As you all know due to Covid and border closings Dazzler chose to sit out this cruising season and stay in New Zealand until next June. Fortunately for us and many other cruisers the New Zealand government has been very gracious in providing blanket visa extensions to allow us to stay through cyclone season this year. So far, we are clear through February but we’ve also applied for a formal extension to get us through until June.
Not going up to Fiji this year meant we were not able to begin delivering any books to the children. You know, the 2000+ books we raised money to buy and that were donated from organizations like the Lions Club of New Zealand and Kokopu School? The biggest issue became what to do with all of them as we wait for next season to come along. Fortunately our dear friend Allan Gray who owns Wynn Fraser Paints here in Whangerie came to the rescue. He offered to keep them stored at his paint store. There are so many wonderful people who have played a role in this endeavor.
The good news is that we did find three crews that were planning to sail to Fiji this season in spite of not knowing whether or not they would be allowed to come back here or go to Australia during cyclone season. So, two months ago we made arrangements with the Captains of these yachts to drop off boxes of books to them. It was really exciting to know that at least some of the books would be making it to the kids this year.
Last evening we received word from Richard & Michelle Marshall of SV Pogeyan that they have made their first delivery. They chose the island of Makogai. We visited Makogai last season and spent quite a bit of time with the people there. We donated some clothing and other items to them as well as a brand new volleyball. While I sat and chatted with the ladies Dan played volleyball and soccer with the kids so it was nice to know that some books have made their way to people that we know and love.
Here’s some comments from Michelle and Richard about their delivery…
“Makogai has a small primary school on the other side of the island so we made arrangements to take some of the books over in our dinghy. But, the weather and seas were too rough the next day so we geared up with backpacks and hiking boots instead. John (one of the islanders) led us on the 5 kilometer hike across the island and I was so happy he carried my backpack. It was heavy! And he walked there and back in thin rubber dive boots! He said it was no problem and that he does that hike every day.
As we approached the school I saw one of the students spot us then run over to a large brass bell and start ringing it. I guess that’s how they announce visitors. The rough trail we had been hiking emptied onto a large flat open field that was perfectly manicured. The six or so school buildings lined the edge of the field and were brightly painted and very tidy. We arrived right at the end of the school day and stood attention during a brief flag ceremony.
The headmaster gathered all the students together on the lawn and introduced us. He then asked Rich to talk about how we arrived and where the books came from. The books were then passed around so the kids could look them over. There are 31 students in the school broken into two classes, 1-4th grade and 5th -8th grade. The kids were very attentive and they seemed to really like the new books.”
We can’t even begin to tell you how delighted we were to get the news. Our hearts were full and for me, tears streamed down my face. To see the smiles on the faces of these children is something I will never forget. I just can’t wait until next season when we will get to deliver books ourselves. For now, we are so grateful for people like Richard and Michelle who volunteered to assist us in this endeavor. They are a treasured part of our cruiser angels team and we look forward to seeing more of their adventures as they continue to spread joy and happiness around the islands of Fiji.
As for our donors, we hope you enjoy these photographs and assure you that, as promised, we will provide you with continued updates, photos and videos as more books are delivered.
Jilly & Dan
P.S. Our fundraising effort made the news last month as our efforts were mentioned by Cindy Smith in an article she wrote for IslandCruising.nz. CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE