A report* a few years ago suggested that there was one place among the world’s worst for violence against women. A place where over 60% of women and girls have experienced violence at the hand of an intimate partner or family member. A place where 15% of pregnant women are beaten by their partners. A place where, recently, in one month alone there were 48 separate incidents of serious sexual offences reported, and possibly many more that went unreported. Now, it might surprise you when I tell you the place this report was talking about is Fiji. Yes, the same Fiji that usually elicits visions of palm trees, blue waters and friendly smiles.
In 1997, an American couple, Mark and Lynnie Roche, packed up their life and moved more than 10,000kms around the globe with their six children to Fiji. Originally intending to set up an orphanage, their path was soon changed after meeting a woman who was selling her young daughter for sexual favours to taxi drivers. They sadly uncovered how commonplace this was along and then had a thought:
“If we could do something to help this woman, this wouldn’t be happening to her child.”
That was the beginning of Homes of Hope.
Homes of Hope is a Fiji-based charity working with young women and children who are victims of, or are vulnerable to, situations of forced sexual encounters, sexual exploitation, child sexual abuse and violence. Through direct care at their residential campus and community programs, Homes of Hope are giving Fijian women a fresh start of hope, freedom, dignity and life.
Their latest video paints a good picture of the organisation and the work they do:
I felt privileged to pay this beautiful place, both Fiji and Homes of Hope itself, a visit when I was in the region last month. I was travelling with my friend Sarah who is a nurse, working at Moorhouse Medical Centre in Christchurch. We were fortunate that her employer agreed to make a donation of medical supplies worth $300-$400 and we were able to give them to the Homes of Hope team who were very happy. We spent some time with Lynnie and her team and it was so inspiring and uplifting. They are really trying to put some practices in place to become more sustainable into the future so they can continue for another twenty years.
Today, Fiji’s number one industry is tourism, yet many of the 750,000 tourists that enjoy this island paradise each year, are unaware of some of the horrible occurrences that are happening. Whilst my visit to the capital, Suva, was only quite short I gained an understanding of the challenges women face in this country, the incredible work being done to change this at Homes of Hope, and the amazing spirit of Lynnie and Mark Roche.
So this Thank You Thursday, we say vinaka^ to Lynnie, Mark and the team at Homes of Hope for all that you do in making Fiji a truly beautiful place so Fijian women can enjoy life there just as much we do as visitors.
See you in the pond,
The Fish Chick.
* Report produced by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre
^ Vinaka is Fijian for thank you.