to allow his wheelchair through so on our latest trip to Naviti, Bruce our builder from Australia and family friend volunteered to widen the doorway so Weis could wheel on through. Not the easiest of tasks given the heat and available tools (no electricity = no power tools) so a massive big VINAKA goes to Bruce for taking the time out of his holiday to modify Weis’ house. And a special thank you also goes to Meuni who’s always up for the task.

Malevu Village Naviti Island Fiji

During the same visit, where I had more time that usual, I asked Weis about his medical history and was able to provide him with a doctor and pharmaceutical consult, thanks to two other volunteers who’d joined us for the visit.

My aim with a small amount of Food for Fiji funds still available, is to research with the help of a volunteer OT and Physio other life changing equipment for Weis. Each time I visit he becomes more comfortable talking with me, which is a really big deal given I’m female and not from Fiji. I’ve not promised Weis anything unless I know I can deliver and generally because I’m never sure, I also don’t tell me when I’m coming next until I know for certain that I am.

This visit we also gave Weis a donated shower chair stool with handles, being waterproof and having handles should make life that bit easier.

It’s also been an important part of the process to talk with Weis about his responsibilities. Firstly, he must take really good care of the wheelchair and not leave it out in the weather. And when the Physio provides his exercise program I’ve asked him is if willing to commit to making every effort to follow the program and he’s agreed.

The Food for Fiji message has been clear from the day we started; we’re here to help people who are willing to help themselves and Weis is exemplary.

I’ve also made every effort to find out if there is anybody else on Naviti Island with injuries similar to his; sadly it’s not uncommon. Thankfully, to the best of my knowledge there isn’t anybody.

Next steps

During my October visit along with asking Weis about his medical history (with permission) I took photos of his house and videoed him showing his range of movement. My team of volunteer allied health professionals in Australia are reviewing the footage and will assist us by providing an exercise program and sending donated equipment for a future visit to see Wies.

It might sound basic but my next two goals are to bring Weis a gel cushion to aid in the reduction of skin inflammation from sitting all day and to provide him with a more satisfactory toileting options. Pretty simple things to you and I but definitely not to somebody who has had no choice but to barely make do for such a long time now.

About Weis

  • Wies is 46 years old never married, no children
  • Approximately 20 years ago he was diving for sea cucumber and got the benz
  • He attended the hyperbaric chamber and was able to walk with the aid of crutches for 10 years
  • Upon which time, I believe, he had a fall and sustained further injury and become immobile
  • Weis has spinal cord damage but isn’t completely paralysed as he has movement in his legs
  • Though he can’t weight bare or walk
  • Weis currently lives with his two sisters and their children in a 4m x 3m house
  • And until now has never had the use of a wheelchair