Posted by Del Johnston on Apr 24, 2019

Geoffrey passed away Friday 12 April in Auckland, after an extended period of illness.

He leaves a huge legacy of helping communities in Fiji, in particular on Taveuni Island.

Geoffrey initiated the Rotary Club of Taveuni and led significant Rotary projects over many years, to improve Fiji’s health, education and housing- working extensively with the Rotary Organisation, and other partners.

His legacy will be the many lives he changed for the better. He has been an inspiration

We send our condolences to his family and his community

The following is taken from Geoff’s own recent writing.

“The Rotary Club of Taveuni Island is made up of 11 active members who represent the cultural mix of Taveuni and we do anything that benefits the health and education in rural communities.  For twelve years we have run the largest totally free South Pacific cataract surgery program.  From the time the patient leaves home and returns, irrespective of their location anywhere in the Fiji Islands, we cover all costs, providing meals, accommodation, sunglasses, post-op medication, laundry, tooth brushes etc.  My wife Joey runs Patient Services with her team of volunteers and they produce about 400 meals plus a day for four different cultures on 2 x two burner gas stoves. We own over 100 single mattresses and pillows, plus all the required bed linen for the patients and the theatre.  Our surgical equipment is worth over $500,000 and now with two new Stryker operating beds it has increased to $550,000. 

We have built and established 12 new preschools, having built three in three months on three different islands, thanks to our partners Rotary Club of Pakuranga and the Rotary Club of Geelong Central and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  With the Rotary Club of Newmarket, Auckland University of Technology, a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, Kelsi Cox from Auckland University and a number of supporting Clubs we established the Digital Learning Room. The objective was to bring E-Learning to students in rural schools so they would be prepared for employment when they completed their studies – a first.  We built a 40 bed girls dormitory at Buca Levu Secondary School - made up of 10 bedrooms, a large modern ablution block, large outdoor covered areas for sitting, resting, talking and doing their laundry.  Our small team built all the furniture, beds, cupboards, desks and vanities.  We completed a total renovation of a 50-year old plus girl's dormitory that had had no maintenance since it was constructed.  As with Buca Levu we built all the furniture for the 80 bed facility.  We have sourced over 3,500 school desks and other school furniture. When we started most primary students in rural schools sat on the floor.  We have over 55 students on fully funded scholarships.  These are students with outstanding ability from very disadvantaged circumstances. Every student has totally fulfilled their scholarship obligations and progressed to University or quality employment.  Every scholarship student was in the top 10% of their class.  Two were the school’s top students.  The support from Ian Watson and the Rotary Club of Auckland has been a considerable help and is greatly appreciated.  We pride ourselves on our branding.  Media publicity is worth a lot less today. A plaque acknowledging the volunteers, donors and Rotary will be in place for many years to come.  A copy of the plaque is sent to the participating Clubs for their records.  Each year we look for two major projects.  Very briefly we need for the rural schools solar power systems which are financially sustainable, guaranteed for 10 years, professionally installed with supporting labour and logistics from our Club and the schools.  Without solar the schools have no chance of receiving electricity.  The cost is about $12,500 per school.  We set up Lavena Primary and South Taveuni Primary and Secondary with solar systems, but both were destroyed by Cyclone Winston.

There is definite and urgent need to provide modern medical support to Fijian women between the ages of 35 and 50 years.  We have the resources and contacts to treat 100 women each year.  We have the medical team ready to train local Sisters and Nurses to run the project after training. We need $30,000 to run the project for 3 years.  This would be supported with a Global Grant and contributions from District. This is the first time we have taken on a major project focused on women.  This year we partnered with Links Fiji, " Improving Health Through Education". In the first two weeks of June our team carried out 500 plus Pap smears and other medical examinations.  Our Club also provided accommodation, transport, meals and equipment.  The costs were about $3000.  This is a very neglected area in the Fiji Health system.  We wish to continue this program and also include checks for breast cancer.  Our Club also takes on a number of other projects including bone carving with a highly skilled teacher, large water projects, school upgrades and support to the hospital.

To be a vibrant club we need inspirational projects, projects that excite and challenge, build fellowship and enthusiasm in our community and with other clubs.  We aim to achieve $50,000 of projects per member per year. We have a plan, we work our plan, we review and update our plan. We delete completed projects and add new ones.  Last and most important and pressing is the rebuild following Cyclone Winston. The cyclone came out of the blue and changed our project plans. It hit us on 20 Feb 2016. We had every Aid agency, NGO and local and overseas government on the island. Doing what? Fluoro jacket, clipboard, a plastic envelope with ID all asking the same questions, "what do you need, what do you want, what can we do".  One Head Teacher replied, "If you can't see you should not be here, deliver tarpaulins tents food and disappear".

For your information Rotary is the only organisation rebuilding teachers houses and schools. The rest have disappeared to the next disaster. Now is the tough time with little home grown food, replacement crops still being planted, little to sell, virtually no income, financial obligations to village, church and schools not fulfilled - no crops - no income. All schools except one are owned by the communities. Communities provide the houses for teachers. We have 3 teams rebuilding -  support coming from Clubs in NZ & Australia, RNZWCS & RAWCS. We have built 12 teachers houses, a school ablution block and completed a damaged computer/library room.  I would like to read a quote before I finish.  "Being a Rotarian means that if someone needs help and you can give that help. You don't turn your back. You say, I am here for you, I will do whatever I can and I know whatever I do, I know I am not doing it alone, I am doing it with Rotary serving humanity, I am doing it with all of you"