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Bachelor couple Art Green and Matilda Rice have returned from a ‘life-changing’ trip to Fiji where they took part in the ultimate test of endurance to raise money and awareness of rheumatic heart disease – a disease that affects one in 50 Fijian children.
The ‘Cure Kids’ ambassadors joined 100 other competitors and crew from the Pacific region in the Accor Hotels Race to Survive for ‘Cure Kids Fiji’ to raise over $564,000 (FJ$ 841,000) for ‘Cure Kids Fiji.’
The funds will go towards the life-saving work the organisation is doing in partnership with the Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services to control and prevent rheumatic heart disease – a leading cause of death in young people in Fiji.
The active couple completed action-packed feats; abseiling, scaling coconut trees and installing water tanks in remote villages – with the wellbeing of children top of mind during the five-day competition.
Rice said the biggest challenge of the Race was swimming.
“I have never been a strong swimmer, but I did a lot of swim training leading up to the event. I gave my best in Fiji and gained confidence in the water. The biggest challenge for Art was exercising in the intense heat!” she said.
“Seeing the work that ‘Cure Kids’ does in Fiji and meeting happy children was life-changing. They do incredible work to improve the lives of these children,” Green said.
Each year in New Zealand, over 100 children are diagnosed with rheumatic fever, an autoimmune disease that can occur after a group A streptococcal infection.
Approximately 50% of those cases lead to RHD, which can cause permanent damage to the heart, morbidity, disability and mortality.
In partnership with leading RHD experts from New Zealand, Australia and Fiji, Cure Kids runs a research-based programme, which supports all aspects of RHD control and prevention. Best practice approaches used in tackling RHD in New Zealand guide the efforts in Fiji.
Associate Professor Nigel Wilson, Children’s Heart Specialist at Starship Hospital and technical advisor to the Project, says primary prevention campaigns in New Zealand, such as sore throat awareness, have been effective in leading to a decrease from 170 cases of rheumatic fever in children several years ago to 100 cases today.
“Rates have fallen, but we don’t know if the reduction will be sustained. In New Zealand, we have a great system of community nurses that give prevention medication. However, in Fiji, the dedicated RHD nurses are thin on the ground and preventing rheumatic fever has had low rates of success, but with this Project, we can support nurses in communities, for example, through training, and encourage community members to go back to clinics for the medication they need,” he said.
New Zealand Funding
The four-year $3.2 million project is co-funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade Partnerships for International Development Fund and would not have been possible without the public donations and fundraisers like Accor Hotels Race to Survive for Cure Kids Fiji.
“The Race saw people from all over the Pacific push themselves outside of their comfort zone for the children of Fiji,” Murray Davison, Director of Procurement, Accor Hotels New Zealand, Fiji and French Polynesia said.
“Competitors watched RHD screening (a simple ultrasound of the heart) when they visited Kese Village on Naviti Island.
Sadly, seven cases were diagnosed, but because of this project, the right treatment can be started,” he added.
This year marks 10 years since ‘Cure Kids’ was launched in Fiji with key partner Accor Hotels and the biennial Accor Hotels Race to Survive for Cure Kids Fiji started.
In that time, over $1.6 million (FJ$ 2.5 million) has been raised for child health projects.