Life has been made easier for the villagers of Vunikawakawa in the outskirts of Labasa town after the Prime Minister Honourable Sitiveni Rabuka commissioned the new $4 million modular bridge in the area this afternoon.
Described as a blessing, the much-needed bridge will now provide reliable transportation access and more socio-economic opportunities for about 200 people.
Previously, villagers had depended on bamboo rafts and had to wade through floodwaters during bad weather sometimes in order to get to work, run errands in town or attend school for their children, among other places.
But now, it has all ended.
Prime Minister Rabuka, in his address to the villagers, acknowledged their perseverance and resilience over the years.
Speaking in the Fijian language, Prime Minister shared how the village proved to have stood the test of time, given its challenging geographical location.
He said he was touched by how the villagers continued on with their daily lives, even though their access to socio-economic opportunities and other businesses was difficult.
PM Rabuka highlighted that the daily struggles of the villagers in the past has now turned into a “beautiful story” that will continue to motivate many.
A small village with beautiful concrete and well-structured houses, the Prime Minister said he was very happy, at the same time, humbled to have witnessed how Vunikawakawa continued to exemplify a “home that encourages community teamwork, love and respect for one another and hard work”.
Now that the bridge has allowed ease of movement, he urged the young children in the village and nearby areas to learn from their elders about being independent and self-reliant.
The Prime Minister also assured the villagers that government will work with relevant stakeholders and other parties concerned to expedite the improvement of the road that connects the village to the bridge.
Vunikawakawa village head Mr Petero Namoce said the new bridge is certainly a blessing for them.
“There have been times when we had to brave flood waters to take our children across the river using big pots or carry sick villagers across on makeshift bamboo rafts, and sometimes these rafts capsized,” he said.
“It will now also be easier for cane farmers in this area to transport their cane to the mill. The communities here are mainly made up of farmers and with this bridge in place, it will certainly change the narrative of our daily life stories.”
“Vinaka vakalevu to the government for helping us.”
After the formalities, a talanoa session was held where all issues and concerns ranging from roads to water supply, as well as sugarcane delivery were raised directly with the Prime Minister.