When COVID-19 struck Fiji in March 2020, many coffee shops, fast-food outlets, and restaurants along Wailoaloa Beach in Nadi lost business as the tourist industry took a plunge. One such place was the coffee shop in the Bamboo Travellers resort.
Wailoaloa Beach, a famous tourist destination, is known for its affordable accommodations, restaurants, liquor bars, and night spots.
Sensing an opportunity to take advantage of an affordable, abandoned space and wanting to expand the influence of the 10,000 Toes campaign in turning the tide on diabetes, 10,000 Toes ambassadors from three local Adventist churches partnered with Bamboo Travellers to set up the Bitu Wellness Bar (bitu being the local name for bamboo), using a space in the resort that was once a coffee and pastry outlet.
The bar, which offers a host of health and wellness programs, including free biometric screenings, exercise programs, fat loss challenges, and personalized meal plans, gained popularity in a short time. Locals flocked in daily for their daily dose of traditional natural herbs and therapeutic, healthy fresh juices.
The idea was to have the bar as a center of influence that encouraged Fijians to take a more wholistic and natural approach to their health in the war against lifestyle diseases — particularly diabetes. It was also a way to create awareness among patrons that this bar offered healthier and better alternatives to alcoholic drinks.
In April 2021, a second wave of COVID-19 struck Fiji. Authorities ordered that the Bamboo Resort be completely shut down. All activities came to a halt, including the Bitu Wellness Bar. For two weeks, the patrons and regular customers were calling daily to find out when and where the new bar location would be. What happened next is beyond the ordinary.
One hundred meters up the road is the Beach Escape Resort, a neighbor to Bamboo Travellers. Managers Anne and Ruben had been watching the activity at Bamboo Travellers with interest, curious about the crowds of people driving in and out and noticing that more people were visiting the juice bar than the alcohol bar. They also noticed fewer alcohol-induced incidents on the street — that the neighborhood was now much quieter and more peaceful.
Happy with what they had observed, the couple offered their liquor bar to serve healthy juices and their premises as a wellness hub. At first, the 10,000 Toes ambassadors turned down the offer because they believed healthy juices should not be sold from the same bar as alcohol. The managers decided, however, that no more liquor would be sold on the premises.
Alcohol was completely cleared out from the bar, refrigerators, and coolers and replaced with juicing machines, blenders, and healthy local fruits, herbs, and vegetables. July 3, 2021 was the first Saturday the liquor bar was closed. What was usually a very busy bar day has become “a restful and peaceful day,” Ruben says. Now Ruben’s kitchen offers a healthy plant-based menu daily.
The Bitu Wellness Bar is up and running again. God works in marvelous ways. The original juice bar has not only influenced patrons of the Bamboo Travellers resort but has also been able to transform the Beach Escape Resort to be part of something that brings hope and healing to the community.
The 10,000 Toes campaign goes far beyond saving limbs and lives. It allows people an opportunity to open their hearts and be a positive influence on others. Anne and Ruben say they cannot wait to be trained as ambassadors for 10,000 Toes and be part of this great life-saving movement.
“The South Pacific Division Comprehensive Health strategy aims to positively impact the community and has set a goal of 400 wellness hubs across the South Pacific, sharing whole-person health, by 2025,” South Pacific Division health strategy consultant Geraldine Przybylko says. “We encourage you to be part of this vision!”