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Support for community projects

Felix Chaudhary
Thursday, November 09, 2017

OUTRIGGER Fiji Beach Resort has a number of unique and innovative community programs which the property is directly involved in.

But one project that resort general manager Peter Hopgood holds dear to his heart is the annual visit by Benevolent Missions International.

For the past 17 years, Judy Browman has led a team of eye specialists from the hustle and bustle of the United States to Fiji.

Initially the team worked out of the Lautoka Hospital.

However, for the past five years, the BMI team has operated out of the Sigatoka Hospital and its visit has been made possible thanks to the kind generosity of Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort.

"We don't do much," said Mr Hopgood.

"We just provide accommodation and meals and we really take out hats off to them because unlike Australia and New Zealand where people have four weeks of holidays, the US has two.

"And this team of professionals make a decision to come here every year and spend seven out of their 14 vacation days doing work in the local community for free.

"As far as we are concerned, they are the real champions."

The team comes for one primary reason — to provide the people in the most impoverished of rural communities a chance to receive the best eye treatment possible.

"We use our vacation days in Fiji giving back to the local community by conducting free clinics, providing free medication and prescription glasses and performing free surgeries for those with cataracts and other more serious issues," Ms Browman said.

"We see anywhere up to 700 patients in the seven days we spend in Fiji on each trip.

"We have two great doctors, two cataract surgeons and 15 good support staff.

"We are all very excited, everybody pays their own way to come here and it's not cheap from the United States, but they come with the intent to offer help to the Fijian people.

"It's a memorable experience and that is the reason I have done it all these years.

"Some of us don't always have the opportunity in the US to do a big project like this and impact so many people.

"And this is a great experience."

Ms Bowman said BMI's success was largely because of the support the team received from the Sigatoka Hospital, Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort and also from two people in particular.

"Marica Ratubuli, who is the only eye specialist nurse in Sigatoka, and Sunil Ram, who is our driver and translator during our visits, make our work so much easier.

"Without their support we would not be able to do what we do."

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