Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Training didn’t take in real devastation of Malaysian floods

Helping provide shelter to victims of the devastating flooding in Malaysia was both challenging and rewarding for Nelson man, Jimmy Griffiths.

Jimmy recently returned home to New Zealand after a month’s deployment to Malaysia, where he was helping provide shelter to victims of the devastating flooding, which recently hit the country.

Jimmy Griffiths with young family members
from the first family he helped to re-home
It was his first deployment in a disaster zone for the ShelterBox organisation, which provides emergency shelter and vital supplies to international community’s overwhelmed by disaster and humanitarian crisis.

Malaysia suffered its worst flooding in 50 years from December 15 to January 3, with more than 200,000 people displaced, and 21 people killed. Flooding ripped houses from their foundations and left locals facing a mammoth clean-up.

Witnessing the destruction was initially overwhelming, Jimmy says.

‘‘I remember being driven around looking at the devastation, and thinking: ‘Man, where do you start?  How do you start putting everything back together’.’’

The muck, flood debris and wet ground meant finding a suitable place to erect the tents was a challenge.

Jimmy is one of 200 highly trained ShelterBox volunteers who work in disaster zones across the world and who only completed his selection process as a first responder last year.

He finished his training in October and had just completed his vaccination programme, when he was asked to travel to Malaysia.

‘‘I got the call on January 3, having signed up ready for deployment on December 26.’’

Jimmy said despite the training being fresh in his mind, the reality of doing the job on the ground was naturally different.

‘‘Theory doesn’t match the practical. There were a lot of things going through my mind including is there going to be fresh water when I get there, what’s the security risk . . .’’

Some of the challenges included the extreme heat and humidity, language differences and working with local customs and politics and sometimes having to eat sketchy food.

To cope with the enormity of the situation he quickly became ‘‘task focussed’’.

‘‘I looked at it that each tent I didn’t put up that day meant a family would be sleeping in the open. Giving them a tent gave them privacy, dignity and a chance to start rebuilding their lives,’’ he said.

Jimmy said going to Malaysia and witnessing the work ShelterBox did on the ground had shown him he was right to support the charity. ‘‘It’s been fantastic and I now realise my time wasn’t wasted’’ and he added, ‘‘We are so grateful to Rotary and everybody who donates, because it helps us to prepare for the next disaster.’’

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Hand-digging walking tracks has positive environmental impact on local community from people to native fish and birds

Landcare Okareka Team: From left, Brian Law, James Blakely, Katharine, and Mike and Sandra Goodwin are digging out a walkway to link Boyes Beach to the Lake Okareka campsite.
Photo courtesy of the Rotorua Daily Post.
It’s been a huge team effort for members of Landcare Lake Okareka in New Zealand to work together on developing walkways to protect wetlands and enhance their environment.

The Lake Okareka walkway opened in 2003. The initial track included a boardwalk and lakeside track to the outlet of Okareka. The design and construction was managed by Rotorua District Council and financed by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. 

Landcare Okareka started three months later by residents who wanted to make a difference and founding members included Mike and Sandra Goodwin. Currently there are around sixty members, mostly residents, holiday home owners and people from the wider Rotorua community.

Their first project was Stage 2 of the walkway - composting toilets at Silver Beach, a shade structure with seats, a bird watching hid and raised edges to the boardwalk - completed two years later.

Significant achievements include a remembrance grove of native trees adjacent to the walkway and the pump station bank cleared of bush and replanted, including a track from Summit Road for children to get to the bus stop at the bottom of the hill.

Mike said, “Our current project is the most exciting, completing the Trans Okareka Walk, which when completed, will take about three hours to walk around Lake Okareka, both at lake level and along the top of the north eastern hill above the lake.”

The first part of this extension is a 1.5km path and boardwalk linking Boyes Beach to the Department of Conservation campground. This has involved considerable planning and has taken five years to gain all the consents, with formation work starting a few months ago. 

The track will feature a boardwalk through the wetlands where native birds live including the dab chick which is rarer than kiwi. This area is under threat from rats, possums and wallabies. 

Mike and Sandra Goodwin were both recently recognised with Paul Harris Fellow awards by the Rotary Club of Rotorua Sunrise for their outstanding achievement in building a better world through the enhancement of the Okareka surrounds that locals and people from around the world admire and enjoy.  Sandra replied, “It’s very humbling and very special to receive this recognition from Rotary Rotorua Sunrise. We are so amazed for our group to receive this.”

The highlight for Mike is the way the environment has flourished, enhancing the community, and members have found this very rewarding.  He said, “People from all over the world come here. I’ve seen visitors on their mobility scooters and I reckon it takes three weeks to get the smile off their face.  It’s such a joy for them to get in amongst nature.” 

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Rotary’s foresight continues to benefit children’s mental health

In 2014 Cure Kids was delighted to announce long-term funding for a senior researcher focused on improving the mental health of children and adolescents in New Zealand.  This development is the result of events beginning 15 years ago by the Rotary Club of Downtown Auckland (RCDA).

It is estimated that at least one in four Kiwi children and adolescents will experience a significant mental health issue. 

“It’s an epidemic facing our kids; impacting their health, learning, relationships and development.   Once again, we’re grateful for Rotary’s role in helping us meet a clear child health research need,” said Vicki Lee, Cure Kids CEO and Waiheke Island Rotarian.

In 1999, Downtown Auckland Rotarian, Dr Bill Daniels, was concerned at the lack of specialist help for children and young people with mental illnesses. He floated the idea of establishing a research Chair to address the issue, and by 2009 the RCDA raised $170,000. While this wasn’t enough to fund the Chair, the funds were applied to support the important work of the Werry Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health at the University of Auckland.

All Black Cory Jane with Cure Kids Ambassador Connor Lehan
who lives with ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome
Recognising the clear need for more research in this area, Cure Kids embarked on a fundraising campaign engaging a small number of motivated donors who shared this vision and generously provided the funding needed to establish the Chair.  The generous donors are Rod and Patricia Duke and family, the Hugh Green Foundation, and support from New Zealand Rugby.

The Chair will investigate insights into causes, develop research-led treatments, prevention strategies and improve outcomes for kids and their families dealing with mental health conditions.

Ms Lee noted that “There are few of us who don’t know a young person who has been challenged with mental health issues.   This can manifest in a variety of ways - ADHD, autism, eating disorders, depression and anxiety to name a few.  We are determined to make a difference for these children and we are now focused on building a $2 million endowment fund to support the additional costs of delivering research projects to be led by the Chair.” 

Having the support of Rotary has always been pivotal to the success of Cure Kids and we are again asking for Rotary’s help as we look for further donors to help build this fund.  Please contact Philanthropy and Fundraising Dellwyn Stuart at Cure Kids on 09-370 0290 with any questions or ideas.

Thank you again for helping improve the lives of kiwi kids. 

For more information visit

Additional side bar information: 

Established by Rotary in NZ in 1971 as the Child Health Research Foundation, Cure Kids has to date raised $36 million for research into child health.

Rotary has been a passionate supporter of children’s health through the ongoing support of Cure Kids’ fundraising activities.   Cure Kids’ annual appeal – Red Nose Day – goes from strength to strength with Rotary’s active involvement.  This year it will take place on August 21 and you’ll be hearing more about this year’s appeal soon.  Call Fundraiser – Campaigns Kelly Douglas at Cure Kids on 021 110 2161 with any Red Nose enquiries.
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Sailability well and truly launched

Roy Bartlett and Paralympian yachtswoman Jan Apel
about to cast off as the first users of the new facilities
at Sailability Fairway Bay.
The new Sailability Centre at Fairway Bay, Gulf Harbour, New Zealand was opened officially on Saturday January 31 by Rodney MP Mark Mitchell and his wife Peggy.

Funds raised by the local Rotary Club of Whangaparaoa at a charity dinner and auction in November, with guest speaker Harold Bennett of America’s Cup fame, plus additional support from two BBQ sausage sizzles at PAK’nSAVE Silverdale, have provided the personnel “C-crane” and one of the brand new Hansa 303 wide boats that are two of the essential elements of the new Sailability Centre. 

Sailability Auckland Chairman Brendan Tourelle and New Zealand 2012 Paralympian Tim Dempsey, also of Sailability, made the opening remarks and thanked everyone who made this exciting new venture possible.  As well as the support provided by the Rotary Club of Whangaparaoa, additional support has been received from The Halberg Disability Sport Foundation, the June Grey Charitable Trust, Rotary International District 9910, plus significant support from Fairway Bay and the Gulf Harbour Yacht Club. “We also acknowledge with thanks the fantastic contribution of PAK’nSAVE Silverdale in hosting two very successful BBQ events for Sailability”, said Mr Tourelle.

Local MP Mark Mitchell then extended the official welcome to everyone and acknowledged the huge efforts made by Sailability Auckland, Rotary Whangaparaoa, Fairway Bay, Gulf Harbour Yacht Club and the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation.  “Without the excellent and very effective work that was done by all the participants in this venture, especially the support from local businesses, we would not all be celebrating success here today”, he said.

Commodore John Weston of Gulf Harbour Yacht Club welcomed the new facility that will provide safe sailing for persons with disabilities and which, with the unstinting support of Fairway Bay, is ensured a sustainable and exciting future.

In a lively opening ceremony attended by over 20 Rotarians and more than 50 other enthusiastic supporters, Mrs Mitchell christened the first two boats with champagne – with both boats appropriately echoing the blue and yellow colours of Rotary. 

First to set sail in the blue boat were Jan Apel, 2012 Paralympian sailor, accompanying Roy Bartlett who had not sailed for many years and who was the first to use the new crane that had been provided by Rotary Whangaparaoa.  Roy and Jan were soon followed in the yellow boat by Belinda Edwards who had Sailability instructor Taylor Mitchell crewing with her.

The smiles on the faces of the sailors and spectators alike told the story of a job well done and there was general agreement that Sailability was well and truly launched at Fairway Bay.

The Halberg Disability Sport Foundation arranged a major media event at Fairway Bay, on Monday February 9, when New Zealand yachting stars Peter Burling and Blair Tuke supported young people with disabilities getting their first taste of sailing the new boats that were sign-written in time for that event.  The children had cerebral palsy and they had a fantastic time!  The next event on February 14 and 15 weekend was the first official Sailability Regatta at Fairway Bay, operated by Gulf Harbour Yacht Club. 

President of Rotary Whangaparaoa Brian Mullan says, “There is indeed much to look forward to at this great new venue for sailors with disabilities.  I am so glad that I was able to become involved with Sailability through the Rotary Club of Grantham in the UK and to be inspired by the Rotary involvement there.  Supporting Sailability in New Zealand has for the past few years been an ambition of mine – now fulfilled thanks to the great support that Rotary Whangaparaoa received for this great new centre”.

Watch the TV ONE News item  It’s great promotion of Rotary making a difference and children enjoying their first sail.   


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African proverb: A small house will hold a hundred friends

Africa Mercy underway
The world’s largest civilian hospital ship is home to a volunteer crew of 480, including a handful of Rotarians, who welcome Africa’s marginalized poor with open arms and compassionate hearts.  Mercy Ships believes the restoration of dignity is as important as the healing of the body, and they provide both through free healthcare services for the African nations they serve.

Crew member Sharon Walls visiting a patient
in the Mercy Ships ward while docked at Ghana
Some crew members, like Rotary Club of Takapuna North, NZ, Past President Larry Robbins, are short term ‘repeat offenders’. The retired naval commander packed his bags in March for a fourth tour-of-duty aboard the Africa Mercy. He will spend two months donating his skills in Madagascar, as Second Officer. Aside from his maritime duties, Larry intends to visit the local Rotary club, as he did previously in the Canary Islands and Republic of Congo. “The internationality of Rotary and my smattering of Spanish/French enabled me to follow the meetings. It was a particular highlight in Pointe Noire to get to know the club’s Executive Secretary, and I was able to enjoy some unique local experiences because of our friendship.”

Like Larry, Mercy Ships New Zealand Director Graeme Walls and Communications Manager Sharon Walls are Paul Harris Fellows. These Mercy Ships ‘long termers’ rubbed shoulders with others who held youthful dreams to better society through service at Rotaract in Cashmere and Plimmerton in the late 70’s and early 80’s. They joined Mercy Ships independently in 1983. Four ships, four land-based international offices, and three children later, the Walls remain committed to networking with established professionals and business-people with a passion to make a difference in the world around them. They also are Madagascar-bound, transferring from the New Zealand office to the Africa Mercy later this year for a year.

Mercy Ships last docked in Madagascar in 1996. At that time Sahondra was a patient whose cleft lip and palate was repaired on board. She recently gave the ship’s crew a surprise return visit. She was so excited to see the surgeon who performed her free operation all those years ago, and changed her life forever. Sahondra brought pictures of her experience to show everyone at her emotional reunion.

Even basic healthcare is unavailable to most Madagascans. Treatable conditions like cleft lip and palate abnormalities become life-long burdens. Sahondra said, “The care that Mercy Ships gave me so many years ago changed my life. I could never say thank you enough.”

Thanks also to Rotary Clubs of Takapuna North and Browns Bay for their support of Larry and the work of Mercy Ships. 

Watch the CBS News Hospital of Hope documentary on 60 Minutes

For more information visit

Additional side bar information: 

Madagascar is a far cry from Disney’s dancing penguins. The east African island is twice the land mass of New Zealand, with a population of 23 million (3.6 million children under five years), 90% of whom live on less than $2.25 per day. 12% of the country’s roads are paved. There are around 5,000 nurses in the whole country.
In the first 13 weeks of the Madagascar field service Mercy Ships provided: 
  • 531 surgeries
  • Treated 2000 dental patients
  • Mentored 19 nurses, surgeons and anaesthetists
  • Provided ongoing education to 165 local healthcare professionals

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Sunday, 15 February 2015

Four Christchurch Rotary Clubs acknowledge Christchurch's resilience

Re:START mall is Christchurch’s most innovative and diverse shopping experience in the heart of the city.  It includes boutique retailers, banks, food carts and coffee inside bright shipping containers.   

Playing chess on the giant board in Cathedral Square (in front of the Cathedral remains)

The Christchurch trams are running again

Lego land free play area for children in central Christchurch

Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers sculpture by Julia Morison is part of the free-to-view contemporary public art in Christchurch city (SCAPE Public Art  


A stunning evening event acknowledged the resilience of the local business community and thanked those who stayed in Christchurch, NZ, to help rebuild the south eastern part of the city. 

Over 200 local businesses were invited to the gathering on October 22, 2014 at the Tannery, a shopping centre with a large atrium in the east of Christchurch. The Tannery is a symbol of the new Christchurch rebuild after the 2011 earthquake.

Each club was allocated a number of places at the event and went door-to-door handing out invitations and telling businesses about Rotary.

130 people attended the function from local business in the Port Hills, Garlands Rd and Ferrymead area.

The event was hosted by four Christchurch Rotary clubs; Linwood–Woolston, Christchurch South, Lyttelton and Ferrymead.  The clubs committed funds to this activity to proactively recruit new members as these four clubs had lost members following the earthquake.

About 30 Rotarians hosted the guests with platters of nibbles and one complimentary drink.  Visitors were also given a card with the meeting details of the four clubs. Their business cards and email addresses were collected for a prize draw and follow-up.  

The Chief Executive of Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Peter Townsend spoke about the rebuilding of Christchurch and how only 25 per cent has been accomplished. District 9970 Governor Liz Courtney talked about the work of Rotary in the area and overseas. Shelly Harrison gave an insight into being a young Rotarian.

Some new members have joined the clubs following this event.  A follow-up event is planned for early in the new year. 

This format of a cluster group joining together to promote Rotary could be repeated in other areas. It was a good opportunity for business people to network as well as hear what is happening in the rebuild and Rotary’s achievements in the area.

ASSOCIATE TOPIC (not part of article):

Club web addresses at / Clubs

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Rotary clubs raise $73,000 together

Southland rugby player Jamie MacIntosh (right)
and Past District Governor John Prendergast chomp
their way through the eating challenge of the
Man v Woman fundraiser.
Five southern Rotary clubs came together to raise $73,000 in a Man v Woman fundraiser held late last year.

The event was a triumph for the combined Rotary Clubs of Invercargill South, East, Sunrise, North and Aparima in a landmark collaboration with Spirit of a Nation, according to committee member Christine Pryde.

“The key objectives of the night were to bring Southland Rotary Clubs together, show the general public the Rotary organisation in a fun way and raise some serious money for the clubs’ chosen charities.  Working together we pooled our resources, talents and networks and achieved an outstanding result with less effort and more fun,” she said.

All of the money raised by the clubs goes to their own causes: Victim Support (Invercargill South), Dictionaries in Western

Crown Prosecutor Mary-Jane Thomas
checks out how the men are going in the building
of a bench competition.
Southland Schools (Aparima), Southland Literacy (Invercargill East), Give Kids a Chance (Invercargill North) and Fountain of Peace NZ for Ugandan Housing (Sunrise Rotary).

The fundraiser consisted of stage competitions between two rival teams – in this case a gender battle between teams of celebrities, who brought some magic to the night, Southland Spirit of a Nation brand manager, Gerry Forde said.

“Rugby player Jamie MacIntosh put his body on the line for the men as if it was the Otago v Southland clash at Rugby Park, with heaps of support from entertainers Bryan Townley and Stephen Broad – the men proving just a little bit larger than life for the women’s team led by the dynamic Mary-Jane Thomas,” he said.

Honours were equally divided after the stand-up comedy, quiz, goal shooting, modelling, building, sing-off and theatresports with the men taking the victory based on audience support for their grande finale lip synch which peaked with crowd-pleaser “YMCA”.

Around $60,000 was raised by auctions including one item for a crew of Rotarians to paint a house that fetched over $6,000 and a solar panel system from World Solar that reached $4,500.

Both Spirit of a Nation and Rotary are keen to look at repeating the success again next year, said Gerry Forde.

Web for clubs at  /  Clubs

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Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Rotary answers Literacy need

Fairfield Rotary Club donates books and dictionaries to aid literacy.

 Hamilton schools recently got a boost when they each received a donation of brand new school books from the Rotary Club of Fairfield.

For many years the Fairfield Rotary Club has donated dictionaries to year 6 students at a number of local schools as part of the club’s ‘Literacy Outreach Programme’. This year the club extended their programme to include a donation of approximately 150 – 300 brand new reading books to a number of primary schools in the Hamilton and greater Waikato area.

Happy Fairfield Primary students
receiving their Rotary Dictionaries.
Fairfield Rotary Club president Michael Cahill, said it was important to make a contribution that benefits literacy and education.

 “This is one of the many community based projects that our Rotary Club has undertaken this year as we fully embraced the 2014-15 rotary theme, to 'Light Up Rotary'.  Literacy is one of the main focuses of Rotary International and we are hoping to light up children's lives by donating these books to their schools'.

The books can be used for everyday reading activities and some books will be used by the children at home he said.  ‘We were given a wonderful opportunity to acquire a very large container load of brand new books, and decided to share them amongst the schools of Hamilton and the wider Waikato.

Fairfield Rotary club members checking books
prior to distribution to local schools.
Lisa Deane, the Principal of Fairfield Primary school wrote to the club to say, ‘Just wanted to take the opportunity to thank you and Rotary again for the most generous donation of books – it has allowed us to put an extra 25 sets of readers into our reading room.  We tallied up the cost of having to purchase these books ourselves, and we would have been looking at well over $2000.00’.

Schools in the pacific islands have also benefitted from the clubs extended programme with a number of boxes each being sent to schools in Papua New Guinea, Fiji (Taveuni) and Rarotonga. Special thanks go to the Vincent de Paul Society in Hamilton, for their help in providing the container space to get the books to PNG.

A number of other local organisations have also benefitted, such as, the Children’s Ward at Waikato Hospital, Rainbow Place Children’s Hospice and the Women’s Refuge in Hamilton.

Fairfield Rotary Club members are now busy sorting the remaining stock, before making arrangements for more deliveries to local schools in 2015.


Submitted to magazine

Monday, 9 February 2015

Rotary Saving Sight in the Pacific - Taveuni Eye Project (TEP)

This is what it is all about ... seeing again after patch removal
The Rotary Club of Taveuni (RCTI) operates an annual Eye Surgery Programme for the removal of Cataracts and Pterigiums.

Their programme focuses on Fijians in remote villages and Islands who could otherwise not afford the travel and accommodation costs.

Each year they conduct around 300 surgeries over 10 days - allowing Fijians to regain their sight and contribute to their families, rather than having to be looked after. Pioneered by Rotarian Geoffrey Amos – this is Rotary Taveuni’s flag ship project – now in its 9th year.

Post-op recovery
DGN Roger Harvey & his wife Georgie went to help in November  - observing “The huge commitment over 10 days from a small club and the many volunteers is both impressive and humbling. Some volunteers use up their holiday - others take time off without pay

RCTI has built up quality Ophthalmology equipment and has the use of 2 surgical rooms at the Taveuni Hospital. Highly skilled volunteers return each year and have developed techniques to deal with the difficult cataracts arising in the Pacific.

In November 2014 an Ophthalmologist from USA (Dr Jeff Rutgar) and New Zealand (Dr David Prendergast) volunteered, supported by a GP from Australia. They were supported by 8 experienced nurses from New Zealand and Fiji.

Both surgical teams at work
The logistics were demanding. The Fiji Blind Foundation conducted an Out Reach programme (with costs funded by Rotary) in June to remote Islands and villages. Once prospective patients were assessed transport arrangements were made to get them to Taveuni Island by bus and ferry. This took several days for some and required courage by many who had never left their village before.

On arrival patients were accommodated simply at the Hospital and a nearby school – mattresses on the open plan floor. Many patients had to stay at Taveuni for 3-5 days because of ferry schedules. A support team of 10 organised by RCTI managed the transport, accommodation, laundry and catering for patients and the medical team. The scheduling of patients was challenging to maintain an even workload for the surgical team.

The theatre nursing team
Patients were medically assessed by GP Dr Gregg Booth and support nurses and detailed records maintained.

Pre-Op procedures included optics measurement and local anaesthetic.

Surgical procedure involved a small incision, removal of the cataract then insertion of an intraocular lens. In the case of Pterigiums (30%) – the membrane covering the eye is removed. This is a more painful recovery.

Post-Op – the eye was protected with a patch – nicknamed “Spiderman”. This was removed the next day, the eye inspected, anti bacterial drops applied, sunglasses supplied and advice given on eye care.

“Patch off day” was emotional with lots of joy, bewilderment and happiness. On our last Patch off day they all sang spontaneously.

Dr Jeff Rutgar commented “It takes a lot of courage to leave their village (sometimes for the 1st time), travel in a boat (mostly blind). Put their trust in strangers – and their quality of life in hands of foreign strangers. It is an honour to be able to help them – Dignifies our work

And the patients?

Patient Shoie – “I was almost completely blind. I couldn’t help at home – I was embarrassed. My children will now come and see me – 1st time in 10 years”

Patient Afeca “This is a beautiful day First time I can see my own dress – no pain. Excited to see my Grand children the first time

Patient Kustino is a Lambasa farmer of taro & kava.” My parents have had to look after it. After 6 years of frustration I can see well now. I am very thankful

Patient Annie  I had to retire – My Grand children led me around the village. Now I can lead them through life

Plans are well advanced for the 2015 Rotary Taveuni Eye Project. The cost will be NZ$100,000.

A Global Grant will be sought again.

Please help Rotary continue restoring sight in Fiji
Via RNZWCS Ltd (TAX DEDUCTABLE in New Zealand):
RNZWCS Westpac Account
or Cheque to:
PO Box 20309
Christchurch 8543, New Zealand

RNZWCS Ltd Charities Services Reg. No. CC26860

Reference the Taveuni Eye Program (TEP) and include your Club name.

Direct to Taveuni Rotary (NOT Tax Deductable in New Zealand):
ASB Bank Limited, 12 Jellicoe Street, Auckland 1010
Account Name: Rotary Club of Taveuni Island Bank
BSP Number: 12-3110
Account Number: 0055882
Funds can be sent to: Rotary Club of Taveuni Island NZ office:

For more information contact:   Geoffrey Amos, Rotary Club of Taveuni Island,

Email via:; Ph: +679 9992371

Or:  DGN Roger L Harvey

Photo credit:  Bula Time Photography            

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