Nadi, FIJI – “My daughter was terminated from her job due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She was the main breadwinner and has two little children under the age of five. I joined the VotCity Flea Market about five months ago in order to earn something on which my grandchildren can survive.”
These were the words from Anna Rigamoto, as the long-time widow fought back tears whilst recalling life before the pandemic. “Everything has changed, it’s not easy.
My hope is that the two UN75 Community Days happening this Friday and Saturday will attract a large crowd, so I can sell my homemade baked goods and make enough cash for bills and food payments.”
The United Nations [UN] in partnership with the Fijian Government has brought together a vast selection of partners from all across the country to set-up two full days of community activities this Friday and Saturday at Prince Charles Park, Nadi.
The Western division was specifically targeted for this first of its kind initiative due to the enormous socio-economic impact COVID-19 has had on thousands of Fijians living in the area, following the shut down of the tourism industry.
Speaking from Yavusania village earlier this week, as part of a four-day UN outreach mission, UN Resident Coordinator, Sanaka Samarasinha said, “The UN75 Community days on the 11th and 12th of December will be the first time we have undertaken such a massive, joint initiative with the Fijian Government and our partners across Civil Society, the Private Sector and Diplomatic Corps.
We wanted to round off the UN’s 75th anniversary with something that would educate, assist and improve the lives of people in a meaningful way – but we also wanted to bring a smile to their faces and lift morale a little, after an exceptionally difficult year.”
The Friday programme begins at 9:30 am with registration and free entry for the general public, where the Ministry of Health will be present to take temperatures and ensure all COVID19 safety standards are adhered to.
An official flag-raising ceremony will take place at 9:45 am, after which members of the public are encouraged to visit the dozens of food stalls, cultural exhibition booths from around the world or get involved in a game of tag rugby, volleyball, tennis, soccer or badminton.
Younger children will also have a lot to do between face painting and fun customised games.
For those looking to up their culinary skills, cooking Masterclasses and recipe exchanges from around the world have been organised through the UN Local Expatriates Spouses Association.
For Fijian youth looking to get involved in ‘shaping our future together,’ the UN’s theme for 2020 – you will want to join the youth Talanoa session on Human Rights, or the Intergenerational Dialogue to discuss ‘the future we want.’
Rugby fans will feel right at home too, with the Sukuna Bowl scheduled to be screened on the main stage from 4:30 pm, followed by Christmas Carols led by the Vuniyavu choir from Rewa to close the day.
Speaking from the home of VotCity in Votualevu last week, Simi, a long-time hotel employee until his termination this year, explained, “Life is hard at the moment. I worked for a five-star hotel for sixteen years.
I loved my job. When COVID came, the tourists stopped…everything stopped. My wife and I both lost our jobs. We didn’t know how we were going to survive. Thank God for VotCity, we are able to come here to sell and earn a little money to make ends meet.”
But, as VotCity manager, Viliame Finau later added, business at the outdoor flea market is slowing down drastically compared to five months ago when they started.
“The buying power of Nadi residents is running low. Business on Mondays and Tuesdays is scarce, and few vendors are able to come in to spend the whole day here.
It is also a very sad situation to see a lot of our vendors unable to pay the nominal five-dollar rent. We do everything we can to support these people and their families here, to try and keep their hopes and morale high, but there is just no denying that a lot of Fijians are suffering right now.”
On Saturday 12th December, all Fijians are invited to join the UN75 Community Solidarity Walk or Cycle at 6:30 am. The event will commence at the Narewa Junction and is part of joint Government- UN efforts to promote healthy living.
Activities at Prince Charles Park will resume for day two at 9:30 am, with all the great attractions from the day before, plus a few more. The award-winning film, “A Life on our Planet” by Sir David Attenborough will be screened on the main stage, followed by the arrival of the Hon. Josaia V. Bainimarama, Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji.
In a historical moment for Fiji and the Pacific, the Honourable Prime Minister will be presented with the prestigious Champion of the Earth Award – the UN’s highest environmental honour.
Its purpose is to recognize the contribution of outstanding leaders from government, civil society and the private sector whose actions have had a positive impact on the environment.
Established in 2005, the award celebrates visionaries in four categories: Policy leadership; Inspiration and action; Entrepreneurial vision, and Science and innovation.
Every year, Champions are selected from hundreds of nominees globally, submitted through a public nomination process; the list of nominees is ultimately submitted to a jury, made up of a wide range of environmental experts, which then selects the laureates.
Later that afternoon, celebrity chef, Lance Seeto will be hosting a ‘Cooking for Life’ masterclass from 12:30 pm, followed by friendly rugby matches and the much-anticipated FBC Concert at the park with live band and performances.
Lastly, in an effort to support Fijian families get to and from the venue, free buses will be running from Nasau, Solovi, Lavusa and Togomasi/Dratuba/Malakua on Friday and Saturday.