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Dorset Couple Track Down Long Lost Friend and Build Schools in Fiji

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Published at 7:36am 20th November 2013.

A charity set up by a couple in Cattistock to help Children in Fiji has now raised a staggering half a million pounds.

Peter and Margaret Long started fundraising 13 years ago.

Since then, they and their helpers have been holding everything from coffee mornings to marathons to raise money for the island's disadvantaged young people.

The charity's origin began when Margaret met a Fijian back in the late 1960s who had come over to the UK to study. They became friends and when she went back to Fiji, Margaret wrote to her. However 20 years went by when they lost communication. Margaret and Peter tried to resume communication and got in touch with the Fiji High Commission in London to try and track down the person.

"Amazingly they came back with a phone number so we rang her and she was in Fiji." Peter told us.

They caught up on the missed 20 years and during the conversation it came up that she helped at a children's home.

"She said 'why don't you come out and help?' So we went out there and helped for about 6 or 7 weeks and came back and did some fundraising for those children."

At this time Peter and Margaret thought that was it, that was their one trip to Fiji. But the fundraising went so well that they thought they could do more than just help those children and that they could help children all over Fiji, so they set up the charity.

As part of their on-going programme Children of Fiji have opened six kindergartens. The first five called 'Sunny Smiles' and the sixth called 'Sweet Smiles' after Tate and Lyle helped part fund it. The charity also has two more kindergartens planned including one for deaf children. Apart from that they provide basic items for schools and kindergartens, such as relevant reading and reference material, stationery, games and equipment and have built bridges and supplied boats.

"We supply boats to help children get to school safely as this is a big problem in Fiji. Children have to walk miles to get to school and sometimes have to cross dangerous rivers." Margaret said. "One occasion we went to a school and the children there had to swim across a bay to reach the school having walked across the mountains."

Only about a third of schools in Fiji have adequate fresh water and sanitation facilities and Children of Fiji have also done lots of sanitation and fresh water projects at different schools to help.

In terms of fundraising the charity organises many events both small scale, such as coffee mornings, and large scale, such as marathons. They also apply to trusts for financial support and other big organisations. They also receive lots of individual donations that they get from doing talks to schools and church groups.

Peter told us about another fundraising idea they do: "We write quizzes. We've got a quiz at the moment. They're only £1 a copy and they're always a good way of raising money."
For more information about the charity visit the website www.childrenoffiji.co.uk

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