Meredith Strengthens Communities Throughout Vava'u
Meredith Tufunga, a newly-trained Medic from the island village of Olo’ua, impressed the Floating Foundation medical team with her enthusiasm and drive to strengthen both her island community and the Vava’u island group at large.
Before even having graduated from high school, Meredith’s interest in science led to her being hired by an amazing local NGO called the Vava’u Environmental Protection Association to develop educational programs for schools and communities to learn about the environment and how to protect it. Through VEPA, Meredith worked on a project supported by the WAIT foundation called Vava’u Ocean Initiative. She focused on conservation, ocean and reef health, and the prevention of soil erosion. A few weeks ago, Meredith returned to Olo’ua to focus on her own plastics recycling initiative which gives discarded plastic a second use in the form of saleable accessories and decorative items.
During the closing ceremony hosted by our Ofu and Olo’ua Medics, Meredith bravely stood before the Floating Foundation crew and fought back tears while telling the story of her Father having suffered two strokes. Last September, she explained, her Dad fainted suddenly. Her Mother had been away on that day, leaving only she and her sister to react. Meredith sat in shock for nearly an hour, terrified; her sister struggled to get their father to respond while looking after her four children. When Meredith calmed herself down, she recognized a worrisome pain in her father’s eyes and insisted that she and her cousins bring him to the hospital an hour away. The hospital staff told them they were lucky – had he arrived much later, the outcome may have been far worse. He was released two days later, but suffered a second stroke upon departure and slipped into a 12-hour coma.
These days were some of the scariest of Meredith’s life. Now, she says, she feels ready to respond to medical emergencies. She’s excited to be able to care for the members of her community, and couldn’t be more grateful for the knowledge and supplies that she and the other trained medics were given. Meredith's story moved Floating Foundation volunteer Barwin to tears - the 51-year-old dentist from Sydney, Australia, had been in charge of the teaching the Foundation's stroke module during village training.
Meredith organized a beach cleanup in Ofu village the following afternoon to promote overall community health. We couldn’t be prouder of Meredith and are happy to welcome her to the Floating Foundation crew!