Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are all well familiar with the story of Christmas. The story of the birth of Jesus Christ, born humbly in a manger to parents of meagre means. The story of a boy who became the founder of Christianity and a symbol of peace, compassion and forgiveness around the world. But I am here today to tell you another Christmas story. A story that started right here in Fiji.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of bringing 1,000 small grants to Nausori to help spur the local economy and invest in the potential of our local small businesses. At this hand-over ceremony, we were blessed with a wonderful performance of our National Anthem by children from the Methodist Dilkusha Home. After the event, I was lucky enough to meet with many of these children, hear their stories and learn about the challenges they face on a daily basis.
During my conversation with these children, I asked what they wanted most for Christmas. One of the girls, Archana Reddy, told me that their home was in dire need of a new mini-bus to get the children where they needed to go.
She didn’t ask for shiny new clothes or toys. Instead, she asked for something to improve not only her own life, but the lives of those around her. Something every child at the Dilkusha home could use. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is the true spirit of Christmas. Archana demonstrated real compassion and concern for her fellow children–and that should be an inspiration for all of us.
And so that very day, I promised that the children would receive a new bus.
So here I am today, honouring that promise. I am handing over a new 26 seater mini-bus to the Dilkusha Girls Home that will save time and money for the children during their travels throughout Nausori and the region. This bus, worth $129,000 will replace the old bus that was no longer functioning.
While I get to be the one to deliver this bus this Christmas Eve, I again ask you to follow the example of Archana Reddy, who first and foremost thanked God for this gift. During this Christmas time, please remember to be thankful for the blessings we have all received. While we human beings are oftentimes the instruments of God’s grace, it is our Lord who is the true provider and the most deserving of our gratitude.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I’ve said before, my favourite part of my job is being able to go all around the country and see the smiling, hopeful faces of our young people — and today is no exception. I’ve heard from the children here – first-hand – how important this gift will be and it is an honour to be able to present it to you today.
I want this day to serve as an example of what we, as Fijians, can do to uplift and provide for those who are less fortunate than ourselves. These children have not had the many advantages in life that we often associate with a happy childhood. In fact, every one of them has overcome hardship and fought very hard to be where they are today. They are growing and learning despite their circumstances, and I have no doubt that they will achieve great things in their lives. I think they should be an inspiration to every Fijian. And they are not alone in their struggle. There are children all around Fiji who need our help, children who deserve every bit of happiness we can afford to give this holiday season and beyond.
I hope that all throughout Fiji, we can find it in our hearts to make sure that every child has something waiting for them this Christmas that makes them feel special and remembered. It doesn’t have to be big as a bus to make a difference in a child’s life. Sometimes it is the simplest gifts that can have the most profound impact — as it is the act of giving that is most important.
The true definition of kindness is giving without any expectation for yourself. And when you give a gift to a child, you are doing exactly that. And today, all I ask in return from the children at the Dilkusha Home is that you care for this new bus and use it to further your education and enrich your lives.
As Christians and as Fijians, this is the time of the year where we can reflect on all that we have been blessed with in our lives and share those blessings as widely as possible. To those of us who have been blessed with success in the workplace, I hope you will spend this season giving back what you can.
Christmas is a time for family, and I would like to take this opportunity to address a problem that is tearing families apart in our country. I am currently on a campaign to raise awareness of the plight of domestic violence and sexual assault that exists in Fiji. I am calling on our society to shame those who even think about abusing women and children, as such acts are deplorable and beneath a society that calls itself civilized. It is especially important to me as I look upon this group of beautiful young girls and boys. They deserve a future that is free from fear and violence. They deserve the right to make their own choices and control their destinies as they grow into adulthood. They deserve to live in a land that upholds the dignity that God gave them at birth. During this Christmas season especially, let’s come together as a people to eradicate the epidemic of domestic violence and sexual assault that pervades our culture. Enough is enough. And I hope you will all join me in condemning these acts whenever they surface.
Our society and our democracy work best when we care and shelter our most vulnerable Fijians. We need to spread and teach the values of compassion and kindness and the best way to do that is be living out these values in our own lives. When we care for our children, we ensure that the next generation of Fijians understands those values, for they will have experienced it themselves. And we promise Fiji an even brighter future.
So I will hope you will join me in giving to others this Christmas. Whether it be through gifts or through service to your fellow man and woman. Find the time to set an example to your communities on how to live life as Christ lived his.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas.
Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you.