One hundred and fifty women, men and youths in the Western Division were awarded Certificates in Community Development from the University of the South Pacific Lautoka Campus on Monday, 17th October 2011.
The certificates were presented upon the completion of six months of Social and Economic Empowerment Training conducted by Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises & Development (FRIEND) as a result of which more than 150 backyard gardens, 100 composts and around 70 income generation programs supporting livelihoods have been established in six rural communities over that period.
Held at the Sugar Cane Growers Council Hall in Lautoka on the 17th October, the Graduation Ceremony commemorates the International Day for Eradication of Poverty; the event also marks FRIEND’s efforts in alleviating poverty with a holistic model.
In a very inspiring opening speech, USP’s Dean for Faculty of Art, Law and Education Dr Akanisi Kedrayate commended FRIEND and USP Lautoka Campus for their efforts and commitment towards community development. She also congratulated the graduates from the rural communities on their achievement and urged them to continue to make good use of the skills and lessons they were taught in the course of training if they were to enjoy the benefits of their hard work in the long run.
In yet another motivating speech, Team Leader of the Program Management Unit of the European Union funded Social Mitigation Support Programme 2010, Andrew Winter-Taylor told the graduates that the wonderful opportunity that they had been given, to take part in the FRIEND Governance programme, should not be wasted.
“Now you must turn your learning into ACTION,” he told them.
Mr Winter-Taylor who was the keynote speaker at the event, told the graduates to step out of their comfort zones, shake off the fear of failure and do not allow procrastination to delay them acting, rather adopt the Nike concept “Just Do It”.
While addressing the graduates, Dr Devi said that after the certification both USP and FRIEND’s concern was to sustain the training. She said USP will monitor and evaluate the program for the initial three years.
Dr Devi said she was pleased to observe the huge impact of this training in the rural communities such as the increase in ground-level and hanging gardens, difference noted in waste management and other positive changes.
She said the training manual is holistic based on the Pacific.
Dr Devi is currently conducting an academic research to examine the impact of the training manual and this will continue for a three year period.
The Social and Economic Empowerment Training Guide manual for Pacific Communities was developed by FRIEND and launched jointly by USP Lautoka Campus in March 2010. Since then FRIEND has been using the training guide to train participants in a number of communities.
USP Lautoka campus joined FRIEND not only to launch the training guide but also to evaluate the program and assess the work done in the communities.
In his welcome address, USP Lautoka Campus Manager Continuing and Community Education (CCE) Hasmukh Lal said the Campus valued its commitment and partnership collaboration in this initiative as part of its CCE program. He said the Campus was also proud to be associated with this Social and Economic Empowerment Training as it directly addressed poverty eradication.
As part of this training, community members have set up back yard gardens, income generation programs, composts and disaster management committees as they learnt about active citizenship, good governance, financial literacy, starting up income generation programs, healthy living and backyard gardens as well as disaster management. The communities participating in Governance Training this year include Natalecake Village, Vakabuli Village, Vakabuli/Paipai Settlement, Ba Senior Centre, Qalitu Settlement and Neimasi/Bila.
FRIEND Director/Founder Sashi Kiran warmly thanked the families for enabling the participants to be a part of the training programme. She said her primary concern was on poverty and the need for sustainability.
She said a key area of focus was on food security in the country and through this training, FRIEND hoped to see more vegetable and crop farming in people’s backyards thus change their diet from the processed and junk food to include freshly grown produce in their daily meals. She said the results were quite impressive so far but pointed out that still a lot more could be done and achieved.
To motivate the participants and with an endeavor to build a better society, FRIEND runs an Annual Competition of Healthy Garden. Some of these prizes were presented during the graduation ceremony to community members with ‘Aspiring Gardens’ and the ‘Most Outstanding Gardens’. The prizes were watering hoses and other garden tools to help in the backyard farming.