Reporting from the North ... Labasa team, Salaseini Moceiwai, left, Kritesh Prasad, Luke Rawalai and Serafina Silaitoga. Picture:Vinod Chand
FIJI Times, can you please come and take the report here? We have a big problem. The bridge is bad and our children have to swim across to get to school."
The above public cries are among the many reports that The Fiji Times North Bureau office in Labasa receives on a daily basis.
The North Bureau is a vital part of The Fiji Times family reaching out to about a population of 130,000 people on Vanua Levu.
The office packs a seven-man team that includes reporters, finance staff, a driver and a cleaner. The team maintains operations in the daily gathering of news, sports and continues to tell the untold stories of Vanua Levu, formerly known as Sandalwood Island — and beyond to Taveuni.
Gathering stories come with everyday challenges. Sometimes results of these public cries bring proud moments after publication of articles but there are other times when you feel there is still more to do to satisfy the needs of concerned readers.
There have been other challenging times when the problems persist with no action taken by authorities.
Being a reporter in the north is not a job for the faint-heated. Mobile phones keep reporters in touch with their surroundings —off duty.
We get phone calls in the wee hours of the mornings from people who report accidents and crimes. Some just drop by to pick us up even from our homes to cover a social event.
Reporting in the North is not easy and involves long hours of travelling but that is, what I must say, the sweet part of being a journalist for The Fiji Times on the beautiful island of Vanua Levu.
Looking back over the years since being transferred to Labasa in 2006, we have built a small but influential news team. I also acknowledge the contribution of those who have been part of the team since this office opened.
Their efforts and what we continue to do today have been greatly recognised by our readers in the North.
And this is evident in the amount of requests we continue to receive from not only people in Labasa or Savusavu but from villagers in the upper end of Udu Point to the well-known yasi area of Bua and across to Cakaudrove including Taveuni and surrounding islands.
So travelling three to six hours or even a whole day to visit these affected people has become a normal routine for our team. It's just another assignment to cover. One common phrase people use when they ask for Fiji Times coverage is "We are tired of asking this department and that company and organisation but nothing has been done". Some stories published over the years in The Fiji Times about the plight of people in the North have resulted in single mothers being assisted with new homes, students being put back into schools, bridges repaired, the sickly get better opportunities of medical treatment overseas, the disabled get new wheelchairs and crutches or other kinds of assistance.
And I take my hat off to our readers who have responded to these plights from around the country and the world as far as England, Rome, the Middle East, America, India, Australia and New Zealand.
Your assistance has definitely made a difference in the lives of those who we work with in the North. And to all those who have worked closely with our team on Vanua Levu, providing us with information and raising interesting issues — Vina'a va'alevu.
Introducing Peceli and Wendy. Babasiga (pronounced bambasinga) is the dry land of Macuata in northern Fiji - our place in the sun in Fiji. The town is Labasa and our village is Vatuadova and the beach is Nukutatava. We are part of Wailevu Fijian tribe with relatives in Mali Island and Naseakula village. Peceli was born in Labasa and Wendy is an Australian and today live in Geelong, Australia.