BULA SIA, FRIEND!
I’m thrilled you are here!
Thanks for visiting Bridge the Gap and taking the time to learn more about our unique efforts.
I’m especially excited to share with you the dynamic partnership we have created with Vorovoro Island, a remote traditional Fijian island community.
Fijian Chief Tui Mali, his family, and BTG have been hard at work for several years to develop a program that offers culturally rich experiences to groups and individuals that support the Fijian community’s sustainable development goals while retaining the integrity of the local heritage, culture, and land.
SO, HOW DID BRIDGE THE GAP AND OUR PARTNERSHIP WITH VOROVORO COME ABOUT?
Well, I first met Tui Mali, his family and the Mali community way back in 2009. I had come to Vorovoro Island to take part in a voluntourism experience with my family for 10 weeks. Little did I know then how those 10 weeks would change my life and my approach to the world forever!
I quickly developed a strong appreciation and affinity not only for the breathtaking beauty of the island, but for thefor the the unique Fijian community who call this island paradise home. It was they who stole my heart. Their approach to life - deeply rooted in the attributes of kindness, humility, respect, and hard work - appealed to me on a profoundly personal level.
And so it was with joy that, as our 10 week stay drew to a close, my family and I accepted the opportunity to live and work on Vorovoro for one year.
Over the next year, my family and I were employed to live and work side by side with the Fijian community, providing eco tourism experiences for visitors to Vorovoro Island while worldschooling the kids. As we worked and lived together, I become close to Tui Mali and his family in ways that laid the foundation for what we have created together today.
Over the course of that year, the Fijians and my family weathered many storms together, both figuratively and literally. Through it all, I continued to be impressed by their resilience, work ethic, their love for life and family, their ability to make every traveler feel at home, and most of all, their commitment to a better life for future generations in a world and a climate that was rapidly changing.
Through countless conversations, I learned of the Mali tribe's dreams and goals for their community and future generations. As I spent my days working alongside my Fijian friends, I came to understand clearly that, with the proper investment of time, education, mentorship, and training, there was no reason why this dynamic community couldn’t reach their goals.
SINCE THAT TIME,
Tui Mali, his family, and I have been in an ongoing conversation about their goals and what their hopes are for the future generations of their family and tribal community.
Changes are on the horizon and there is pressure from the government to develop their land and maximize it’s commercial value. The negative effects of climate change on their community and environment mount with each passing year. More than ever, they need to expand their income sources beyond what the sea can provide. And they want to do it in a way that doesn’t require that they compromise their land, culture, or environment to big business hotels or resort tourism.
BTG seeks to assist the Fijian community to leverage their skills, ingenuity, and work ethic in strategic partnerships that support community goals, and in ways where Fijians learn to be business owners, retain their profits, and reinvest in their communities, allowing them to secure their own futures and way of life.
Today, Bridge the Gap is the USA based organization that functions as an agent for Vorovoro and Mali Island, working collaboratively with Tui Mali and the Mali community to bring to fruition short and long term projects and opportunities that benefit the Fijian community as a whole.
We seek out and negotiate partnerships that support and contribute to the Mali community in ways that are compatible with and advance the overall goal of maintaining the integrity of the culture, land, and environment.
BTG operates with transparency with our Fijian partners - we make all big decisions together.
BTG essentially functions as the “bridge” in business matters as well as on the island between cultures - in ways ranging from an overall strategic planning capacity and in leading interactions with various off island and international partners, customers, and others with roles, resources or opportunities to contribute.
We are committed to providing customized once-in-a-lifetime educational cultural immersion experiences to our visitors, while simultaneously using the experience of hosting our international friends as part of a continuing mentorship and training program for Fijian community members.
TO DATE, WE HAVE MADE MUCH PROGRESS AND HAVE DEVELOPED SOME VERY UNIQUE AND EXCITING OPPORTUNITIES FOR INDIVIDUALS, UNIVERSITIES, AND ORGANIZATIONS.
A few of our collaborative successes include:
10+ year partnership with Auburn University to develop and offer a unique accredited study abroad program focused on cultural immersion, environmental awareness and global sustainability.
Built a 1200 sq. ft. Cultural Center on Vorovoro that has multiple uses within the community for revenue development
Negotiated a partnership that supported significant improvements to the island’s water catchment capacity and infrastructure
Established a partnership with Engineers Without Borders, which enabled developing and building a new sea wall on Mali Island
Developed and hosted eco tourism opportunities for various school, professionals, organizations, and individuals
Secured a sponsored trip to Auburn University for 3 Fijian team members to participate in training and continuing educational opportunities.
Developed sustainable agricultural internship opportunities for Fijian team members at nearby Cegu Valley Permaculture Farm
Provided ongoing mentorship and support for Fijian owned businesses and individuals
And the list could go on!
WE ARE READY TO SHARE THE LIFE-CHANGING VOROVORO ISLAND EXPERIENCE WITH THE WORLD.
This tiny distinctive island and her extraordinary people have a way of getting into the hearts of anyone who is lucky enough to visit - time and time again we hear from visitors how the Vorovoro experience has changed or impacted their lives in ways that continue long after the Vorovoro sand is gone from their shoes.
I think perhaps Tui Mali says it best when he says, “Vorovoro is the only place in the world where 1 + 1 = 1”.
NOW THE ONLY QUESTION IS, WHO WILL COME TO VOROVORO NEXT? WILL IT BE YOU? I HOPE SO!
If you are interested in becoming a part of what we have started or simply want to learn more, please reach out to me directly - let’s chat and see how we can work together!