THE FIJI FOUNDATION
In summer 2004, Jaimi Wachniak, our Founder’s daughter, returned home to Chicago from Fiji, where she had been a People to People Student Ambassador exchange student. It soon became obvious that the Fijians and their amazing village, Cuvu, had captured her heart. Upon hearing her daughter’s stories, Carol became captivated, too, and resolved to do something about the Fijian children’s need for a better school facility. Shortly after she began her infamously aggressive networking campaign for this project, Carol met Ho Yun. Ho was so intrigued that soon after he invited the Californian and British Architect, Jocelyn Mackay, to donate insight and guidance for the facilities design. In June 2005, by personal invitation from the Provincial Fijian leader, Chief Ratu, Ho and Jocelyn flew to Fiji together and met with Apenisa, the Nadroga Navosa School principal, and Ratu Sakiusa Makutu, the Chief, for a tour of the existing facilities. Jocelyn realized immediately that the current school could not be modified to meet the needs of the expanded educational program and the plan for open enrollment. Jocelyn, Ho and Apenisa also agreed that any new site needed to be clear of all religious, ethnic, and political ties in an independent land trust and they approached Chief Ratu, the Provincial Fijian leader, for help. The Chief generously offered to donate 100 acres and asked Jocelyn to choose the best site. Architects rarely have such an opportunity, and Jocelyn delighted in selecting a rural site of lush tropical forest vegetation with magnificent views of the Pacific. It also has access to services for water and power, and extensive expansion possibilities for future generations of Fijians.
Meanwhile, back in the US, Carol turned her attention towards fundraising and attracting talented people who could donate their time to the Board of her newly created Educational Foundation for the Children of FijiTM, a 501(c )(3) Not-for-Profit Corporation. Phil, Carol’s husband, made the first team commitment by becoming Co-Founder, and currently also managing the position of President with Craig Holmes, Vice President. Many talented people-too many to list-provided direction, even when time commitments made it difficult for them to fill more formal positions.
All of us on the Board agree that a project is only successful if it is also beneficial to individual participants. Because Board members are scattered all over the planet, we have come to see our project as a virtual barn raising. We have faced many challenges so far, both within and outside of this project, and know there will be more to come, so we deeply appreciate the healing and supportive environment it offers all its members. We regularly sprinkle Project Bula ! with generous doses of fun, too, and our collective dream to help the Fijian children of Navovo Cuvu realize their dreams keeps our spirits up and our energy levels high.