Thursday, July 4, 2024


Mackay and Whitsunday Life


A group of local students have made a big difference in the lives of hundreds of young Fijian children who this week received specially created school packs containing books, pens and other educational resources they would not normally have access to.

Year 12 student and School Captain Hazel Farrell visited Fiji in person and hand-delivered the packages which had been compiled by her school friends at St Catherine’s Catholic College and partnering school, St Mary’s Catholic School in Bowen through the Catherine McAuley Society.

The group of St Catherine’s Catholic College students compiled school packs to give to Fijian students. Photo supplied

Fijian Smiles!
School Children Receive Educational Packs

Hand-delivering the lovingly created school packs to hundreds of Fijian school children was a big moment for Whitsunday local, Hazel Farrell, who had been working with her school friends on a sustainability project that was set to provide a meaningful impact to the whole community.

Visiting the remote Fijian school during one of her regular trips having been visiting the region since she was a young child, Hazel had the honour of delivering these school packs on behalf of her fellow students who she had been working on the project with. Part of a Catherine McAuley Society initiative, the students had elected to compile the handy school packs as part of the sustainability project lead by Elenore Balldock and initiated by much-loved teacher Ms Shantae Ryle.

The intention of the packs was to provide young Fijian school children with resources their families would not usually be able to afford. This in-turn would ease the financial stresses of living within the communities and enable people to lead more sustainable lives. Without needing to follow such practices as over-fishing the reef just so they could afford ‘luxuries’ such as school books.

Over 140 primary school age children were the lucky recipients of the lovingly compiled school packs and Hazel said the response she received when handing them over made her heart melt.

“It was absolutely unreal!” she expressed.  

“They were so excited and couldn’t wait to see what was in the bags! They all wanted to hold my hand and we spent time reading some of the books with them, it was a truly magical experience and one I will remember my whole life.”

The project began back in Proserpine and Bowen with a team of dedicated students selling the little packs to school friends from $5 - $15. Each student was then encouraged to write a little note to go inside their pack to connect with a fellow Fijian school student who would then receive, not only the pack, but also a new pen pal. Hazel and her friends raised over $1000 for the project and purchased excess luggage to transport the precious parcels to Fiji.

Located in the Yasawa Island Group off the Western coast off Viti Levu in Fiji, The Naviti District School is on Naviti Island, and the children come from four surrounding island villages – Muaria, Kese, Marou and Malevu – often travelling up to one and a half hours to get to school each day. They have a very basic standard of living with frequent power outages and are often at the mercy to weather systems such as cyclones, flooding and drought. Families rely heavily on the reef which can often become over-fished, and they have to manage sewerage in the communities to prevent harmful run-off reaching the reef systems.

For the past 20 years, Airlie Beach based company Reef Safari Diving, has been
been working in the Yasawa area in association with two tourist resorts; Barefoot Kuata and Barefoot Manta. The businesses have a strong commitment to reef conservation and community welfare, always looking for opportunities to help and give back.

Rob MacFarlane is the Head Marine Biologist at Reef Safari and has resided in Fiji for the past seven years. During this time, he has been collaborating regularly with the local school, each week he offers free swimming lessons to the students, teaches them about coral planting and orchestrates beach clean-ups. These initiatives offer the school children practical skills and education about conserving their precious natural environment for generations to come.

Rob delivered the school packs with Hazel and said he was blown-away by the incredible efforts the Whitsunday students had gone to.

“What Hazel and the rest of the students have done is absolutely amazing!” he said.

“It was a huge effort, and it was incredibly exciting to see how well it was received. We look forward to this being part of a much bigger partnership and want to continue on this trajectory.”

Hazel is also eager to continue this connection and looks forward to bringing more supplies back to the communities again in September. She encourages anyone in the community to get involved by donating items or money to assist with the project. All donations will go directly to benefit the Fijian communities in the form of stationary, exercise books and ‘readers’. The Whitsunday students are also currently raising money for a microscope and slides.

If you would like to get involved please email Julia Farrell from Reef Safari on

Hazel Farrell delivering the school packs to the young children in Fiji
Happy faces
The ‘school bus’ – a small boat that transports the children up to an hour and a half to school each day
Hazel said handing out the packs was a magical experience

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