Above: Larry Fisher of South Carolina poses with the head nurse at Kavala Bay nursing station on Kadavu island, Fiji. The supplies were donated by Baptist Hospital through California-based non-profit 501(c) (3) Loloma Foundation.
In the name of doing good, I spent hundreds of dollars to lug 50 lbs. of medical supplies seven thousand miles to Fiji, What good did I do?
Good. My visit with residents in Nacomoto village brightened their rainy afternoon.
Good. The calamine lotion in my suitcase relieved the rashes of my hostess and her two boys.
Good. The chemical-free soap I brought kept cuts and scrapes from becoming infected for a few families, for a few weeks.
Less Good. My arrival at Tiliva village school relieved the monotony of bible lessons. The $25 I contributed for gasoline to power the village generator so the kids could do their homework? Powered someone's outboard motor for a week.
Not Good.. Unless handled by a trained nurse, even a simple pain killer such as the aspirin I brought can be misused, says Linda Kwasney of Loloma Foundation. Kwasney, who for years owned a resort in Fiji, co-founded Loloma to deliver medical supplies and professional clinics to remote corners of the South Pacific.
Good. Indo-Fijians appreciated my presence at their Ramadan feast. The box of sweets I contributed? Token.
If the giving spirit moves you in Fiji, don't:
Give things that are likely to be sold.
Give money or tips. (Tipping isn't customary.)
Spend time in villages hanging out, listening and learning what's needed.
Bring small things -- pens, flip-flops, reading glasses, soap -- and give them personally.
If you're considering a NGO donation, visit the community they serve and see what they do.