Just days after representing Fiji in table tennis at the Rio Paralympics, Mere Roden was back in action on home soil yesterday (Saturday 24th September) giving playing tips to disabled children and their parents at the Nausori Special School Table Tennis Fun Day, organized by the Pacific Sports Partnership’s 'Smash Down Barriers' program. The aim of the event was to raise awareness of the potential of disabled children in sport and other areas of life, and to promote the message to parents to encourage their children to strive for success.
Spinal Injury Association of Fiji (SIA) President Mere, along with SIA Executive Director Joshko Wakaniyasi, were guests of honour at the event and both had warm words to say about the initiative, followed by a masterclass in table tennis by Mere and fun training sessions for children and parents alike, by table tennis professionals.
Mere – who herself was encouraged to try table tennis just two years ago through the ‘Smash Down Barriers’ program – addressed parents and children at the event with an inspirational speech, saying: "Some of us just look at our disability and think 'I can't do that' - but you can! At the Paralympics there was an Egyptian table tennis player with no arms who played with the bat in his mouth. You have to have that hope; that belief. Nothing is impossible - believe in yourself!". Mere also thanked the Fiji Table Tennis Association - represented at the event by President Anthony Ho and Vice-President Naren Lal - for their support.
Joshko Wakaniyasi added: “Fiji is a sporting nation, as the Fiji 7s have proved! And table tennis as a sport is unique in that children with disabilities or abled-bodied children can play. In fact, anyone can play – you can never be too young or too old – or too disabled; there is even a blind version of the game. This means that you – the parents – can play with your children in this sport and encourage them to grow in confidence and realize they can achieve in any area of life; with your support. I take my hat off for the great work that the FTTA do. The reward for us, the SIA, in working with the FTTA is the smiles on the children’s faces and the appreciation of their parents. “
Nausori Head Teacher, Narend Prasad, was also delighted at the opportunity to host the event. As well as thanking Chief Guest, Mr Wakaniyasi and Anthony Ho, he particularly thanked the parents who attended with their children, saying: “I hope this will be a very proud moment for you to participate in this event with your children. Let’s work hand in hand in giving opportunities to our children to become better in sports, enjoy, socialize and make friends, be healthy, do better in school work and become better leaders of tomorrow.”
Eleven physiotherapy students from the Fiji National University’s School of Medicine, proudly received their graduation certificates today, following an intensive five-day practical assessment.
The certificates were presented by Joshko Wakaniyasi, Executive Director of the Spinal Injury Association, who have partnered with the FNU to provide this course. The NGO, who usually provide wheelchairs and mobility devices to those in need for free – along with other services – provided technicians, clients and wheelchairs to the FNU so that the students could carry out their practical assessments.
Venasio Ramabuke, Lecturer on the course, said: “We couldn’t operate without the SIA and the clients and assistance they provide. We have been doing this course here in Suva for 5 years, as well as Lautoka and Labasa and the SIA team have always been very good, very supportive. They are very busy people but whenever we request help they always make time for this training. Without the SIA we couldn’t do the course, simple as that.”
The clients and the students themselves all had their own personal stories to tell. Maria Baleiono, mother of 14-year-old client Mere Rosi Grace who has muscular dystrophy, said: “Mere always wanted to be independent but couldn’t be, we had to lift her everywhere and as she grew it became very difficult, so she couldn’t often go outside. As she is growing the chair the SIA gave her first is now too small and we are very happy she is being assessed for a new one. For the first time she can go outside with her friends and we can take her too Church, which was too far too carry her before.”
One physio graduate, Manu Tamata, revealed he was inspired to become a physio after sustaining a spinal injury which needed 3 operations. Coming from Vanuata he was lucky to have access to one of only 2 physios in the country and, after 3 years, was finally able to walk again. He intends to return to his home country and said: “The course is very good, I have learnt a lot about how physiotherapy can help disability, in Vanuatu there is no SIA, no assessments, now I can do assessments and follow patients up to see how they are doing, like the SIA do in Fiji.”
Physio Debbie, from Nadi hospital, was here doing to course to allow her to become the only qualified Community Rehab Assistant there. She said: “We already work closely with the SIA, and have send orders for wheelchairs. These guys are great – the return on enquiries is instant and they are always calling to check up and see if we need assistance. I have a passion for moving around and I can’t stand to see people not being able to move. All many able bodied see is a wheelchair – we need to redefine this by improving social inclusion, barriers to work, their environment and so on.”
Handing over the certificates to the successful graduates, Mr Wakaniyasi commented: “We all work in partnership – SIA, the FNU and the students themselves – we are always talking to the students as this is a learning experience for SIA too.
“We look forward to working alongside you all once you are working in the field. We are thankful that this is your career choice and for the FNU in taking the initiative to implement this course. With students among you from Vanuatu, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands we are delighted that the course will benefit persons with disability across the Pacific. We also thank our partners including Vodafone Fiji ATH, PhysioNet UK and DFAT.”
Congratulations to all the physio students who graduated their 'Wheelchair Service Training' at FNU today. They had just completed a challenging practical element involving assessing actual wheelchair users, with clients, wheelchairs and technicians provided by the SIA, and were presented with certificates by SIA Exec Director Joshko Wakaniyasi. Venasio Ramabuke, Lecturer on the course said: “We couldn’t operate without the service and the clients that the SIA make available to use. The SIA team are very good, very helpful, very supportive and very co-operative. Without the SIA we couldn’t offer this course, simple as that.”
With students also from Tuvalu, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, the SIA is helping disabled people across the whole Pacific! More on the individual stories of these students soon...
Spinal Injury Association of Fiji (SIA), and the Fiji Disabled Peoples Federation recently travelled to Tauveni to distribute ‘dignity packs’ (diapers, towels, soap, blankets etc) to disabled people in areas still suffering from TC Winston. They visited numerous villages and made a number of deliveries, whilst also assessing them for further needs. Here is just one of those stories.
Emali Veikoso lives in Welagi Village on the Northern side of Taveuni Island. She was born normal, but was severely physically impaired at nine months old with meningitis. For the last twelve years she has grown up lying on the floor of her room, and both of her parents left, leaving her in the care of her elderly grandparents.
Emali needs 24-hour care, and is unable move voluntarily, she lies in bed and needs to be turned, bathed, dressed and fed. Her food is mashed then strained but when we visited Emily she had refused to swallow her meals for two days. As her grandfather said: “Sometimes it reflects to us that maybe she wants something or she is in pain or she doesn’t like her food but we cannot communicate with her”.
“Medications prescribed over the years have not improved her condition since she sometimes suffers fits maybe when she’s hungry or soils her clothes”, he added, and they are struggling with the cost of diapers.
During TC Winston the family took shelter in their home but they worry as if they had to move from home in a similar event it would be a struggle as Emali has to be lifted by two or more people. When the SIA arrived with a dignity pack her grandfather’s face and lit up and the mood in the house lifted knowing that someone out there cared.
Emali’s grandparents have received no other aid since TC Winston. They had despaired for their beloved Emali but now feel there is hope. “I am depending on you and your organization” the emotional grandfather said. “May God bless the work you do for people like Emali.”
Emali is in need of a further supply of diapers, a specialised bed and custom fitted wheelchair with neck brace so that she can get outside her four walls for the first time in her young life, and the SIA will be following up with further help for Emali.
SIA Executive Director, Joshko Wakaniyasi said: “Heartbreaking stories such as these are all too common, especially after TC Winston. The SIA is a small organisation that relies heavily on a small number of dedicated staff and volunteers. We do what we can to assist as many people as we can, and we are proud that we have been able to help thousands of disabled Fijians with the generous support of donors and partners including Vodafone Fiji ATH, PhysioNet UK and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade.”
“But if we are to meet demand and continue to provide aid to people like Emali we need continued support from the public and private sectors.”
Great news! SIA’s IDEAClean initiative – which provides training and employment opportunities as cleaners for deaf women in Fiji; is expanding.
We have just been hired by Helen White, the General Manager of Donut King, which is opening a new store in Tappoo City, Suva. Thanks for your support Helen we are sure you will enjoy IDEAClean’s professional service!
A great radio feature on one of the SIA's services - IDEAClean , which provides employment opportunities and training for women with disabilities. It went out on Australia's national network earlier and features: Laisani Vosa - mother, hearing impaired, employee of Idea Clean program; Orelia Raisua - IDEAClean program coordinator, and Nastasia Campanella - former SIA volunteer. Click here to read this inspiring story: http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2016/s4534348.htm
We have been contacted by Aaron Hannon, a young student looking to design a product which assists people with limited hand dexterity in the completion of facial care tasks. The inspiration for his project comes from his late grandfather who suffered a paralysis in his left limbs. As a result of this he was unable to perform basic personal care tasks, such as the ability to shave his face independently.
Aaron hopes to take this project to a national science fair, and need the assistance of people within the quadriplegic/spinal injury community and others who have limited hand function to ensure the product is useful, user friendly and can make a difference to the lives of others. He has created an online survey which is open to be completed by those with disabilities and their caregivers also, to allow him to create a product which fits people’s needs.
This sounds like a great innovation so if you can take some time to fill out the survey that would be great. The link is below:
SIA's Executive Director, along with other disability groups, met with the Attorney-General to launch the Elections Disability Access Working Group terms of reference at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva yesterday.The Attorney-General said the occasion was momentous.
“The reason why the signing of this ceremony here this afternoon is that the various organisations that represent and deal with persons with disabilities will have direct practical input as to how the Fijian Elections Office can actually improve their services to ensure that all persons with disabilities do get to vote,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
He said the 2013 Constitution was the first constitution in Fiji to include the rights of people living with disabilities under the Bill of Rights in the Constitution.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said it was part and partial of Government’s policy that we had an inclusive society.
He said the Constitution had been translated into braille, in the English and iTaukei language.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said translating the Constitution into the Hindi language was still underway.
Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem, said they would provide secretariat services to these groups.
He said the process would be apolitical and independent.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also advised groups dealing with people living with disabilities to work with the Fijian Elections Office.
“At the end of the day, the Fijian Elections Office is here to ensure that your rights are protected as far as voters are concerned,” he said.
Fiji National Council for Disabled Persons spokesperson, Dr Sitiveni Yanuyanutawa, said he stood with humility and pride.
He said the physically and mentally challenged would be able to express themselves in a special way.
“This is a big milestone,” Dr Yanuyanutawa said.
Good work from Spinal Injury Association's Mobility Device Service team :) This cot was made for one of the little boys at Hilton Special School using equipment from the MDS wheelchair unit
The Spinal Injury Association of Fiji (SIA) is proud to announce that we will host All Black and Sevens Legend Eric Rush as guest speaker for our Gala Fundraising Dinner on October 11th. This will be one of the most high-profile events in Fiji this year and we are offering business and individual the opportunity to be involved through sponsorship.
The evening will be hosted by several prominent citizens including the former President of Fiji Sir Ratu Epeli Nailatikau. Ratu Epeli is very aware of the amazing support that the Spinal Injury Association gives to the many spinal injuries and related disabilities on their books and he has enthusiastically supported the holding of this gala night.
For more information go to our website at: http://spinalinjuryfiji.weebly.com/sia-gala-event.html