This story was originally published by the Fiji Sun on April 30, 2020.
Temalesi Tauga, 42, just wanted tamarind so she could kickstart a little business of her own to support her five children and 72-year-old mother.
Now she has an almost new stove, a full cylinder of gas and later this week, she will get ingredients to start a baking business.
Her plea for help on a social media page designed to encourage barter system, showed the acts of kindness Fijians are known for.
Ms Tauga is not alone, the Barter for Better Fiji page on Facebook has seen many people assisted. Above anything, it has shown how people have come together during a pandemic which has not spared the greatest superpowers.
Ms Tauga is a single mother and lives in a four by two metres shack at Kalekana in Lami, a suburb in Fiji’s capital, Suva.
The tin, wood and other materials used to build her home have been sourced from the area – discarded imaterials make up some part of her home.
Ms Tauga works as a house-girl. But since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, there are not many opportunities.
“You can imagine my surprise when people started helping me. I was given groceries, one person gave me empty bottles for my tamarind chutney, but above all, I have been given a chance to help my children,” she said.
Mafi Mataika was going through Barter for Better Fiji when he came across Ms Tauga’s request.
“I had an old oven and I decided to give it to her. Mr and Mrs Khan from Khalsa Road had a gas cylinder, so I picked it up and delivered it to her. We will be going back to her with baking ingredients and some more items,” he said.
Mr Mataika said an anonymous donor gave money for groceries for the single mum.
Ms Tauga said she was grateful to God and all those who had helped.
But, this is just one heartwarming example that the Barter for Better Fiji Facebook page has created.
In Nadi, the hub of what was once a thriving tourism industry in the Western part of Fiji, Len Yusuf from sold cakes and pastries despite the effects from COVID-19.
On Tuesday, she was looking for an empty gas cylinder. She posted her request on the Barter page. Little did she know that she would get two empty gas cylinders, a few fish and coconuts.
She was surprised to see Alice Fong who travelled for more than one and a half hours from Ba to visit her.
On Monday she managed to exchange her chocolate and custard pies with Mere Namalualevu for more fresh fish, coconuts and a brand new pair of shoes.
Former resort worker, Teresa Naivaluvou, traded in her University of the South Pacific textbooks for a tin of infant formula and two packs of diapers.
She was desperate.
The chief executive officer of Fiji’s biggest language school, FreeBird Institute made contact and arrived at her home with baby stuff.
Mereseini Baleilevuka did not take the textbooks.
She simply saw a need and wanted to help.
The Barter for Better Fiji Facebook page was set up by Marlene Dutta. Ms Dutta is no stranger to business in Fiji.
The page aimed to help people who faced financial constraints to barter. It was a natural solution as money became tight and hard to come by.
“In the spirit of the giving nature of members on this page – we ask that if you are asking for donations or to help people in dire need, to also offer something/anything in return to ensure that the rules of barter apply.
“If commenter’s offer to donate for nothing in return, that is awesome – but we must be true to our purpose. We ask for your understanding in this,” Ms Dutta said.
BEHIND THE STORY:
Out of the depths of despair from the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe, acts of courage, resilience, kindness and selflessness emerged across Fiji.
By harnessing modern technology to connect people, the Barter for Better Fiji Facebook page started on April 21, 2020.
Today its membership is over 190,000 – more than 20 percent of Fiji’s population.
Items being bartered include goats, mobile phones, taxi service, pot plants for building materials, – but the most commonly requested items have been groceries and food.
In July, Government confirmed that at least 150,000 Fijians have lost their jobs or have had their hours reduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But in the midst of it all – hope came to the fore.
This was the spirit the Fiji Sun captured.
After the front-page story by Shalveen Chand was published, the Fiji Sun editorial team decided that we would highlight Fijians who went above and beyond to assist another.
The series which continues today is aptly titled: Amazing Fijians.