Island News

Kiwis extend hands to house the homeless

Written By : VASITI RITOVA. Todd Cleaver has one aim in Fiji. He will ensure he helps resettle poor families and those without proper homes. Cleaver, New Zealand’s Deputy High
01 Aug 2009 12:00

image Written By : VASITI RITOVA. Todd Cleaver has one aim in Fiji. He will ensure he helps resettle poor families and those without proper homes.
Cleaver, New Zealand’s Deputy High Commissioner, this week announced he would give a grant of FJ$750,000 to the Rotary Club of Lautoka for the purpose.
The donation, made available through the Government of New Zealand’s Aid Programme (NZAID), will help support the first six months phase of a five year programme to resettle poor families into new homes.
“The funding announced today will support the first phase of the extension of the Koroipita Model Town Resettlement Project which aims to resettle poor families into a sustainable community.
Koroipita, which translates to “Village of Peter” is a Rotahome project located around t 3 km out of Lautoka. The concept was borne out of one of the West’s best known community workers, Peter Drysdale, a former CEO of Air Pacific Ltd.
It is one of the most talked-about partnerships in the Western Division in recent years.
Drysdale had seen a marked increase in the number of homeless people in Fiji, which prompted him to do something. He began working with the Rotary Club of Lautoka on the project.
According to Rotahome, Drysdale’s vision and dedication to the project for the last 21 years has seen nearly 4000 people housed. The project has built at least 751 Rotahomes.
At Koroipita, Cleaver’s submission will provide more room for those who need it.
“This will involve the construction of 160 cyclone safe homes in a newly developed, fully serviced, subdivision and will raise the total number of homes at Koroipita to 240,” Cleaver said.
“The development phase will involve surveying and town planning, engineering design, and basic infrastructure and utility installation and construction.
“Koroipita Stage One is almost complete and 80 families have been resettled in new homes with facilities such as a kindergarten, shop, office and playground.”
“New Zealand is pleased to be able to support this important initial stage of the Koroipita Stage Two project,” he added.
One happy person has been humbled by all of this.
Kamal Kumar, President of Rotary Club of Lautoka, shared his feelings the day the New Zealanders made the announcement. Kamal Kumar said that the planning of this extension to the Koroipita Model Town has been thorough.
“The people of Lautoka and of Koroipita are extremely grateful for this support from the people of New Zealand – and for the contributions from Rotary International, and the volunteers who have served at Koroipita.
“This is tackling poverty in a direct and long term holistic programme,” Kumar said. “The city of Lautoka is becoming surrounded by squatter settlements but this model town project offers hope for solutions.”
The project has seen one of the area’s most advanced developments, as far as housing is concerned.
“The infrastructure will be built to a high standard – we have two full time engineers on the team and we also have four full time community development specialists. We will soon be recruiting local staff.
Koroipita Settlement began when those who felt they had an obligation, through their commitment to charity work, wanted to provide for the needy.
The New Zealanders have done their own survey on Fiji’s situation and have mapped strategies through NZAID to help.
“It is estimated that about 140,000 people are living in 190 informal settlement areas throughout Fiji and improving the living conditions and livelihoods of people in squatter settlements is the focus of NZAID’s work in Fiji,” Cleaver said.
“Household income and expenditure surveys have shown that more than one third of informal settlement households live below the official poverty line and another third has are at risk of falling below the poverty line in the event of a family crisis or increasing basic living costs.”
Christchurch, Christchurch West, Ferrymead, Kaiapoi, Lincoln, Papanui, and Riccarton. More teams are planned for the future. The Rotahome Project was started in March 1985 following Cyclones Eric and Nigel,” said a Rotahome statement. Both cyclones destroyed and devastated large areas of west Viti Levu and left thousands homeless in the Lautoka/Ba area.
Drysdale had a vision, added Rotahome, and that was “to eliminate sub-human living conditions in west Viti Levu by providing basic cyclone safe homes, clean water and living essentials”.
His father had set up a sawmill in Fiji in 1936 and met his mother, a nursing sister, in 1940 during World War Two.
“After the war she worked at the Mission Hospital/ Leprosarium at Taveuni,” Rotahome added. “His mother originally came from Levin in NZ and, at a sprightly 93, she now lives in Melbourne.
“She still visits the Rotahome Village each year. Peter was born in Melbourne and returned to Fiji and completed primary and secondary education at Marist Brothers in Suva. He later studied Forestry Science at Aberdeen University and returned to Fiji to help set up Fiji’s Pine Forestry Industry and worked in the industry for 22 years.
Just like Cleaver and our Kiwi friends, Drysdale feels he has a mission.
“If this project is my mission then this separation is my Everest,” he said. “My reward is on the faces of the mums and kids as they pour into town”.
What a good combination – the Cleaver/Drysdale partnership at Rotahome.

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