Fiji is a multilingual nation rich with a culture stemming from Indigenous Fijian and Indo-Fijian backgrounds. Fiji has a population of more than 880,000 with little access to health care, particularly allied health services for individuals living with disabilities. Though recognition of allied health services is emerging within Fiji thanks to the Frank Hilton Organisation (FHO).
FHO is a Fiji-based non-profit organisation that provides services to children in Fiji and other neighbouring Pacific Islands. The organisation operates through organisation’s audiology and speech therapy and physiotherapy departments, receiving office and family support and community support units, the Hilton special school, early intervention centre, and the Hilton House Hostel. FHO works under a multi-disciplinary framework to provide a pool of services to children with physical and intellectual disabilities.
As a University of Newcastle speech pathology student on clinical placement in Fiji, I was welcomed with open arms and found the FHO team demonstrated a beautiful desire to learn and improve the lives of children in Fiji, where disability does not equal inability. However, as this team relies heavily on donations and international support to continue its efforts, and regardless of the tireless efforts currently displayed, there remains a large percentage of the population out of reach of these important services.
For a child to receive FHO services, an initial interview with a case officer is arranged. The child is screened and assessed by all health departments in order to develop appropriate interventions. Through screening and assessment, individual strengths and weaknesses are identified, and the child is designated for either group or one-on-one intervention programmes.
The FHO’s department of audiology and speech pathology provides ongoing speech and language interventions developed by visiting speech pathologists who train FHO employees as speech pathology assistants.
The FHO’s department of audiology and speech pathology provides ongoing speech and language interventions developed by visiting speech pathologists who train FHO employees as speech pathology assistants. Audiology provides screening and diagnostic testing, ear mould productions and fittings, and provides outreach services. These include screening of newborns at the National Hospital in Suva. The physiotherapy department provides services such as consultations, hydrotherapy and mobility device services and together the two departments work to achieve access and participation for the children in their care.
Additionally, when available, positions in FHO’s playgroups are offered. These educational settings provide much needed social skills, transition to school programmes and pre-vocational training.
The future of Fijian children living with disabilities becomes brighter with every effort demonstrated by those devoting their lives to building a Fiji where each child is valued and included.
Student, University of Newcastle