Since the first outbreak of COVID-19 in Fiji, the Salvation Army Lautoka has been a beacon of hope to many in the Waiyavi community.
With the impact of the pandemic affecting the livelihood of many who have lost their jobs and have had their hours reduced, the church, led by Captain Salesi Temo, has been there to provide comfort and support to the needy.
“We have families coming in for help because there was no food to feed their families and we have been trying to assist them with whatever little we have,” Captain Salesi said.
“When the restrictions were limited and schools re-opened, we were providing lunch packs for students to help families who had no source of income.”
This act of kindness, according to Captain Salesi, was further supported by the Australian Humanitarian Partnership (AHP) providing livelihood support to the church to support those affected in their communities.
Through the Church Agency Network Disaster Operations (CAN DO) COVID-19 Activation Phase 2 response, the church was assisted with agricultural kits, vegetable seeds and cash initiatives which were distributed to the community.
“We were delighted to have been selected as a project site for the response because whatever we received were of great help to the affected population in Waiyavi,” Captain Salesi said.
“We distributed seeds and we also planted them here in the church compound. Even before distribution, people were coming to ask for food from our garden and we were happy to share them considering the hardships they were going through.”
A retired military officer (name suppressed) said he was grateful to the support received which provided food on the table for his family during the pandemic.
“My son works for Fiji Ports and he is the main breadwinner of the family. His hours were reduced because of COVID-19 and we struggled to put food on the table to cater for the seven of us,” he said.
“I planted cassava but it would take time to harvest. One day we were given vegetable seeds and that was of great help to us. We had reduced the amount of food we eat and the vegetables supplies from the harvest helped us to at least save some money for our bills,” the 62-year-old said.
“We are not members of the church but we are grateful to have been assisted. We also shared our harvest with our relatives who were also going through a hard time.”
Today, the Salvation Army is also home to many young boys who have dropped out of school.
“We have about eight boys staying with us. Some of them do not have a home and have been living with relatives so I have brought them in to stay with us. Some have returned to school and travel daily from home,” Captain Salesi said.
“They have been really helpful to me because they plant and look after the garden. Harvests are still being distributed today.”