“Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises & Development was set up to create opportunities for people to step out of poverty, in a country where poverty is not acknowledged." Sashi Kiran, Founder and Director of FRIEND.
Founder, Sashi Kiran says as a development worker traveling around the country she used to feel anguished at the wasting away of valuable resources, while communities lamented that they were poor and were facing difficulties in putting decent food on their tables, sending their children to school or being able to access timely health services for the lack of money.
These people were struggling to make a living in difficult circumstances, unable to utilize their available knowledge and skills for supplementing their family incomes and improving their quality of life.
She believed that there was no shortage of resources and skills in the country. What was lacking was access to information, opportunities and the reach of the market.
In 2001 FRIEND was born - an organization aiming to work with the rural and the under-served communities to move them towards social and economic empowerment. With the idea of a taking a step at a time, work began in the western part of Fiji, a region recorded with the highest per capita poverty level in the country.
The first office opened in 2002 in Lautoka and that same year a save scheme was initiated in 10 communities in Ba. Meanwhile, a partnership was developed with the Senior Citizens Centre for the start up of an income generation project, tamarind chutney. The chutney was officially launched on International Women’s Day the following year along with Chilli Chutney, created to help fund FRIEND’s projects. The products are both still available and sold under the Friend’s Fiji Style® brand, forming part of the Developing Enterprises for Sustainable Income (DESI) project.
2004 saw the establishment of a handmade card project with deaf youths involved. This project emerged from Governance training which the team had begun taking into communities earlier that same year. The food product line also flourished as Sweet Mango Chutney, Mango Pickle and Mustard Pickle were all made by different groups of women in the kitchen.
The following year His Royal Highness Prince Charles visited FRIEND, which quickly drew a lot of attention to this growing NGO. Following the visit, the British High Commission funded the buying of a fruit dryer for FRIEND.
From this point on, larger amounts of funding started to come in from sources such as AusAid and NZAid and FRIEND also started to receive international awards including the UN Habitat award for good practice for IGP products and the CIVICUS Nelson Mandela Graca Machel award for Youth Employment Network. The establishment of a shop allowed FRIEND to expand its range of food and craft products and the opening of an office in Labasa in 2009 extended the potential reach of FRIEND’s programs.
The Prism Health Project was launched in 2009. That same year a new plot of land at Tuvu was acquired, with the ambition of creating a FRIEND Village. This would enable much improved facilities for income generation projects, a seedling centre and model gardens.
In 2010 a manual was created from FRIEND’s experience in running the Governance Program and published under the title of The Social and Economic Empowerment Training Guide for Pacific Communities.
From small beginnings, FRIEND now has over 25 dedicated staff who work from our offices on our main programs: Governance, DESI, Youth Development Program and PRISM Medical Project. For more information on our programs click here
The Friend’s Fiji Style® range of quality products which emerged from the DESI program now includes pickles, chutneys and jams made using traditional local recipes and handmade cards and craft products. For more information on our products click here.