Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Veilomani for the Boys

Off the Wall 21st October, 2015

My son turns eleven years old on Thursday and so we have begun to have more regular “father and son” conversations. Some are about adolescence and puberty, others about faith, growing up in a changing world and of course the ‘you’re growing up now’ conversations about self-discipline and social responsibility.

Yet there are some boys and young men who do not have that opportunity for “father and son” conversations, at least not in the conventional sense. These are boys raised by their mothers as solo parents, or by their grandparents and guardians, or by the state or care facilities.

In the past the Methodist Church in Fiji cared for orphaned or abandoned children at their orphanage in Dilkusha. However as the little boys grew to manhood, it became inappropriate for them to reside at Dilkusha, even though they were housed in a separate unit. With an increase in vulnerable young women and girls being brought to the home for care, the Church decided in 1970 to find an alternative refuge for the boys. After an exhaustive process of searching for a new location for a Boys’ Orphanage, a property was bought from the David Sharan Family of Ba. Veilomani Boys’ Home was finally established and officially opened on the 6th of November 1970. “Veilomani” taken as the i-taukei word for “Love” describing the Church’s efforts to give the much needed love for the boys.

From a small beginning of some 5 children the Home today caters for 24 children between the ages of 7 to 43. There are primary school children, secondary school children and vocational children with three senior boys. These senior boys were transferred from the Dilkusha Girls Home because of the age factor and continue live at Veilomani because of mental health issues. One of the older boys is now 38 but does not speak, the other is 38 but suffers from epilepsy and another aged 24 is mentally weak.

Like its sister institution, Dilkusha, Veilomani Boys’ Home is part of the Methodist Church in Fiji’s Department of Christian Citizenship and Social Services. It is an approved facility under the guidelines stipulated  bythe Fijian Government’s Ministry of Social Services minimum standards for all care giver institutions in Fiji.

Veilomani has been operating for more than 45 years. During these years the dedicated staff at the Home have endeavoured to provide a “home away from home” to all children. This means providing accommodation, food, clothes, daily needs, education, stationaries and other school requirements, opportunities to participate in non-formal education and spiritual and moral formation through local church activities (Church Services, Youth Fellowship, Sunday school, Bible studies, prayer fellowships etc.) sports, family get together etc. Opportunities are provided for children to create an identity for themselves by seeking, learning and developing their visions and talents; and to obtain the level of sustainability to be able to return to their own family, society, community and the nation at large.

It hasn’t been easy work. The Home situated on approximately 7 acres of land is basically a wooden building bought by the church way back in 1966. In 2012 the entire roof of the Home was blown away by cyclone T.C. Evan and it had to be rebuilt. Even with funds from the Church and from the government as well as donations and assistance received, Veilomani Home still carries a Bank Loan of $35,000.00 which it has been struggling to pay off.  This year the Home also had to come up with a $20, 00.00 premiums.
By 1985 it became abundtly clear that the children that were taken in the Home needed some form of training so that they would be able to find employment to earn a living. Thus in 1985 the Methodist Church built a small training Centre known as the Veilomani Rehabilitation Workshop. The young children were provided training in the following trade; Carpentry and Joinery, Automotive and Welding.

 Around 2005 Government also began to show interest and began to provide a small grant of around $15,000.00 per annum to assist the training programme for these young people.  BY this time children from various other homes began to show keen interest in getting trained and the Centre began to take in children as day scholars. By 2009 when the late (Rev Sarwesh Kumar Singh) took over the Superintendent ship of the Boys Home and also as the principal of the training Centre it had become very clear that there was a need for more professionalism in the training programme and provide training that could be certified and recognised and provide skills and qualification for the boys.

 After much negotiation with Government and the Church the proposal for recognition as a vocational insititute was accepted. This resulted in a change the name of the training Centre and inMarch 2012 the training Centre was renamed the “Methodist Veilomani Rehabilitation and Vocational College” and registered to become the 15th secondary school in Ba. The college now trains young people in the following trades:
a.      Carpentry and Joinery
b.     Automotive Engineering
c.      Welding and Fabrication

Apart from the following subjects that students choose to undergo training in, the students have to also undertake the following compulsory subjects – Math’s and English, Basic Computer studies, Agriculture and Bee Farming.

The Vocational College is also an inclusive special school and children with special need are also taught at the school. We have student who is deaf and dumb, young people with some physical impairment, etc. A lot of the children are slow learners or non-readers.

The greatest satisfaction for those who toil at the Home and the Rehabilitation and Vocational College is that each year some 20 young people find employment. Young men trained at Veilomani have found employment at the Gold Mines, at FSC and in many local industries in Ba.

Next Saturday, the 31st of October, is Veilomani Boys Home College “Open Day.” Held at the Home in Ba, there will be display of the work done at the College, and products, including their delicious honey, for sale. All proceed from sales and any donations received will go towards urgently needed blankets, pillows, bed sheets, kitchenware (utensils and other items) and mattresses for the boys.

If you are able to visit them for their Open Day please do. The boys will be glad to see you, even if you are just visiting. And if you are able to share your “Veilomani” with them, it will be returned in abundance.

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