Founded in 2016, the Vorovoro Cultural Centre is a Fijian-owned and operated cultural heritage education site that works to preserve the traditional Fijian culture alongside overseeing the development of Vorovoro Island. Most importantly, the Vorovoro Cultural Centre gives the chiefly family full control over what happens with Vorovoro, allowing them to operate independent of pressures of exploitative development. This is a huge step to be celebrated! Built in partnership with BTG and Auburn University, the Centre was built using local materials with long range sustainability in mind.
With the help of passionate supporters of BTG, we were able to fundraise over $6000 USD to buy building supplies for the new Mali District School kindergarten. During Open Island 2018, BTG and Vorovoro visitors joined efforts with the Mali villages to build the classroom together. Nemani Lamua, who lives in Ligaulevu village where the school is located, was the head carpenter for this initiative as well as for The Vorovoro Cultural Center in summer 2016. Vinaka Nemani, everyone who contributed their sweat equity to the construction of the building, and to all of our donors! The new kindergarten will be ready for use by the start of the school year in January 2019.
When Nemani is not working with visitors on Vorovoro, he can be found under the hot Fijian sun tending to his greatest passion: his sugarcane farm. Until this past year, Nemani walked the three miles to and from his home to the farm to harvest the sugarcane by hand. Through the educational partnership with BTG, Auburn University sponsored the purchase of materials to build basic infrastructure on the farm. These additions not only allow students a homestay experience and see a side of authentic Fiji that few ever see, but they also allow Nemani and his family to sleep where they work during harvest season, saving precious harvesting time.
Cegu Valley Farm, a local permaculture farm, has begun a six week internship program on sustainable farming practices for members of the Mali community. This internship uses a hands-on approach to teach practical skills, from irrigation methods to compost toilet construction, to leaders of the Mali community. Wati and Nemani have both successfully completed the internship and have taken back their wealth of knowledge to their villages, farms, and Vorovoro.
In the Spring of 2017 three Fijians from Vorovoro, including Chief Tui Mali, were invited to the USA for three weeks. Hosted by Auburn University in Alabama, and longtime friend of Vorovoro, Dr. Kate Thornton, the Fijian team spoke on Auburn University's campus with students about issues facing the South Pacific. Then they traveled to BTG director Jenny Cahill's home in Indianapolis, IN where they were the guests of honor at an event designed to share with the Indianapolis community more about Vorovoro and their relationship and goals with Bridge the Gap. Truly the adventure of a lifetime!
If you can’t see, you can’t read, and as massive readers ourselves, Bridge the Gap is really excited by the eyeglass project. Student volunteers would spend a few hours teaching the skills needed to make reading glasses from innovative kits given to Mali Island villages by Auburn University. The idea was that from here on, the Mali community will be able to perform simple eye exams and build the glasses for themselves. We like to think of this project as changing the way the tribe sees the world!
Since 2013, BTG has helped to provide over $30,000 USD in infrastructure for Vorovoro Island through educational partnerships. This includes upgrades to accommodation structures, the construction of a 40’ X 20’ community hall, upgrades to solar equipment, as well as new water tanks and the fortification of existing water catchment structures. These investments not only allow the community of Vorovoro to continue to offer study abroad programming and host various groups, but also benefit the greater Fijian community when groups are not visiting Vorovoro.