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Spreading Happiness

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.

Cheers,

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

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And Now For Some Good News

Well these are some crazy times we are living in to be sure.  Of course this isn’t going to stop us from continuing our mission to help the children of Fiji. As they say, “Adjust, adapt and overcome.” This is what we are doing so we thought we’d provide everyone with a little update.

First lets start with the good news. Thanks to all of our fabulous contributors we not only met but exceeded our goal of $3500 USD. Thank you Captain Lawnboy for jumping in after our last post and making up the difference with your very generous donation! For books $3500 may not sound like a lot of money but our dollar goes a long way here in New Zealand so that’s actually more like $6000 USD and that my friends will get a lot of great books!

Thanks for all of your help Dave!

Of course in addition to buying them we have our generous book donation partners who stepped up to help. Thanks to Dave at All Marine for coordinating with Irene of Zonta International and the Kokopu Elementary School we picked up close to 700 books a couple of weeks again. Also, Judy Allison of the Lions Club coordinated helped us to acquire another 400-500 books. The community support for this is unreal!

We picked up the first boxes of books from Dave a couple of weeks ago and our first order of business was to get some organization going. To that end we needed to pick up some smaller, more uniform boxes. It’s important for the cruisers who will haul and deliver them to have them in smaller, manageable size boxes that store easily on a boat.

Since Dazzler was still in the yard we took the books we picked up from Dave back to the boatyard and set up a sorting station there. For several hours Jilly went through the books checking for ones with torn or missing pages and organizing them to be boxed. Dan did the boxing and heavy lifting. We filled each box with a variety of books for kids of all ages. In the end we had 12 boxes of books ready to be handed over to the Cruiser Angels who will be the making deliveries.

Of course we don’t have the ability to get them to everyone just yet so we needed a place to store them. Our dear friend Allan Gray at Wynn Fraser Paints offered to store them in a storage area at their store. Thanks Allan!!!

Thanks Judy! Love the great journals and other books!

Just this week we picked up 7 more boxes of books from Judy Allison, the District Governor for the New Zealand Lions Club. While the books from the school were fun reading books, the books from the Lions Club included a couple hundred reading journals for teachers to use in addition to a couple hundred other reading books. Looks like we probably have somewhere around 1200-1400 donated books. This was completely unexpected but certainly a blessing.

So what are we doing with your donations? Well, Jilly spent days and days on the computer researching and reading about children’s books. We ordered a couple of hundred brand new books and some large, wall maps of the world. Maps are big for these kids as they like to see where they are in the world.

Since we have tons of great reading books including everything from Charlotte’s Web to Br’er Rabbit (one of Jilly’s favorites), we decided to spend the donated funds on good, educational books including Children’s World Atlases, books on animals and some really great ones that talk about people and cultures across the globe. There’s some science books and other fun learning material on it’s way to us as well AND we still have more money to spend on new books.

We figure by the time we are done we should have somewhere around 2000 books to deliver to the deserving children of Fiji and you are part of this great accomplishment. Thank you!

Of course as we’ve said, given the state of the world at this moment, we have to adjust, adapt and overcome. So what is the current status of delivering to the islands?

Well, honestly all of us cruisers are in a state of suspension right now due to the coronavirus. Borders are closed all over the globe and Fiji is no exception. Right now we are not even sure we will be permitted to sail to Fiji this year. It all depends on when the borders are reopened. For those of you who are not sailors, it’s not just of matter of them opening the border and us taking off. We have weather and seasons to think about.

Being in the southern hemisphere Spring starts at the end of September. With Spring and then Summer comes the potential for cyclones. Cruisers with any sense of sanity don’t sail north between November 1st and the end of April. So, if the borders do not open up for six months or more we may be required to stay in New Zealand until next cruising season. If this is the case then we will find a small storage unit and store the books for the year. We have every intention of delivering these books personally to the children. If the worse case scenario occurred, we could ship them but due to the weight of this number of books it could be a very costly proposition. As much as we’d like to get them over there this year it may have to wait. Obviously the health and safety of everyone involved is our top priority.  

So, at the moment, we are hovering about in a holding pattern. We will keep everyone updated as the days and weeks pass but don’t worry we will get the books to the children one way or another!

In the meantime, stay safe, be healthy and keep smiling!

Cheers,

Jilly & Dan

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An Exciting Update

It’s time again to get back to writing and keeping you updated on what has been going on but before we get to the personal stuff we’d like to share an update on our fundraising efforts to buy books for the children of Fiji.

Our Books For The Children of Fiji GoFundMe campaign has raised $1525 online and while we were home in the states visiting family and friends two of our nearest and dearest friends made a substantial donation which brought us up to $3060 USD! We are now just $440 short of our $3500 goal! This is absolutely astounding. The kindness and generosity of everyone is truly humbling.

And this isn’t the only excellent news we have to report on this front. Dave, a friend we know who works at All Marine here in Whangerie along with Irene with Zonta International have procured eight boxes of books from Kokopu Elementary School. These are library books that have already been vetted and are ready to go to the deserving kids of Fiji. Many thanks to Dave and Irene as well as to the Kokopu Elementary School administration.

But wait….it gets even better than all that! Prior to Christmas we reached out to the Lion’s Club of New Zealand. Just after the first of the year we received information from their office stating they do have books and would be interested in joining the cause. It’s absolutely amazing how many people are stepping up to help. We are completely humbled by it all.

Our next step is to begin recruiting other cruisers to assist us in getting the books to Fiji and distributing them to villages and schools once they are there. To this end we will be attending some cruiser events here in Whangerie to meet with and talk to others who are interested in helping. We will also be looking into the possibility of shipping some of the books to a couple of marinas where we can pick them up and distribute them once we’ve emptied our boat of the boxes we are carrying with us to Fiji.

There’s a lot of logistics required to make this happen but we’re super excited to get things moving. This is keeping Jilly really busy while Dan continues to work on getting the bottom of Dazzler painted as well as other routine maintenance that needs to be done while she’s out of the water. Of course we’ll be keeping you updated on our campaign along the way.

As for us, we spent five weeks back in the states visiting family and friends and traveling from coast to coast. Check back in a few days to hear about our journey.

Until next time…

Jilly & Dan

P.S. We are still a little short of our $3500 goal so if you’ve got even a few dollars you can spare we’d love it if jump book cruise and help us to provide as many books and maps as we can to the children of Fiji. You can click on the photo below to link directly to our GoFundMe page.