FIJI, Tokou Village, Ovalau Island, Lomaiviti Group - May 2009
Construction of a community hall in exchange for the establishment of a 365-acre marine reserve for a duration of 15 years
Tokou is a beachside village located approximately three miles from the old Fijian capital, Levuka, on the island of Ovalau. The population of the village is approximately 700. Levuka has tentative status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Tokou is on the southern border of this UNESCO site. Seacology will fund the construction of a much needed community center in exchange for the establishment of a 365-acre marine reserve for a duration of 10 years. The community center would host cultural and social events, and would provide a place for village women to produce handicrafts and organize fundraising activities for the village. Tourist ships are due to begin visiting Levuka in May 2009, and Tokou, which is on visitor itineraries, will greatly benefit from having a venue to host guests.
UPDATE December 2009 - Field representative Harry Powell met with the representative from Tokou in August 2009. He expressed his and the draftsman's concerns regarding the current building specifications. Agreements were made to use concrete and steel rather than pine poles and to reduce the number of doors. The draftsman will draw up the new plans, although even with the modifications the budget is now expected to be more than Seacology's grant will cover. The Tokou representative assured Harry that the village will raise these additional funds themselves. Construction began in October of 2009. As of December 2009 Harry reports that the village representative is attempting to get assistance with freight costs to ship all the materials to Tokou. This is causing delays in getting the project underway.
UPDATE April 2010 - As of March 2010 Harry reports that Tokou is intent on maintaining the size of the hall and will fundraise on a monthly basis to raise the balance of funds. Building materials arrived at Tokou in late March. As of April 2010 construction is proceeding on the foundation of the hall, with photos provided.
UPDATE June 2010 - As of June 2010 the village representative reports that their target of fundraising between FJ$2,000 to FJ$2,500 a month is being achieved. The Powells report that the foundation is now almost complete.
UPDATE September 2010 - As of September 2010 field representatives Harry & Jackie Powell report that the community hall foundation has been completed, however work is at a standstill because village fundraising has not met expectations. The village committee has decided to borrow FJ$30,000 which they estimate is the amount required for the roofing material, freight costs and carpenter’s wages. The building material which Seacology supplied will complete the walls and roof supports (beams, rafters etc.), all the plumbing works, and the electrical, but not the roofing iron and brackets. The committee has decided to secure the loan first, buy the roofing iron material and then continue construction as they are concerned about the possible exposure of the steel beams and brackets to the volatile sea air.
UPDATE December 2011- The Community Hall is almost complete. Some minor finishing work will flow over to January as the carpenters and helpers are taking a Christmas break from December 15 through early January. The official opening is scheduled for January 21, 2012 and will be attended by Seacology Field Representatives Jackie and Harry Powell, Board Member Peter Read and Development Director Aaron Rashba.