DF outgoing coordinator, Sandra Fong penned the following as a farewell note prior to her departure for studies in the UK
“Dear dialogue participants, DF partners, colleagues, and friends
Tomorrow is my last day with the Dialogue Fiji Secretariat. It has been an amazing 3 year journey with DF and I have prospered professionally and personally because of the amazing people I had the opportunity to meet and work with.
Thank you to the Dialogue Fiji committee who had more trust and confidence in me than I had in myself.
Thank you for providing endless support especially during the early days of DF with early morning meetings, late night discussions, and driving around the island for presentations and attending dialogue events.
Thank you for your unwavering commitment and continuous guidance especially on days when I was stuck and frustrated. Thank you for looking out for my health and even providing herbal medicine for me when I was sick.
I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with such a diverse group who believed in the need for dialogue and have a common dream for Fiji.
Thank you for continuing to dialogue and advocating for dialogue even on the days when you were suffering from a little 'dialogue fatigue'.
To the DF participants, thank you for the wonderful time we’ve shared, for opening your homes to me and sharing your stories and delicious food.
You continue to amaze me with the great work you do in your communities and inspire me to be more resourceful as I learn how so much can still be done with so little.
Thank you for trusting in the process and spreading the dialogue culture.
Thank you to the facilitators, the DF team and those who provided technical support to make the dialogues successful.
Thank you to the old DF team and the new DF team for your hard work and sacrificing your weekends to come into the office for a meeting, to pack or to travel somewhere which sometimes felt like the amazing race.
Thank you to all of you who provided support to Dialogue Fiji and especially to me from its early days in 2009, providing financial and technical support, providing a space for me to work, allowing access to your printers, internet, fax and phones and sharing your knowledge and ideas with me.
The decision to leave Dialogue Fiji was not an easy one especially during such a special time in Fiji but I leave DF with a new team who have new skills, fresh ideas and lots of energy to continue the dialogues and take it to a greater level.
I hope that you will continue to give the team the unwavering support that you gave me.
While I may not be with DF physically, I will certainly continue to provide my support in whatever way possible to the team and the process.
For those who wish to continue communication with me and do not already have my personal email address, you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
For Dialogue Fiji matters, you can contact Fanny Fiteli, my successor, on email email@example.com
Vinaka and Moce mada!”
I became a board member of Dialogue Fiji (DF) sometime between July and September, 2009 as one of the two government representatives who were initially involved with DF. The other government member pulled out when she went abroad for postgraduate studies. Thus began my personal and professional journey of self-discovery into an unfamiliar territory.
From the beginning of my involvement with DF, I was welcomed openly and made to feel at home. I knew many of the people on the board over a considerable length of time, knew something about their lives, their families, their work, their political and religious beliefs, many of which I shared and held close to my heart. They were individuals with excellent leadership qualities and strong views on how government should conduct its affairs. As a government representative, I was interested in listening to what they had to say.
If there is anything significant that has shifted my perspectives on life since joining DF, it is acquiring the art of listening to others, to different viewpoints, belief systems and understanding and appreciating the roots or sources of these ideas and the individuals who were expounding them. An important offshoot of this listening process is how to fuse these different ideas or viewpoints together and arrive at a common or neutral ground where solutions to our most common and critical problems can be resolved in an amicable, concrete and sustainable manner. Furthermore, I developed and improved my conversational skills.
I have taken these different ideas and viewpoints and the process of refining them and made them my own by redesigning or reshaping them and using them to resolve my own problems in my home with my immediate and extended family and relatives, in the work office situation, in the community where I reside, in the church where I worship and in dealing with my own people and their problems in the realm of the vanua. My time spent with DF has been a huge learning experience.
John Donne, the doyen of 17th century English metaphysical poetry once said something remarkable that might be relevant to the dialogue process and to paraphrase him, “no person is an island, entire of itself”. Thus, let us connect the dots in our ideas, in our thoughts and minds, in our hearts and souls and in our consciousness. Let us listen to each other, communicate our ideas, learn from the past, dissect the present, dream about the future, understand the problems that confront us, create safe spaces where we can collectively design solutions to resolve our most common and critical problems and hopefully build a better future for ourselves and our children. Nothing could be more important than that.