Public Issue

Young Fijian's Volunteer Efforts Help in Fight Against Diabetes

What began as a volunteer act of service has led to a computerised registration service for diabetics in Fiji.

Laisa Cavoara from Suva, Fiji served an 18-month mission in Auckland, New Zealand for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While on her mission, she learned the joy of serving the community as well as sharing her beliefs about God, Jesus Christ, families and how to find peace.

Upon returning back to her home in Fiji, she could not find a job.

"I was struggling," she said, explaining the day she decided to seek help from Elder Dean and Sister Joyce Clark who have served as full-time humanitarian missionaries for the Latter-day Saints Church in Fiji. She was attending a training counsel when she approached them.


The Clark's, who are from Dana Point, California, were overseeing the Church's efforts in Suva to help create diabetes education and treatment programs as a part of their missionary assignment. Elder Clark is a retired medical professional who specialises in podiatry.

"I feel they were angels who were sent to teach me a lot of things," Laisa explained.

This was the beginning of a productive mentoring relationship.  As an unpaid volunteer, Laisa helped the Clarks organise a national symposium on foot care that was attended by more than 200 Fijian nurses and doctors. She helped in the planning and organisation of the Suva celebration of World Diabetes Day, which was attended by His Excellency, George Konrote, President of the Republic of Fiji.

"She has a place in my heart," said Sister Clark "She was so willing to work hard without any pay. She has been amazing."

Raised by her grandparents, Laisa was also mentored by a Latter-day Saint bishop who died from complications of diabetes at the relatively young age of 42. He had provided the financial help that allowed Laisa to serve her mission in New Zealand. 

Although she had planned for a career in commerce, she now dreams of helping her native people avoid diabetes. According to the Fiji Ministry of Health, 30% of the population in Fiji has Diabetes, and the country has the world's second highest death rate per capita from the disease that affects both young and old.

"I want to be an inspiration," she said.

With a laptop computer provided by the Clarks, Laisa also volunteered to work in the Diabetic Hub Centre, which is operated by the Fijian Ministry of Health. At the time, the government did not have a system of computerising patient records, reducing its ability to adequately track and provide needed care in an efficient manner.


Thanks to the laptop, Laisa showed the centre's leaders how to use an existing software program that simplified the process. Her efforts have had a major impact on patient care.

After 5 months as an unpaid volunteer at the centre, she has now become a paid employee. Next year she plans to begin medical studies at the Fiji National University.

"It is such a blessing," she said, describing her experiences and that she has increased her own personal self-reliance.

Newsroom Contributor - Steve Thomsen

Read about World Diabetes Day in Fiji here:

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