Bula Vinaka Ovalau

A Message from SPBD Fiji General Manager, Elrico Munoz

In 2015, when SPBD Fiji was barely five years old, we visited Levuka and went around the island with one of the SPBD members – Mrs. Taraivina – who has her roots in Ovalau island. She wanted to share with the Ovalau ladies the different ways SPBD has improved the lives of the ladies in Viti Levu.

Five villages welcomed us with open hearts – Lovoni, Bureta, Rukuruku, Natokalau and Tokou. We started organising them into centres and provided them financial education and loans to start their small businesses.

It was a good start but unfortunately the following year TC Winston wrought havoc to the whole island and a lot of families were left homeless, their budding business gone with the strong winds. SPBD immediately made a rapid survey to assess the extent of the damage and planned how we can help the families get back to their feet. With the help of some donor agencies, SPBD conducted its own relief work and even provided some tools to target villages so they can use these to rebuild their homes and for sources of income. The goodwill that we created amongst the people of Ovalau was reciprocated well by the ladies we organised. They continued to repay their loans and encouraged more ladies to join the programme.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, SPBD was already able to organise seven centres in Ovalau island and even organised three more centres in the neighbouring island of Moturiki. The increasing number of SPBD members in the two islands encouraged us to establish a permanent presence in Levuka. However, this was put on hold because of the difficulties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now that Fiji’s economy has opened up again, we are honouring this commitment as we officially opened the SBPD Levuka Branch Office – the 8th branch of SPBD Fiji – on 25 March 2022. The office will be serving the SPBD members in Ovalau and Moturiki islands for the full week, as we shall continue visiting the villages every week.

We will continue providing financial education, leadership development and financial services in the form of savings and loans to the women of these two islands. We will continue to support the businesses, home improvement and children’s education to our unsecured loans.

In addition to this, we shall be designing a loan programme for the women factory workers of PAFCO in cooperation with the PAFCO management.

As of now, we have 171 members in the two islands being served by SPBD. With the office established in Levuka we are looking forward to increasing our outreach to 600 ladies by the end of this year. We have earmarked at least $900,000 loans to be disbursed from this office for this year alone.

The success of the SPBD programme in Fiji for the last ten years is greatly attributed to the trust and close relationship we have built with our members, the hard work of the staff and the ongoing partnerships with other organisations which share the same vision of SPBD in empowering women.

SPBD Fiji is greatly thankful to the Rotary Club of Suva, Rotary Club of Downtown Auckland and Rotary International for providing the seed funding for the Ovalau loan portfolio. We are also thankful to Kiva Microfunds of USA and Good Return of Australia for featuring the stories of these ladies on their website, so we are able to generate more funds for lending to more members in Ovalau and Moturiki.

It is our vision that in the years to come, SPBD Fiji, through its Levuka office, will be a major contributor to the upliftment of the standards of living of the people of Ovalau and Moturiki.

Vinaka Vakalevu!

SPBD’s Ovalau Branch Open for Business

South Pacific Business Development (SPBD) Fiji has opened its eighth branch in the old capital, Levuka.

Although it has been serving members on Ovalau since 2020 (with seed funding from the Rotary Club of Suva, the Rotary Club of Downtown Auckland, Rotary Club of Auckland and Rotary International) SPBD had to wait patiently to open its office there due to COVID-19.

Although it has been serving members on Ovalau since 2020 (with seed funding from the Rotary Club of Suva, the Rotary Club of Downtown Auckland, Rotary Club of Auckland and Rotary International) SPBD had to wait patiently to open its office there due to COVID-19.

General Manager Elrico Munoz, hopes in 2022, SPBD will work with 600 women on Ovalau and Moturiki, to disperse $900,000 in loans.

SPBD Board Director, Lorraine Seeto told guests at the opening, “Please consider this your office as well.” The new office is well equipped, with a training room and tea area, and is a short walk from the very centre of town.

SPBD Board Director, Lorraine Seeto told guests at the opening, “Please consider this your office as well.” The new office is well equipped, with a training room and tea area, and is a short walk from the very centre of town.

The acting director iTaukei Affairs Board, Mosese Nakoroi, was chief guest at the opening, which also featured a shared meal and beautiful renditions of Ovalau’s most famous songs from the SPBD members present.

Nakoroi told guests, “Several studies reveal that by having access to some form of financial services, women become more confident and more independent.

“They are receiving the recognition that they deserve in their families, their communities and villages,” he continued before cutting the ribbon to officially declare SPBD’s Levuka branch open for business.

Launching the SPBD Magazine

During the opening of SPBD’s Levuka branch, SPBD Board Director Lorraine Seeto launched the 2020 SPBD Magazine. “The magazine in partnership with Islands Business captures our journey for the last 10 years. It has taken us awhile to come to this stage as we had the third wave of COVID-19, lockdown and had to spend a lot of time looking through our archives for photos. This magazine is mainly in pictorial format. A picture tells a thousand stories and is worth a thousand words. That is the message from the magazine.

“We hope that we captured the essence of our journey in Fiji. We acknowledge our relationship with our sister organisations in Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The magazine also covers an impact study of SPBD’s operations in the Pacific and acknowledges our 2020 SPBD Businesswomen of the Year winners and finalists in the different categories.

“We thank our generous sponsors – Courts, Vinod Patel and Home & Living, Fiji Development Bank, Reserve Bank of Fiji, Bank of South Pacific, Westpac and Fiji Water – they made the project possible, and we look forward to furthering our collaboration.”

The magazine can be accessed online at www.islandsbusiness.com.

Voices from Ovalau: Meet Some of SPBD’S Ovalau and Moturiki Members

Lusiana from Buca village has been an SPBD member for two years. She sells suki (tobacco) and mobile phone recharge cards, and kava which she buys from her son.

Lusiana says her SPBD membership has helped her family, and that she has learnt a lot about saving in particular. She says while this was a bit difficult at the start, she now knows how to use her money properly and wisely. “We have to be very patient,” Lusiana advises. “Join SPBD because it’s good, it helped us a lot in business and management.”

Tinai is from Dawasamu, Tailevu and is married into Rukuruku, where she is Centre Chief. She joined SPBD “to support my family,” initially taking a loan of $3,000. During her time with SPBD, Tinai has bought kitchen equipment and school bags for her children. “Having a SPBD branch in Levuka will make it very easy for us. I thank SPBD for allowing this to happen.” Tinai has big ambitions for herself and her family. “I would like my children to complete their education, build a big house, and show the village how SPBD has supported me. My family supports me very well [in running the business].”

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Lavinia Fane was born and brought up in Ovalau. She has six grown-up children and has been with SPBD for two years. “I’m very thankful and I’m honoured to be part of this organisation because I’m slowly progressing in my business. Before, I used to sell from my kitchen, but the very first year I joined, I took the loan. And one of the reasons why I’m happy about the organisation is, I don’t have to run around like with the banks.” Lavinia says she has been able to build a wooden canteen with her SPBD loan, and with the money left over, bought groceries to stock the store. She’s now repaying that loan. “I’m going slowly, and I’m planning to ask for another loan to put more stock in my canteen, so that it can boost my business.” She says her biggest lesson has been not to be afraid of loans or asking for money. “The main thing I have to bear in mind, when you loan, you put it where it’s supposed to go.”

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Kesa from Gau, but living on Ovalau, makes her living by farming cabbage, tomatoes, eggplant and other produce, which she then sells in Levuka town. She was formerly the caretaker at Rukuruku resort. “Being part of SPBD is changing my life a lot. I took a loan to build my house, extend my house and we buy goods. I’m very happy. [I bought] my oven, washing machine, and a lot of things I got with SPBD.” Kesa is pleased she will no longer need to travel to Nausori and Suva on SPBD business. “If we want to discuss something or know something, we can just take it to the branch in Levuka. I think it will be helpful and convenient.” She is keen to build a roadside shed so she can sell mats and voivoi, as well as vegetables, to passers-by.

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Kelera buys raw kava, dries it and sells it in Levuka town. “I’ve been with SPBD… maybe 8 years,” she says. “This is my eighth loan. I use it to buy kava.” Kelera says joining SPBD has opened up many opportunities. “I started refurbishing my home, even my children’s education and my business has [improved] from one level to another. I used to run my business with $500 but with the SPBD loan, I receive thousands to improve my business.”

Her advice to women? “Don’t give up their hopes and keep trying. One day, you will reach what you have dreamed of. Sometimes, we face a lot of troubles, but we need to keep our hopes up because we are women. One day, you will achieve your goal if you’re true to it.”

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Ema from Nairai village has been with SPBD for three years. She sells grog (kava), and cakes and pies she bakes, mainly to fellow villagers. “SPBD has been helping me with repaying my loans, and also assist in supporting my school children with stationery, and whatever else they need for school.

“Our home was damaged by Cyclone Winston. We had to buy the lino, cement and for me, it was a really big help. I really appreciate joining SPBD because they have helped me a lot to look after my family.”

She advises other SPBD members, or those thinking of joining, to involve the whole family. “You need support from your family especially from your husband and children so that they can help you in repaying your loan because the benefit of the loan is for the entire family. It’s not only for us, the women. It’s for everybody in the family. It’s good to ask for help and support from your husband and your family members to support you in whatever you do.”

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