Temalesi Tauga, 42, just wanted tamarind so she could kickstart a little business of her own to support her five children and 72-year-old mother.

Now she has an almost new stove, a full cylinder of gas and soon she will get ingredients to start a baking business.

Her plea for help on a social media page, designed to encourage barter system, brought forth the acts of kindness Fijians are known for.

Tauga is not alone. The Barter for Better Fiji page on Facebook has seen many people being assisted. Above anything, it has shown how people have come together during a pandemic.

Tauga is a single mother and lives in a 4m x 2m shack in a suburb of Fiji’s capital, Suva.

The tin, wood and other materials used to build her home have been sourced from the area: discarded imaterials make up some part of her home.

Tauga works as a house-help. But since the Covid-19 pandemic struck, there are not many opportunities.

"Imagine my surprise when people started helping me. I was given groceries, one person gave me empty bottles for my tamarind chutney, but above all, I have been given a chance to help my children," she said.

Mafi Mataika was going through the Barter for Better Fiji page when he came across Tauga’s request.

"I had an old oven and I decided to give it to her. Some others had a gas cylinder, so I picked it up and delivered it to her. We will be going back to her with baking ingredients and some more items," he said.

Mataika said an anonymous donor gave money for groceries for the single mum.

Tauga said she was grateful to God and all those who had helped.

But this is just one heartwarming example that the Barter for Better Fiji page has illustrated.

Others gained too

In Nadi, the hub of what was once a thriving tourism industry in the western part of Fiji, Len Yusuf sold cakes and pastries despite the effects of Covid-19.

She was looking for an empty gas cylinder. She posted her request on the Barter page. Soon enough, she got get two empty gas cylinders, a few fish and coconuts.

Former resort worker Teresa Naivaluvou offered to trade in her textbooks from the University of the South Pacific for a tin of infant formula and two packs of diapers. She was desperate.

Mereseini Baleilevuk, the chief executive officer of Free Bird Institute, Fiji’s biggest language school, established contact and arrived at her home with baby stuff.

But Baleilevuk did not take the textbooks in exchange: she simply saw a need and wanted to help.

The founder

The Barter for Better Fiji Facebook page was set up by Marlene Dutta with the aim of helping people who face financial constraints into getting by with barter transactions. It was a natural solution as money became tight and hard to come by.

"In the spirit of the 'giving' nature of members on this page, we ask that if you are asking for donations or you are looking to help people in dire need, you offer something in return to ensure that the rules of barter apply," says Dutta.

"If a person offers to donate something for nothing in return, that is awesome, but we must be true to our purpose," Dutta said.

This article was published by Fiji Sun on April 30, 2020.

  • Out of the depths of despair from the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping the globe, acts of courage, resilience, kindness and selflessness emerged across Fiji.
  • By harnessing modern technology to connect people, the Facebook page was startedon April 21.
  • Today, it has 190,000 members: that's more than a fifth of Fiji’s population.
  • Items being bartered include goats, mobile phones, taxi service, pot plants for building materials, but the most commonly requested items have been groceries and food.
  • In July, the government confirmed that at least 150,000 Fijians have lost their jobs or have had their hours reduced as a result of the pandemic. But in the midst of it all – hope came to the fore. This was the spirit that the captured. After the front-page story by Shalveen Chand was published, the showcased many more Fijians who went out of their way to assist one another. The series, which continues to this day, is titled ‘Amazing Fijians’.